Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Comfortable Majority

Emily Post is not someone I make reference to or think about very often, but her explanation of why we should use good manners comes in handy raising kids. "Do not burp loudly in front of grandma and grandpa, it makes them uncomfortable."

The reason we should say please and thank you, according to Post, is because it makes people comfortable and therefore encourages civil discourse and social order. It's that simple. Well-mannered people's subconscious message ("don't worry, nothing weird is going to happen") is the bedrock of civilization.

Etiquette and the fight for civil rights is not that cut and dry. The Suffragettes and the Black Panthers put a few people out of their comfort zone. Hippies made the Ward and June Cleaver set squirm. Barack Obama's strategy behind winning the presidency was making white people feel comfortable with him and his family.

Question 1 on the Maine ballot asked the people of the Pine Tree State if they wanted to repeal the marriage equality law passed by its legislature. For many this translated to "are you uncomfortable with gay and lesbian people?"

52.8% of voters said yes; some for religious reasons, but not all.

The sad fact is some people only know what they fear about gay and lesbian people. Flagrant expressions of sexuality and provocative parades make them uncomfortable, and that's what they choose to know. A local, very popular radio host said while he has "no problem" with gay marriage, when he sees two gay people kissing it "creeps him out."

More people have never seen two real gay or lesbian people kissing, but saw instead TV commercials suggesting gays and lesbians are monsters who will brainwash and eat their children. In a bizarre twist of democracy these same folks got up off the couch, cast the remote aside, and voted away the civil rights of their neighbors.

If we could anonymously vote off the island all the marriages that make us uncomfortable, the world would be very different.  Couples that argue too much make me uncomfortable. They're out. Mr. and Mrs. McD. are too fat. They're done. I don't like the way he treated her at the neighborhood Christmas party...they play mind games with their kids...they don't do their share of car pooling.

"Etiquette," Emily Post once said, "is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is the code of sportsmanship and of honor. It is ethics."

Marriage equality is that simple.

1 comment:

Al In The County said...

We were just discussing this very thing at The Restaurant last night. The drug addict (whom we all wish would reach out for help, truth be told, because there's a good person in there) that divorced her husband and married the drug dealer...the married man that texts young women pictures of his ... well, you know.

That said, The Partner and I are very aware up here in 80% uncomfortable land that how we present ourselves daily is very important to our advancing in this area. People only know what they are exposed to.

May not be right, but Emily Post would approve. Great post.