It Is Not My Fight!

Throughout college and most of my adult life, I have found myself on numerous occasions marching for the rights of groups which I do not belong. I cannot enumerate the times I joined the MSA (Muslim Student Association) or the LGBT Student Clubs in their protests against injustice all over the state of California. I reminisce on some of my “activist” days and remember experiencing the pure hatred expressed by others towards these groups, and how much more passionate it made me feel about their cause.

I am asked quite often how I could march with a group of gays if I am not gay, or, why I am so offended by an injustice to a homosexual if I am not one myself. I have even been accused by some of hiding the fact that I myself am gay. I usually would deny the accusation vehemently, as I am, of course, not gay. It was not until I matured in my understanding of their struggle that I realized my responses were, in some cases, aligned with the comments levied by those we were marching against. It took me a while, but I eventually learned to care less about whether somebody thought I was gay or not. I began to believe, as I do now, that a man who is truly comfortable his sexuality, does not feel threatened by other’s perceptions, or misperceptions, for that matter. I have learned to respond to such allegations with “does it matter?,” conceding to the fact that they may actually walk away from this conversation convinced that I am. Learning to accept this possibility took a lot of maturing as a person.

But to answer the original question… Why am I offended by an injustice to gays if I am not one myself, or any other group of people for that matter? I believe very strongly in the following statement by Dr. Martin Luther King,

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

I am actually amazed that more African Americans are not inspired by this quote, noting how many black religious communities still support the oppression of gay rights, for example, but I digress. I feel we cannot expect others to stand up and defend our rights, if we are not willing stand up and defend theirs, even when their rights have no perceived direct impact on us. Would allowing gay marriage benefit me in any way? Probably not. But is it still worth fighting for? Absolutely! I expect my white brothers and sisters to help me fight against any oppression proposed against my race, and I cannot expect this, if I am not willing to provide the same effort to other oppressed groups.

I believe every human has a duty to defend the inalienable rights of every other human, despite our differences. I wish to leave you with the lyrics of the poem “First they came…” by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Remember these words, next time you tell yourself “It’s not my fight!”

On Friends

Sometimes the undeserving are left in the wake of my troubled waters. For some, the bonds can never be weakened. But inevitably, there are those for which the wake is indeed too much to bear. And for this, I am sorry.

On The Brain’s Intelligence Limitations

I had a very lengthy debate with a very smart friend on the nature of human intelligence and the brain’s ability to increase it. I think this conversation, as enlightening as it was, only left  the both of us with more questions than answers.  Nevertheless, it opened my eyes to a few possibilities. I wish to share these (in a very summarized form) with my readers and open the debate to more diverse points of view.

So the main question we were trying to answer is whether or not a person can ever increase their intelligence quotient (IQ), or if they are born with a preset maximum already in place.  I took the position that a person is born with a preset maximum, and can never increase beyond that.  The problem with my argument is that it lacks the ability to properly test it (the definition of a scientific hypothesis), as you can never actually determine a person’s true maximum capacity.  Let me explain…

I associate the inner workings of the brain with that of any other muscle in our bodies.  As such, it must be strengthened over time if it ever expects to reach its full capacity.  Let’s analogize this with a 100m sprinter.  Some people are born with the natural ability to run fast and some are not.  You can usually tell this from pretty early in the person’s life.  If an individual does have the natural ability to run fast, they still must continually train their muscles to help fine tune their natural ability.  It goes without saying that a person who does not make the effort to fine tune their abilities will probably never reach their full potential.  It should also go without saying that if two people were to train the exact same way over their lifetimes, they may still have entirely different results due to their biological makeup.  Hence not everyone can be a professional sprinter, regardless of their efforts.

But how do we know when a person has met their full potential?  The truth is, we don’t.  We might assume a person has hit their peak once their performance starts to decline, but who’s to say they could not have performed better if they had trained differently, or made any  other substantive change for that matter?  We can never really know for sure whether a person has truly reached their full potential or not.

I believe this to be true when applied to a person’s maximum IQ as well.  I think they are born with a brain that is able to reach a certain IQ, and their life experiences will determine if they ever truly reach their peek.  I believe there are people who may truly have the desire and will to learn certain subjects (like math or physics), but their brains are incapable of understanding such information to any significant degree.  Just as with sprinters, there are clearly distinctive IQs from person to person, some with higher IQ quotas than others.

I know this information may seem a little harsh, but I do believe it to be reality.  I’ve always wanted to understand why some people very easily understand certain subjects and why others may not.  And I think this debate started to answer that question for me.  Science does not always offer a pretty conclusion.

Disclaimer:  Obviously, I do not believe a lower IQ does not translate to an inferior person.  I am not here to insult or demean any individual on the basis of what subjects they may or may not understand.  So please, no angry comments!  :)

On Constitutional Modernization

Without pretending to be anything close to a constitutional expert, I do have a few words to say about this sacred and powerful document.  I am prompted to write this post as debate over potential amendments and its interpretations intensify.  I have been involved in numerous debates with both conservatives and liberals on this issue, and would like to clarify my positions here.

As with any piece of work from another period of time, we have to view the work through the lens of the creators.  With respect to the constitution, this means looking at how they lived, what their ideals were, and how they thought the document would relate to their current conditions.  Only then can we begin to attain a clear understanding of what the document was truly intended to accomplish.  Simply reading it without studying the authors themselves will give you a very limited understanding of its full intentions.

We must consider this information as we look at the document from today’s perspective.  When we decide to use the constitution to defend our actions or legislation (or lack thereof),  we have to first determine how it applies to our current conditions.  It is not realistic to assume every part of the document will apply perfectly today.  It is quite reasonable to suspect that some of its contents, which applied appropriately to their conditions, might actually be detrimental to our present world, or at least in major need of an amendment to make sure its intentions still apply today.

Consider the freedoms that were necessary during their time, freedoms which might actually be disadvantageous to us today.  Consider how guns applied to their world, and how they apply to our world today.  Consider those groups whose civil rights were not protected at the time the constitution originated.  I don’t pretend to have the answers, but to not ask the questions is not helpful to anyone.  And to label unpatriotic those who dare to scrutinize the constitution is just ignorant and polarizing.  We must look at how we can always assure the document’s intentions are keeping with modern times, if we expect to continue to be a successful nation.

As with any written text, there will always be varying interpretations of what the author truly meant.  These disagreements are expected, and are in fact healthy for us as a nation.  It is always good to understand how the constitution effects all aspects of our society, whether it differs based on political party, class, race, gender, etc.  Why not attempt to amend the document so it works for all, instead of just a particular group, which is sometimes the case?

The reality is the constitution was an attempt to identify our ideals as a nation, and put them into practice.  While our ideals may not have changed much over the generations, how they are best put into practice has.  To not acknowledge this fact is to commit a great injustice to all aspects of our nation.

On Gay Marriage

Those who know me know very well how I feel about this subject.  I take it to heart anytime I feel human rights are being violated, especially when the violated group poses no threat to anyone.  I think the politics of gay marriage epitomizes my sentiments towards oppression.  I find it especially hard to listen to persons who themselves were once part of an oppressed group, now condoning the oppression of another.

I would love to take the time to respond to every reason I have heard as to why same-sex marriage should not be allowed, but that would seem petty to me.  I will just look at some of the more popular ideological reasons and share my opinions on them.

Banning same-sex marriages protects traditional marriage.

This seems to be the overriding them of the same-sex marriage opponents.  If you truly feel we need to go to such lengths to “protect” traditional marriage, I propose we ban divorces too.  Let’s make marriage what it is truly supposed to be – an unbroken union between a man and a woman.  Or is that too far for you?  I think most people would like to keep the freedom to file for a divorce if necessary, even if it threatens the idea of a “traditional” marriage.  The protection doesn’t seem worth it when it starts to impede upon your own rights.  Yet we are willing to oppress the homosexual community for such protection.  This seems a little hypocritical to me.

I really have trouble defining what we mean by “protecting” traditional marriage anyway.  Does it need protecting?  What others choose to do doesn’t threaten the idea of my relationships one bit.  Just as having gay friends doesn’t change the fact that I’m heterosexual, a homosexual marriage doesn’t change the fact that I’m married to a woman.  I doubt anyone would really devalue my marriage simply because same-sex marriage is allowed, and if so, they are extremely ignorant.

I feel the real reason for marriage is mostly documentation anyway.  A life-long commitment can be made without having to fill out any legal paperwork.  But this paperwork does provide benefits beyond that of what a non-married couple would have.  I think, however, most people look at marriage with a religious interpretation, but people in every religion across the globe get married, minimizing the possibility it had any kind of religious roots.  And even if so, the Bible says you are only married to the first person you sleep with, and anything outside of this union is considered adultery.  It also states that the only legitimate reason for a divorce is domestic violence.  What it fails to mention, though, is the court-room documentation that is necessary today.  According to this definition, how many of us are not committing adultery this very moment?  We need to do a lot more to “protect” traditional marriage if that’s what we really want to do.  But once again, that might mean actually giving up some of your own rights, and as such – will probably never happen.

Marriage is meant to protect the interest of children, and since homosexuals can’t have children…

Well then, I propose another law – men and women who are unable to bear children also can’t get married.  You would support this law too, right?  Probably not.  How ridiculous does this law sound, anyway?

Obviously, marriage has many more benefits than just those awarded to the children.  I hear stories all the time of same-sex partners who had everything taken away from them after a partner died, because they weren’t legitimately married, or were unable to visit their partners in the hospital, since they allow immediate family only.  The list of injustices goes on and on.  It breaks my heart that they have to suffer these indignities, ones heterosexual couples do not have to endure.

Homosexuality is a sin.

This is the most interesting of the ideological reasons to me.  I do not choose to argue that it is not a sin according to the Bible.  I actually believe the Bible does treat homosexuality as unpleasing to God.  But I also believe our constitution says something to the effect of the need for separation of Church and State.  And I don’t pretend to be a constitutional expert, but I think it’s fairly clear that according to the constitution, such topics should not be up for discussion in the legislature.

I find it funny when conservatives use the constitution to fight for their rights when it comes to free speech, guns, etc.  But as soon as its an issue they disagree with, they are willing to amend the constitution to their beliefs, like banning same-sex marriage.  I guess the constitution only needs modernizing as it relates to the conservative agenda.  I’m saying this very sarcastically, of course.

Adultery is a sin, as is fornication, and masturbation, yet I have yet to hear conservatives propose laws against these acts.  Why not go all the way?  Would they themselves be guilty of such crimes?  Hypocrites are impossible.

Lastly, I also hate the fact that heterosexuals feel they have the right to vote on the civil right of others.  In today’s society, would we allow a group of whites to place an issue on the ballot about what non-whites can or can’t do?  Because I guarantee you there are those who would love to do so.  Civil rights are just that – rights.  Not privileges subject to majority opinion.  Treat others’ rights as you would expect one to treat yours.

In summary, I think the whole idea of banning same-sex marriages is ridiculous.  It is just another form of bigotry and discrimination against a group of people who are surely undeserving.  I conclude this post with the words of someone with mountains more experience than me on the subject of civil rights, Coretta Scott King,

…Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination.