It Scares Me How Incredibly Wrong You Are

I have to read letters to the editor. At work. I don’t do it voluntarily. I would never do it by choice. It’s part of my job.

Okay, I just wanted to get that out there so you understand why I was reading the old-fashioned, only-slightly-more-articulate printed predecessor to Internet comments.

I certainly don’t enjoy reading them. In fact, I usually hate them.

(Come to think of it, I should probably write a letter to the editor about how much I hate letters to the editor.  It’d be so meta.)

Anyway, back to my point. I usually just skim through letters to the editor while I take thorough note of the writers’ names so I can be sure to avoid them in the future.

As a whole, letter to the editor writers tend to be a pretty passionate bunch. That’s to be commended. However, most letter to the editor writers also appear to be set in their ways, really bad at arguing, well-versed in hyperbole but not very skilled in the area of common sense.

Or perhaps they are actually super smart, articulate individuals who are capable of well-thought-out, factually-based arguments but they have collectively decided that stuff isn’t “grabby” enough for the opinion page of the local newspaper.

That’s why most letters to the editor are short, over-simplistic rants similar to toddlers’ temper tantrums — a lot of anger and blame but not much in the way of intellectual substance.

A letter to the editor I read the other day was different though — it was considerably longer.

It also seemed much calmer, like the gentleman who wrote it wasn’t screaming as he dictated it to his granddaughter to type it out for him because he didn’t know how to work his dang-fangled computer.

That’s how I assume most letters to the editor are written. That opinion is not a commentary on older people, who, generally, I find lovely. It’s a commentary on letter to the editor writers who I assume are not very computer literate.

Trust me, as a reporter I spent years editing submissions people sent in to the paper. People love to put everything in CAPS or add exclamation points to every sentence. It’s weird and also, very annoying.

You don’t need an exclamation point on EVERYTHING, guys! (I needed it there obviously, to make a point. But, otherwise, let’s just cool with on them, k?)

To its credit, the letter to the editor I read the other day didn’t have exclamation points. It appeared as though the writer sincerely believed his points and put a lot of thought and work into his arguments.

It’s just I didn’t agree with him. At all.

The individual was arguing against an anti-discrimination bill that failed to pass in our state legislature this spring. According to the legislature website, the bill would have “prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation as prescribed.”

The bill seemed fairly innocuous to me in that I naturally assumed this type of discrimination was a bad thing. So, duh, prohibit it. No biggie, right?

It seemed simple enough to me. I just try to judge people based on whether or not they are a jerk. There are plenty of jerks to go around. They come in every size, shape, color, race, religion, creed and ability. They’re freaking everywhere. There is no jerk shortage. Judging people on jerkdom should keep everyone plenty busy.

We shouldn’t need to set up arbitrary barriers and hatreds based on things people can’t control. This, of course, is one point where the letter writer and I disagreed.

He believes sexual orientation is a choice. He believes it so strongly, in fact, that he argues we should call it sexual preference rather than sexual orientation. I disagree.

Full disclosure here, this isn’t a scientific article. I’m not going to include a bunch of links to studies here. Please feel free to research and think for yourself though.

As for me, I don’t think it’s that complicated. I just know that I didn’t wake up this morning and decide to be straight any more than I woke up this morning and decided to be short or have brown eyes.

I didn’t choose those things. It’s just the way I am.

The letter writer disagrees though. He says he was once gay and an active member of the LGBT community, and, through a conversion to traditional Christianity, he is now a heterosexual who is married to a woman and has three daughters.

I don’t personally believe that you can change your sexual orientation. (I also believe it’s hurtful and harmful to tell people they can.) But maybe if the letter writer believes it’s possible, that’s enough for him. I very sincerely hope that he and his wife are happy together.

But I also very sincerely hope he reconsiders one of his viewpoints.

It’s an argument I hear used far too often by over-zealous pundits.

It’s a scare tactic. It’s fear-mongering. And it totally works.

It terrifies me.

Just not in the way they want it to.

It’s the classic “slippery slope” argument. The argument that if we afford certain rights and freedoms to LGBT individuals and their partners — it opens the door to societal acceptance of a whole plethora of sexual acts which are currently illegal and always morally repugnant.

People who make this argument claim that if we allow gay marriage, for example, it’s just inevitable that, as a society, we’ll soon start accepting pedophilia, bestiality and a whole Pandora’s Box full of other unspeakable acts.

And this, this is where they scare me. Because, by making this argument, they are forgetting one very important thing.

The most important thing.

They’re forgetting about consent.

It terrifies me that this is not a factor in the argument for them. It horrifies me that they can’t see the huge, glaring difference between a consensual, respectful relationship between two loving adults and a heinous violation of a vulnerable party.

I shouldn’t have to point out the difference.

The writer claims that our culture is becoming increasingly more secular and, therefore, increasingly more influenced by human consensus. By his logic, this is a bad thing — that in this type of society it’s only a matter of time before we all say, “Yup, screw empathy, screw compassion, heck, screw anything you want. It’s a free-for-all, baby.”

What a bleak view of the human condition. It must be incredibly frightening to live in a world where you believe the only thing stopping everyone from committing crimes and violating each other is a law (Divine, or otherwise) expressly forbidding them from doing it.

Thank God, fear-mongering commentators are around to spell out the rules for everyone. If they weren’t, we might descend into a morally corrupt society where we treat loving committed adults with respect and don’t compare them to criminals.

It’d just be awful.

(Okay, that was sarcasm, not sincerity, just to be clear.)

Apparently it’s very important to be clear, to point out the differences between things I think are obvious. I’ll do it I guess.

I just shouldn’t have to.