Friday, October 10, 2008

Dealing with Believers

To paraphrase Lady Astor, I don't mind what people believe, as long as they don't shout it in the streets and frighten the horses. Other people's beliefs become my business only when they make them my business.

My mother is 86 years old. Her neighbors are not only friendly and nice, they're helpful. They mow her front lawn. We did a garage sale together this summer, and the guy helped me move a couch. Once when Mom fell down, I ran next door and got the neighbor lady, who helped me get her back on her feet.

This month (October 2008) they have a "Yes on 8" sign on their front lawn. For those outside California, Prop. 8, if passed, will outlaw gay marriage.

They're Mormons.

They haven't tried to convert me, so up to now it has been none of my business. But now ... now I don't dare speak to them.

If I see them in the front yard before the election, I will walk on as though I was preoccupied and didn't notice them. That strategy only needs to work for a few weeks.

After the election, if Prop. 8 fails, I'll be ever so nice to them, and the status quo ante will reassert itself. But if Prop. 8 passes, how will I deal with these nice, helpful, vicious, bigoted savages when I see them?

Confronting them won't do any good. Religious people are mostly impervious to rational argument. Alienating them won't help Mom at all. But if I smile and say hello, I'll leave them with the very mistaken impression that I like them. That I accept their hatred of gay people as a normal and unremarkable part of the social fabric.

I have no answer to this question, and if Prop. 8 passes I'm going to need one.


Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I'm pretty sure the real reason Mormons hate gays is because the gays are well aware of what a fashion faux paux the secret underwear is. ;-)

Sadly, many of us face your dilemma. I remember being appalled years ago when a sweet little old man I worked with dropped the "N" word one day. I just stood there, mouth open. He called these two women lazy, while he was leaning against the counter and they were actually working. I mentioned that I had seen them both work very hard.

It's only because of religion that anyone can make excuses to hate gays. I have friends who are opposed to gay marriage, and they know I am not. In fact, when I was a Christian I was not opposed to gay marriage, because it's not the church endorsing marriages, but the government.

Sadly, I do not have an answer for you.

Anonymous said...

I hate it when that happens, you think you know someone and like them and then BAMO! They’re prejudiced.

I personally don’t let my disapproval of them override the fact that I’ve shared so much with them already. I find disappointment is the way to go.

“It’s a shame you feel that way, I’ve always considered you a friend but I guess now I can’t.”

Make it their loss not yours and don’t feel like you need to be uncivil. They are standing up for their beliefs and you stand up for yours but you’ll never change any minds if you’re angry with them. Who wants to listen to an angry person?

But who doesn’t feel bad when they realize they’ve let someone down. That’s how you should play it.

writerdd said...

I've only once discovered that a friend of mine was a bigot when she used the N word. I politely told her how I felt about her prejudice and never spoke to her again. I would do the same with your neighbors. Being silent is participating in the bigotry.

Jim Aikin said...

Oddly enough, I used to know a gay guy who was playing with the idea of becoming a Mormon because the secret underwear got him all hot and bothered.

If it wasn't for Mom, I wouldn't have a problem knowing how to handle this situation. But Mom needs to have neighbors she can call on if I'm not around!

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"...Mom needs to have neighbors she can call on if I'm not around!"

Then you have your answer, dissatisfying though it may be. Your Mother's safety is what is important here. I would do the same.

Rhino said...

I don't have an answer for you, but as an exmo living in Utah, perhaps I can shed some light on the thought process.

Mormons are officially neutral on political issues--except a select few so-called 'moral' issues. They see Prop 8 as an attack on the traditional family. A family is a man, a woman and kids, preferably many kids. They see this as inviolate.

It's not so much a hatred of gays as it is a fear of losing this distinction. Make no mistake, there is bigotry regarding homosexual anything in Utah, and throughout Mormon culture. It is considered a sin and the majority will hate the sin and love the sinner (as it were.) However, in their mind they are defending the family not attacking the lifestyle.

You are correct that arguing will do nothing, believe me. I have tried many times. I was startled by the attention paid here in Utah to a law in California. People I know, good people, are lining up to support Proposition 8. I have resigned myself to simply making my opposition known--making myself part of a 'critical mass' of support. You may decide that you cannot tolerate this, and you are right it should not be tolerated, but a collision of wills will not work.

I hope, fervently, that Proposition 8 fails, then the next one (Connecticut?) will be less likely to pass. People are herd animals, I think the only way to effect change is to swing the herd mindset the other way.

Official church policy is to support this proposition, one of the few times I've seen the LDS church target a political issue. Asking them to not support it is asking them to work against their church--probably not going to happen.

Maybe it's because I'm surrounded by it, but it is my opinion that you should make your opinion known, but leave it at that. Don't destroy a relationship--it won't make things better.