Which Humans Have No Worth?

…or, More Stupid Unsubscribes.

Last Week’s Issue Brought several protest unsubscribes. “The sense of moral superiority woven through the issues has become tiresome. Unsubscribe.” wrote “Hobar” in Texas, a nine-year subscriber. Huh? Then “Darl” in Oklahoma, who also subscribed in early 2010, was a bit more forthcoming in explaining his objection:

Unsubscribe. The story of the kid with the shirt pushed me over the edge. The shirt shouldn’t mix “transphobia” with things that are not mental illnesses. I can’t take the P.C. bullshit, sorry.

Well, I sure didn’t mix “transphobia” with other things: I didn’t make the shirt. The story simply made an observation comparing how a seventh-grader grasped more about the basics of humanity than her teachers did.

But let’s back up a little and review the story:

Mom Has Her Back

It was “dress down day” at Albritton Middle School, on the grounds of the Ft. Bragg, N.C., U.S. Army base. Seventh-grader Emery Smith wore her favorite T-shirt, but her father, Capt. Brad Smith, received a phone call saying “some of her teachers” had been offended by the shirt, and she must change. Her mother, Katie, headed to the school. What was wrong with a shirt that said, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic when you could just be quiet?” she wondered. “I don’t think any of us really imagined adults would take issue with the shirt suggesting that discrimination is not OK,” she said. She told the assistant principal “that we were really proud of Emery because chances are there is a kid in that school that identifies with each of those marginalized categories, and she will be the one that has their backs even when those teachers and admins don’t.” She took the girl out of school for the day “to go celebrate her bravery and her values.” The school backed down and apologized later that day. Coincidentally, Emery was “recognized for her academics” the same day, Katie said. (RC/WTVD Raleigh) …And the teachers are hereby recognized for their lack of academics.

Emery in her favorite T-shirt with her father, Capt. Brad Smith (Family photo).

My primary thought about the story is reflected by its slug, right at the start: “Mom Has Her Back” — which to me is a perfect comment considering what the military is about: having each others’ backs, or watching out for each other. The girl is only, what, 12? And she clearly understands the concept too, as her mother points out well: “chances are there is a kid in that school that identifies with each of those marginalized categories, and she will be the one that has their backs even when those teachers and admins don’t.” And with the irony that the girl was “recognized for her academics” the same day, the tagline comments on the teachers’ “lack of academics” in not grasping the very basics of adulthood: we have the choice of being offended or not.

“P.C. Bullshit”?!

I do object to that accusation. I told “Darl” that this site actually hosts the clearest explanation of “P.C.” (or Political Correctness) I’ve written in my 25 years of professional news commentary: “Political Correctness: a system of thinking where it’s OK to offend someone right in front of you by enforcing a made-up rule to stop a theoretical offense to an unknown person later when you aren’t even going to be there.” (in context at Define “Political Correctness”).

And, that said, what he was really complaining about was that “you ‘can’t take’ people not like you being treated as human beings — and yes, that’s exactly the message you’re sending.” It’s surely especially galling that a 12-year-old gets that, and he doesn’t. “Sorry,” I concluded to be as clear as he was, “but I think all humans have worth — and if you disagree with that, then you really need to think about your humanity.”

Not surprisingly, “Darl” didn’t reply.

Even if one seriously and objectively considers transexuals to be “mentally ill,” just how insecure does Darl (or anyone else) have to be to disagree that such people should be treated as fellow human beings? Is it somehow justified to vilify “ill” people? Or even worse, to vilify children who have compassion for them? Or even worse than that, to vilify people who won’t vilify those children?!

If you seriously think I’m missing the boat here, then by all means carefully explain your position in the comments.

Related Pages

Other entries in the “Stupid Unsubscribes” series include:

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27 Comments on “Which Humans Have No Worth?

  1. Bull’s eye, Mr. Cassingham (I’ve put two facebook posts on that very subject up today. This share will make 3…).

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  2. No, you’re not “missing the boat here”. In fact, you’re right on the money (as you always are). It’s truly sad that those unsubscribers DON’T get the point of the story. Oh well, their loss. What puzzles me though is where do they see “mental illness” in that shirt’s message? (smh)

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  3. My reading of Darl’s comment is that he considers “transphobia” (and by extention homophobia) to be illnesses, as opposed to racism and sexism. My guess is his understanding of transphobia (emphasis on “phobia”) is a bit different from yours or mine.

    Kudos to the parents, who have raised a thoughtful, compassionate daughter.

    And I continue to be amazed that anyone who READS your publications would think you are pushing any agenda other than: Think before you react; think for yourself instead of being a sheep; THINK! — Oh, and abolish Zero Tolerance.

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  4. Randy, I know that a non-religious person (meaning that I have no religion [please have some “GOOHF” cards ready for me, I can feel it coming!) probably isn’t the best person to make an example, but haven’t these “fidiots” ever been taught, or heard of, “The Golden Rule?” It seems to me that the people who would deny humanity to someone (LBGTQ) would be the first to scream bloody murder if their humanity was denied.

    My message to all is to treat others as you want others to treat you. If you can’t do that, then please, stay locked up at home.

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  5. I don’t always agree with everything you write. But isn’t that the very point of “Thought Provoking Entertainment”? Challenge my beliefs, challenge my religion, challenge my obliviocy and I’ll keep growing into a better human being. How boring the newsletter would be, should it only agree with my own thinking.

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  6. The trouble being that our current treatments for this particular mental illness are in and of themselves abusive. By indulging the mental illness instead of seeing it as a symptom of a deeper problem, we condemn people to a lifetime of mutilation and attempting to deny scientific reality. To me, that is far more treating them not like a human being. I know from where I speak — I have autism and in my teens, I had some gender confusion struggles. But by being encouraged and allowed to grow out of my issues, I am a successful adult and father today, unlike many others who were instead confirmed in their mental illness and kept there with drugs and professional liberal bullies.

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  7. I guess that if a reader only wants to hear things that they already are predisposed to agree with, then this is not the best place for them. It is the lack of willingness to listen to other viewpoints that is most disturbing to me. That being said, I agree with your take on the story and I applaud the girl and her parents for the compassionate message they send.

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  8. I have many transgender friends (I am a transvestite myself, and people living an alternative lifestyle tend to find each other, mainly through community groups), and the only one who is mentally ill is a Canadian Forces veteran who suffers from PTSD. That, and THAT ALONE, is her only mental illness. In fact, in just about every case, transition has alleviated mental problems associated with gender dysphoria: depression, suicidal tendencies, eating disorders, etc. I say to transphobes: if what WE do with OUR bodies makes you question your own identity, the problem does not lie with us.

    This being said, I will leave you with a thought I saw on a sign at a medical clinic: when you replace “I” with “WE”, illness becomes wellness.

    See, this is the product of thinking! -rc

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  9. First, the “illness” comment is the fact that being transgender (or actually the underlying condition of “gender disphoria”, or feeling like you are physically the wrong gender) is listed as a mental illness in the DSM — Diagnostic and Statistical Manual — which is often used by insurance companies and others to define conditions which are covered by insurance. So it’s not the “transphobia” which is the mental illness in the original comment, it’s being transgender at all.

    This leads to considerable controversy, even within the LGBTQ community itself, as you can imagine. In order to actually be eligible for insurance coverage of the considerable medical expenses of bringing your perceived gender in line with your self-perceived gender, you also have to CONSTANTLY live with the stigma of being “mentally ill”. And don’t even try to tell me that’s not still a major stigma.

    How do I know this? My son is trans-gender, born physically female. He has undergone many years of therapy, extensive medical treatments, and suffered SIGNIFICANT discrimination and really creepy stalker treatment to the point that he had to quit a really good-paying job because HR would do nothing for him — he’s not a “protected” group member.

    NOBODY deserves to be treated as less than a human being. NOBODY. And the worst part is that the original unsubscriber will be sitting there smug and self-righteous and not see any of these comments. Because some people HAVE to have somebody to feel “superior” to because they don’t have enough confidence in themselves to feel good without putting somebody else down.

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  10. Those looking to be upset see only the words “racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic” and not the rest of what it says or the context to feel justified in lashing out at whatever their PC meter tells them to be reverse offended by.

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  11. I think your definition is accurate. I would add:

    “Political Correctness”, based on subjective feelings, is fervently believed by adherents to be a much better basis for action and assessment because the archaic bases of “Common Sense” and “Reason” are objective and will not always lead to warm fuzziness or self-righteous contentment; plus, if applied logically, may cause the perpetually indignant to look foolish.

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  12. First, let me be clear that I strongly believe being racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic is plain wrong, and I am proud to be none of those.

    But when I first read what Emery’s shirt read I have to admit I was actually quite offended!

    Why?

    Because IMO it’s, whether they realize it or not, sending the wrong message!

    The message that it is sending (IMO) is that’s it’s okay to be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic, as long as you’re quiet about it. That as long as you’re not vocal about your irrational prejudices, it’s okay to be irrationally prejudiced, which I hope you’ll agree is not a good message to send.

    Put another way, is it better for someone to have a communicable disease but not know about it, thereby allowing their disease to silently spread through the community? Or is it better to know right away they have such a disease so they can be treated to prevent its spread?

    The only way to rid society of racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic people is to convince them such prejudices are wrong and why they’re wrong. But if you don’t even know they harbor such prejudices (because they’re silent (“quiet”) about them), then trying to correct (“treat”) such prejudices becomes orders of magnitude more difficult.

    It was only when I took the time to think and re-read the story again that it became apparent that the Smiths were actually trying to convey that being racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic was wrong, but they just weren’t expressing such a sentiment in a clear an unambiguous manner.

    The “when you could just be quiet?” part of the shirt’s statement completely changed the meaning from “It’s wrong to be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic” to “it’s okay to be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic as long as you’re quiet about it” (i.e. as long as you don’t let anyone know you’re racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic).

    I’m not good with words but I think they could have conveyed their message a bit more clearly and less ambiguously than they did. The “when you could just be quiet?” part completely changes the meaning of the message. I think it should be reworded so the message is clearer, but I don’t know what those words should be.

    I see your point, but I don’t think they’d agree with the conclusion that “It’s OK, as long as you’re quiet about it” is the correct interpretation of its wording. -rc

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    • I’m not sure that expressing racial bias is necessarily the best way to resolve one’s racial biases. It implies that approaching an African-American and saying “I’m racist, please help me” is better than spending time with the person and frequently re-evaluating one’s biases.

      I’m particularly concerned that the African-American person’s focus would be on “I’m racist” rather than “please help me”. I’ve wondered if acting racially neutral is, at least sometimes, a better option. It’s the old “fake it ’til you make it” theory.

      I very strongly agree that racism is wrong. The only part I’m questioning is how a person can stop their racial biases.

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  13. “I see your point, but I don’t think they’d agree with the conclusion that “It’s OK, as long as you’re quiet about it” is the correct interpretation of its wording. -rc”

    I understand. But it’s their use of “quiet” that IMO completely changes the subject from one regarding being prejudice to one regarding remaining silent (secretive) about your prejudices.

    Take the “Me too!” movement. It was a problem for years because it was suppressed (not talked about openly). It remained a dirty little secret. Now that it’s being talked about, now that’s it’s known, it can be properly discussed and dealt with.

    But as long as a prejudice is kept secret, as long it’s kept “quiet”, it can’t be addressed. It can’t be fixed. Which is why their suggestion of “just be quiet about it” is so wrong IMO.

    Irrational prejudices shouldn’t be kept secret. People shouldn’t keep quiet about them. They should be made known. And the message on the shirt (IMO) wasn’t so much a comment about the wrongness of being prejudice as it was regarding the wrongness of being so vocal about your prejudices.

    Which as I said sends the wrong message IMO.

    I should have added: if it is taken that way, I agree! -rc

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    • David in WA said:
      >> Take the “Me too!” movement. It was a problem for years because it was suppressed (not talked about openly). It remained a dirty little secret. Now that it’s being talked about, now that’s it’s known, it can be properly discussed and dealt with <<.

      The shirt is asking the perpetrators of the bad behavior why they are being vocal about it. The “me too" movement is asking the victims to start speaking up about the behavior. If you can’t see the difference between giving the victims a voice, and giving the perps free reign to spout their rhetoric (even if it makes them more easily identifiable), I can’t help ya.

      One of the steps in allowing bad behavior to escalate is to make it more commonplace. There’s a reason the term “mob mentality” exists.

      And your comparison of those listed phobias to communicable diseases is isn’t “stretching” the bounds of logic — it broke it. The only way to “catch” any of those phobias is to be *taught* them, which _usually_ involves being vocal about such behavior. Do you see now why it’s preferable we ask their reason for speaking such beliefs?

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  14. I’m sorry, I can’t stop thinking about a large man, holding a bar above his head saying “Hobar!…Hobar!…Hobar!”

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  15. Transexuality — the belief that you were born the wrong gender… Mental Illness.

    Transubstantiation – the belief that crackers turn into Jesus in your tummy… Mainstream Catholicism and *not* mental illness.

    Ummm, okay?

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  16. I think “racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic” are all mental illnesses, but I don’t think that’s what Darl meant. 🙂

    Probably not. 😀 -rc

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  17. I cringe, again, when I read something like this about a fellow Oklahoman. Of course we are not all like this, but sad to say, we vote this way.

    On an entirely different subject, our education system is poorly funded and good teachers are fleeing the state as fast as they can. I wish I could leave, but it’s cheap to live here.

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  18. The difference between “Ignorant” and “Stupid”? You can fix ignorance. It’s “Willful Ignorance” where humans go off the rails.

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  19. When I was much younger, I had trouble wrapping my head around homosexuality as being inborn until learned about homosexual sheep!

    It’s pretty rampant in the animal world, so no real surprise it is in the human animal world. -rc

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  20. Part of the problem are the definitions. Just to take one — if I make a simple statement of fact: “The Bible says that homosexual behavior is sinful.”, then I am labeled as homophobic. I’ve said nothing about my beliefs, but that is the label I am given. So I am supposed to be quiet about this? Why is this “prejudice” (or belief) of lower value than someone else’s?

    It would be a good thing if “quiet” were all that’s asked for. But that is not good enough — if one does not “celebrate”, then they can be sued. Just ask those bakers and photographers asked to do gay weddings, who choose not to but are glad to refer to competitors, and then end up being sued.

    Yes, there are obliviots everywhere, including among atheists, so maybe you’ve actually heard someone say this to you. But I have to say, I’ve never seen anyone called homophobic for saying simply that — I’ve not seen anyone object to someone saying “the Bible says…”, but rather after the person continues, “…therefore, ______.” — which is almost always subjective interpretation, not “what the Bible says.” So yes, you’re overreacting — which is made clear by your second paragraph. NO ONE demands that anyone “celebrate” anyone’s sexuality, no matter what the orientation. The subject in question — the T-shirt — clearly doesn’t. So your objections are overwrought. Yes, there have been lawsuits against businesses which discriminate, but that’s quite a different thing than “one” — an individual — not “celebrating”. Not to mention you’re not acknowledging what happened with that recent lawsuit! -rc

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  21. The t-shirt said, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic when you could just be quiet?”

    Although I don’t find the wearing of this rather long-winded sentiment on a child’s t-shirt offensive enough to deserve comment, let alone censure, I certainly don’t condone the PC idea which it expresses. Any suggestion to “be quiet” on a controversial subject strikes me as an inappropriate action against free speech.

    And besides, I’m an unapologetic racist; I always promote the human race over the other races I’ve encountered.

    (This is despite the fact that individually, some members I’ve met in the canine and equine races were much better people than the average human.)

    Conditionally, I’m also transphobic, because those who declare themselves as trans-sexual have one of the highest percentages of successful suicides of any identifiable group. This leads me to think that I want to avoid joining that group, which means I am phobic about that group.

    Language is tricky and can be easily misinterpreted. Thus freedom of speech becomes essential to eventually figuring out what we mean, which leads me back to disliking a t-shirt which tells people to “just be quiet”.

    If you have read this far and understood my points, thank you!

    Here’s the problem: you say the shirt “tells people to” be quiet, thus stomping on free speech rights. Yet it doesn’t say that. It says, “Why be … when you could be quiet?” (emphasis added, extraneous words subtracted) That’s not demanding that people shut up, it’s asking a question — opening a dialogue. That’s a very, very different thing than what you allege. -rc

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  22. I do enjoy True and have and will for many years. Had the pleasure of meeting Randy in San Diego. That said, I have posted before about the use of “obliviot”. It is a portmanteau of oblivious idiot. By calling people this name, you place yourself as a superior person who is not oblivious or an idiot. It does have the effect of pointing at the person and saying “Hey everybody, look at that idiot”. Many times deserved and true, but it is mean. If you are a better person, then you should teach them and not just make fun of them. That is why the user, who’s name you mocked, by the by, complained of an air of moral superiority.

    I don’t see any previous comments from you wrt “obliviot”. But I do see a previous comment where you complained about something very similar. Here’s what I said there, and it applies here well (emphasis from the original):

    You’re not quite grasping TRUE if you think it’s about “we’re better than you and here’s our proof.” What I have said again and again is, we’re all stupid sometimes, and we recognize ourselves in the stories (plus, if we choose to, we can learn from that realization). The difference: arrogance vs humility, and I’m a bit shocked that a multi-year reader would even for a second think it’s about the former.

    You never replied, and clearly still don’t grasp the point. -rc

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    • I do grasp your intent. You intend to say we all have these moments. I don’t think any of us can completely divorce ourselves from what we write and think; while I’m confident you don’t intend to sound arrogant, it seems to come off that way. I thought before, and still do, your words imply the “obliviots” have done something that “we” never would. I don’t recall seeing you ever putting yourself in the “obliviot” category. Perhaps you do things you might later categorize that way, but I don’t recall ever seeing a story like that. Perhaps what I’m clumsily saying was well stated by the other reader with the “moral superiority” statement.

      Boy, you’re really stretching for this one. The entire idea behind “we’re all stupid sometimes” is to make the very point that “we” are “them” — “sometimes”! I don’t “intend” to say that, I’ve said it again and again and again and again — but your stance is that if I didn’t say it this time with the exact wording you want, then that’s not what I really, really meant …even when it’s patently obvious that I do. Have I been an “obliviot” in my life at times? Of course! So, there’s a word that describes sticking to such a tenuous stance despite such obvious evidence; dare I suggest what it might be? -rc

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