Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Power of/Problem With Words (Miss CA)

“Well I think its great that Americans are able to choose one or the other,” she said. “We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman. Thank you very much" - Carrie Prejean (Miss CA) in response to Perez Hilton's question during the Miss USA pageant

Everyone has an opinion on what Miss California (straight outta San Diego - La Jolla to be exact) said. So here's mine. Put on the spot, Prejean tried to answer P. Hilt's question gamely without compromising her views or offending other people. She got booed (which isn't shocking) and perhaps lost her crown as a result.

Now I don't follow beauty pageants (and let's be real, how many guys would watch it except for the swimsuit portion), but I assume that the ladies are not judged for their response but how they respond. If they handle it with grace, poise and confidence, they earn more points. You beauty pageant fans can correct me on that if I'm wrong. But here's where I go deeper than the average viewer (puts on English major/social critic cape).

The problem with the uproar about Miss CA’s remarks isn’t what she said. It’s the fact that people are not ready to embrace a true dialogue on gay marriage and listen to both sides of the coin. And it's the fact that people can't handle someone with a different opinion.

If you disagree with gay marriage, you’re labeled a hater and any good works you do get reduced to your position. If you are for gay marriage, you’re in the popular majority but it’s a majority that feels like a minority the way James Baldwin described it (you don’t have the power)

It’s why Atty. General Eric Holder called us out for being a nation of cowards when discussing race. We want a neat discussion where no one will get offended instead of allowing hands to get dirty. I saw this firsthand at USD where the best discussions on race came from classes where we looked at major issues and people confronted them head on. Ignorant things were said, but we all learned from it. How come that dialogue stops the minute we leave college?

It’s the same with gay marriage. Now that it’s a discussion being played out in public, it shows the lack of ability on both sides to discuss it civilly. While I hate comparing the two, it is very much like a discussion on race in that it’s a hot button issue that will divide friendships and alter your image of someone.

We need to reach a point where we can discuss all issues and learn from each other. The point isn’t necessarily reaching a compromise but an understanding of where the other stands. See it from their point of view and even if you don’t agree, you respect them and go from there.

If the late Rev. Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt could exchange Christmas cards and have a friendship despite their strong disagreements and their famous Supreme Court case, then I believe anything is possible if we listen as much as we speak.

And for the record, Perez Hilton was wrong for asking the question at the event. It’s like if I brought up civil rights at a fancy graduation dinner…wrong place, wrong time. You may be a gossip blogger Perez, but you need tact and dignity in handling the gay marriage debate in public. Throwing a hissy fit takes the focus off the question/debate and puts it on you. Take a lesson from the civil rights movement…even the Black Panthers were articulate in their anger. Miss CA tried to make her point in an inoffensive way and you ream her like that?

*As one of my friends on Facebook said. Having him there was another ratings gimmick for a show that is headed toward irrelevancy. Which reminds me, let's have another good laugh at Miss South Carolina, shall we?*

Here's a quote from the director of the Miss CA pageant

“As co-executive director of Miss CA USA and one of the leaders of the Miss CA family, I am personally saddened and hurt that Miss CA USA 2009 believes marriage rights belong only to a man and a woman,” wrote Keith Lewis on Hilton’s blog. “Although I believe all religions should be able to ordain what unions they see fit, I do not believe our government should be able to discriminate against anyone. Religious beliefs have no place in politics in the Miss CA family.”

Keith Lewis should be castigated for not standing up behind his representative. You disagree with her, fine. But in your rant, all you focused on is what she said and how you disagreed with it....never mind that she did not mention religion (although she is a Christian), never mind that you attacked for her views which should NEVER have come up in the first place. Whatever happened to "We strongly disagree with her beliefs but we salute her for handling the situation with the grace and dignity befitting someone who wears the crown of Miss California."

Sigh, I love America. We have forgotten how to disagree with people or respect them for their views if they are not disrespectful with it.

I applaud Hilton for apologizing and doing the right thing by offering to meet with her. But he's exactly why this conversation will never be had in public without it turning into a shouting match. I agree that Perez had every right to be mad, but as a gay public figure, he could have used this situation as a teaching moment. The spotlight was on him and he dropped the ball before meekly picking it back up. There's so much I wanna say about him but you can ask me that directly (or re-read my Tweets from last night)

Words do have power but where does the power come from? And how do you turn this power into a positive? Only then can we grow as a society that re-learns to agree to disagree without malice.

1 comment:

  1. "anything is possible if we listen as much as we speak."

    Well put! Good blog, Evan.