Getting Called A Faggot, And Other Things

It’s nice when you’re biking home and minding your own business and some distinguished gentleman leans out of his buddy’s car window and shouts, “Faggot!” at you.  Really makes your day.  You might start to wonder, “How do I look like a homosexual to the extent that someone would feel a compulsion to yell ‘Faggot!’ at me from a car window?”  But not for long.  In fact, you don’t look like a homosexual.  Or maybe you do.  I mean, what do homosexuals look like? They’re everywhere.  Most of them look just like you and me.  Some of them might even be you.  Outside of the ones at Pride events wearing t-shirts with slogans on them, I’d be hard pressed to tell you who’s a homo and who’s not.

So it was weird to be called a ‘faggot.’

I concluded that it was the bicycle.  Apparently, only faggots ride bicycles.  Color me queer.  While you’re at it, color me healthier than the fat people driving cars, more environmentally friendly than same, and more likely to bang some hot hipster chick who’s into bikes than a limp-dicked homophobe leaning out of his bro’s Camaro.

***

“No, no, no,” I said.  “I’m all for the Ground Zero Mosque.”

Sherry was asking if we were all in agreement calling our trivia team No Ground Zero Mosque this week.  I had suggested we call ourselves Ground Zero Mosque because I know it pisses Sherry and Ted, her husband, off.  (They’re conservatives, God bless ’em.)  Sometimes I can be a bastard, yes.  Especially when I’m half-cocked, which I always am at trivia.

“I can’t talk about this with you,” Ted said.  I was prodding him, because I had by this point gotten considerably drunker.

“Why not?  What’s your issue with the mosque?  It isn’t even a mosque, it just has a mosque inside.”

“It’s too close,” Ted said.

“It’s two blocks away.  New York City has big blocks.  And it used to be a Burlington Coat Factory.  It’s not hallowed fucking ground.”

“The imam has some radical views,” Ted countered.

“Not too radical to be sent by the Bush administration to do outreach to the Muslim community during his administration,” I pointed out.

“I can’t talk about this with you,” Ted said again.

I’m not being entirely fair to Ted here, but what the hell?  He’s not being entirely fair to Muslims.  Or, you know, the Bill of Rights.

***

The night is always darkest before the dawn?

***

Of course, I understand that an action’s being legal does not make it moral.  There are plenty of morally reprehensible things one can do that are protected by law.  Yelling “Faggot” at someone, for example.  Pretty protected.  Hosting Burn-A-Koran-Day.  Protected.  As both acts should be.  People should be able to talk all the crazy shit they want as long as it’s not a) an outright threat, or b) intended to induce violence.  That’s why Glenn Beck can get on the teevee and talk all the crazy shit he wants.  It might a) be vaguely threatening, and b) be intended to induce violence, but as long as it’s not outright, “We’re coming to kill ya, Moose-lems, so ya better watch out!” it flies.  As I think it should.  I think the burden should be pretty damned high when we talk about limiting what can and cannot legally be said.

That said, the function of free speech in a democracy should be obvious.  It is at least partially about allowing the best ideas to prosper, regardless of the unpopularity of those ideas.  It is about encouraging dialogue and accountability for the positions one holds.  It is about allowing thought to be, uh, freely expressed.  Karl Popper wrote about this in The Open Society And Its Enemies (Volume One).  He sort of sat and stared in awe at the Greek philosophers and wondered how the shit they laid, like, everything out in the space of a few hundred years.  How they could be so good, really, even when they were horribly, horribly wrong (e.g., The Republic).  He concluded that it was because they had the freedom to call one another’s bullshit, that this freedom was the hallmark of learning–and of scientific thinking.  So, Popper basically says that if an argument takes place uninhibitedly in the public eye and the audience is educated enough to know left from right, the weaker side loses–eventually, anyway.  The side that makes more sense one day prevails.  So the more open a society, the better.  And the theory works when we look at progress in philosophy (sort of, many many caveats not about to go into it ZOMG), in science (the sun does not revolve around the earth, e.g.), in politics (group x should maybe be allowed to vote after all, e.g.).

Or, so goes the theory, or my half-assed recounting of a pseudo-remembrance of it.

The point of this digression being that people can say all the crazy shit they want.  But I got a blog, bitches motherfuckers.  And tens, maybe dozens, of people are going to hear me call you out on your shit if that’s what I feel like doing.  So you should watch the fuck out, you know?  Or start your own damn blog.

You’ve been warned.

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7 responses to “Getting Called A Faggot, And Other Things

  1. Mary Ann Brandt

    Tommy, you didn’t like being called a ‘faggot’ from some gentleman yelling out his friend’s car window at you. I, one of your blog readers, do not like being called a bitch. Aunty Mary Ann

  2. Oh snap.

  3. How does Aunt Mary Ann feel about being called a motherfucker?

    Great post, Tom. It’s your ability to rant while maintaining coherence that makes us good friends (that, and your capacity for beer). I wonder though about the democracy thing. More specifically, I worry that this functional ideal of free speech is most often cited to excuse peoples’ bullshit (as you’ve managed to do for Glenn Beck) instead of calling people out on their bullshit. There’s also this bi-product of thinking of it in that way: Even when you do call people out on their bullshit (as you so often do), people tend to dismiss the discourse as free speech, ignoring the significance of what’s being said.

    Which leads us to “the audience.” There’s an assumption in the rhetoric that “the people” are the audience, but everyone who’s “educated enough to know left from right” understands that “the people” tend to dismiss most of what’s said as just more “free speech” and so direct the conversation at each other. Which means (I think) that you have to be a member of the club to be part of the conversation. I’ve got a problem with that.

    I miss you , Man. Sorry for monopolizing your blog space. Maybe I’ll get my own…

  4. Joe,

    I don’t think I “excuse” Glenn Beck so much as dismiss him. I expect crazy people to emerge all of the time in American politics, given the history, but the fact that they’re insane hypocrites and megalomaniacs and nutjobs who appeal to people’s basest fears doesn’t really need to be articulated by me, beyond a sentence or two to Make That Fact Clear. Other people dissect everything, politics wise, much better than I do. That’s why I have all those links on the side of the page. Because, I mostly spend my time reading about politics, even if I don’t usually write about it anymore.

    My ride’s here for pub trivia. Gotta go.

  5. Tom got called a faggot, and now hippiejoe’s talking about “bi-products.” Look, we get it: Tom and his bicycle are gay-ish. Give him a break, okay?

  6. Pingback: Street Encounters (Encontri degli Strade) | One Way Trip

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