Thursday, May 14, 2009

COLUMN: Gay Marriage

Why can I not stop myself from soaking in the idiocy of others? I'm a smart person, right? I went to college. Okay, sure, I skipped my share of classes, but I've got a diploma in my closet certifying that at least a portion of my intellect is broadened and intact. I should know better. I should have self-control.

But noooo. Every time a controversy starts brewing in the news, my fingers leap to the internet and I surf at warp speed directly to the comments section of our newspaper's website.

Some people clearly live to hang out on our website and leave incendiery comments all the live-long day. Some have valid points in their rhetoric, while others craft comments that are a stone's throw from all-out racism, bigotry, and stupidity. It is a non-stop showcase of the best and worst of extreme left-minded and right-minded opinion. And invariably, I get suckered in.

Here's how it usually works. We'll post a news story. The topic doesn't matter - it could be about a hotbed issue or it could be a story about a cat getting stuck in a tree. Either way, someone will come along and find a way to be incensed and outraged about it.

"I hate cats! We need to kill all of them with our guns that President Obama is trying to take away from us," the right will say.

"I love cats! We should harvest their stem cells for our socialized health care program," the left will say.

Within five posts, someone will quote the Bible. Within ten posts, someone will reprint a speech by Ron Paul. Within fifteen posts, all-out melee ensues. I, meanwhile, gaze upon it with raised blood pressure, aghast with the shock and awe and knowledge that what I'm seeing are only the comments fit for print in a family publication.

And that's a cat in a tree. Imagine the fun when we post a news story that REALLY ruffles feathers and polarizes the masses. So when the news broke last week that the Iowa Supreme Court put the legal okay on gay marriage, I did what any good fan of entertainment would: I made some microwaved popcorn and logged on to our website.

In the wide pantheon of hotbed topics, gay marriage might just be the ultimate controversy. Is there anything these days that stirs up people more? And, as per usual, I don't get the big deal.

I'm not a political guy, nor am I a political writer. We pay people good money to touch those stories without the aide of a ten-foot pole. I'm best left to poking fun at the follies of life. But when it comes to the issue of gay marriage, I'm absolutely fascinated by the folks who get red-faced and outraged. Let me hop on my soapbox for JUST a quick second, I swear it won't be too painful. Here goes.

When I was in high school, my best friend was gay. I didn't care in the slightest. He was fun to hang out with and a fellow music nerd. But being his friend, I saw the teasing and the bullying first-hand. Between my friendship with him and my ineptitude for sports, a good chunk of my school assumed I was gay, too. In fact, at my 20 year reunion last summer, one of my classmates told my then-girlfriend in the bathroom that it was "so nice of her to come support me as a friend."

I once dated a girl who I thought might be THE one. It turns out I wasn't even THE gender. She came out of the closet shortly after we broke up. She now devotes her life to helping Iowans in need and she's doing great things with her life. Minutes after the Court's ruling, she announced that she and her girlfriend were officially engaged. I couldn't be happier and I hope I get to DJ the reception. She doesn't like dudes. I don't like onions. It happens -- to each their own.

Enough soapbox. I'm not here to condone the gay lifestyle. I know that some of you have really strong opinions and beliefs, and that's fine. That's the cool thing about America -- we're all welcome to our opinions.

But what I reeeeally don't understand is why the idea of two same-sex people getting hitched is worth spewing hate and intolerance the likes I've never seen before. To those of you who are actively trying to protest the Court's decision, I've just gotta ask: WHY?

I'm not trying to be condescending, either. I'm trying to understand your mindset. I truly don't get why this is such an upsetting big deal. How in the slightest does this ruling affect you? Does it make your heterosexual marriage any less valid? Nope. Does the piece of paper acknowledging their marriage impact your life in any way? Nope.

Isn't it just common sense? If you don't condone being gay, then, umm, don't be gay. If you get invited to a gay wedding and it's not your thing, don't go. If your religion frowns upon homosexuality, same-sex couples will not be knocking on your chapel door. Have your belief, that's the American way. But why waste energy and bandwidth and legal resources to force that belief on someone else? That's not what our country's all about.

I hate Bon Jovi. I hate their stupid smug smirks and their stupid smug songs. As far as I'm concerned, they could ride out of town on steel horses in a blaze of glory while both livin' on a prayer AND giving love a bad name. That said, I'm not going to step into your living room and demand that you stop listening to Bon Jovi. I don't care what you listen to, just as long as I don't have to hear it.

My views on marriage are the same. Just because gay couples can be legally wed doesn't mean that your Iowan way of life is changing in any way, does it? If anything, it might be a boon to the local economy -- weddings aren't cheap these days.

I'm not asking you to change your beliefs, whatever they may be. Stick with your opinions and feel free to rant them in the online comments for this very column. I honestly don't care. But that's my whole point here: neither should you.

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