Commander Data and Add the Words

A House committee of the Idaho State Legislature just struck down House Bill 2, popularly known as “Add the Words.” For three days they have heard testimony from 154 different people in the state house: over 100 in favor of the bill, and less than 50 against it. The bill proposes that the state add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s Human Rights Act, protecting LGBT Idahoans from discrimination in housing, employment, and other areas.

I am truly saddened that this bill was struck down, and by such a wide margin (13-4 in a straight party line vote).

I am not LGBT. And I am still wrestling with how non-normative sexuality intersects with some of my other values. But I keep coming back to a few things.

In the grand scheme of things the gender and sexuality of others is not a priority. I’m not saying it’s never an issue. But let it be an issue in real life, in people you actually know and situations which truly affect you, and don’t make it an issue for people wholly unconnected with you. There are much, MUCH bigger priorities than policing normative sexual behaviors: like poverty, infant mortality, the Nigerian massacre by Boko Haram. Even in our personal lives I suggest that values such as honesty, integrity, selflessness, self control, generosity, respect, dignity, all these things are infinitely more important. A person who has these qualities but happens to be LGBT is still an excellent person. And it is on these qualities that I choose my friends, not their gender identity or sexuality. And I would hope that it would be on these values that people choose employees and renters.

See, the real issue here was not about homosexuality or gender identity. It never was. The issue was recognizing the humanity of the other, even when we disagree with them. Christ himself excelled at recognizing the other. That recognition was one of the core themes of his ministry. He loved the others. He healed them, blessed them, saved them from persecution, honored them with his attention. Tax collectors, adulterers, prostitutes, foreigners, lepers, the lame, the blind. If we are to follow in the footsteps of the rabbi, these are the priorities we need to have. But before we can love the others, we need to first allow ourselves to see them and see ourselves in them.

We are judged, by others, by history, by posterity, most harshly on how we treat others. Particularly others who are, in a real sense “other,” different than we are, and perhaps to a degree beyond our understanding. I cannot claim to fully understand the LGBT community because I am not a member. Their lives are, in many ways, beyond my imagination. But they are undeniably, unequivocally, and irrevocably a part of the world in which I live. They are human. They are fellow citizens of my country. They are intelligent, caring, brave, selfish, idiotic, lazy, hard working, loving, and spiteful just like me and everyone I know. If we dare to exclude them from any list of “human rights” then we need to rename that list no longer pertain to “humans” but to a lesser subset. And I mean lesser in every possible way. In this case we have declared that we, our little subset, are human and these others are not. And in so doing we damn ourselves.

My question in this situation is not whether Idaho has the right to limit the application of our Human Rights Act, or whether being LGBT is a choice or not, or whether alternative sexuality is right or wrong. My question is what does it say about us, who are WE, when we deny the humanity of others of mankind? When we deny that others, like us, are loved by their Creator and endowed with inalienable rights? Have we not made ourselves less?

This clip from Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of my all time favorites, and another example of how Captain Picard is one of the best role models an eight year old could ask for. While the question at stake in the clip is the very person-hood of a clearly non-human character, is he person or property, the sentiment applies very well to the Add the Words scenario.

Downton Abbey Season 3: Art Imitating Life

*** HUGE ENORMOUS TERRIFYING SPOILER ALERT!! IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ALL OF SEASON 3 DO NOT READ FURTHER!  I’M NOT KIDDING!  SEASON 3 WILL BE RUINED FOR YOU FOREVER!!**

Okay. Now we can continue.

Downton Abbey has swept across the UK and the US, igniting new fascinations with pageantry, elegant drama, and beaded gowns. But of course it’s the characters who steal our hearts.  Whether you feel more attached to the upstairs or the downstairs crowd, everyone has a favorite, someone they identify with.  And it really begins to feel like a family.

So, naturally, when characters start dropping like flies in Season 3, it’s a trifle upsetting. Continue reading

Breaking the DRM Spell

Guess what topic I”m tackling for my final presentation for this summer’s law class?  That’s right, DRM and e-books!  I also have writer’s group tonight and wanted to bring some new material.  So, here’s an allegory/parody of how DRM works sociologically as demonstrated by DRM principles applied to a physical book through magic.

Continue reading

No problem with Gay Marriage

Note: I usually avoid topics like this simply because of their volatility.  However, it’s come up often enough lately that I feel I need to say a few things, particularly since some people might be a bit surprised by my views.  This particular post is a more of a manifesto than any academic, religious, or political treatise on the subject.

This may surprise a lot of people I know, but I actually have no problem with legal support for alternative marriages. Do I support them personally? Would I encourage my friends to engage in them? No. Absolutely not. Continue reading

Scan Shopping

Some of you may have misread that title as “scam” shopping instead of “scan.”   That is intentional; but we’ll get to that later.  First, a report from the field.

My first smart phone was a blackberry.  I tried out this whole scanning bar codes kick on that phone and wasn’t too impressed.  Part of it was almost definitely the app itself, but I also blame the phone.  So I was kind of excited to give scan codes another try on my Android.

With all the chatter about shopping apps–mostly the Amazon app–I decided to check out this branch of the buzz.  Since I pretty much detest Amazon with every waking breath (apologies to all my dear friends who happen to work for the devil.  I still love you), I went for the Shop Savvy App.  Last week I played mall rat (browse the local mall with no definite purpose) purely to find things to scan.  I was a bit disappointed in the lack of QR codes, though that is another blog post for another day.  I wound up in Barnes & Noble (paradise!) and scanned a few books that had been on my wishlist for a while.   Continue reading