Friday, October 23, 2015

Sneak Attack!

I’ve previously mentioned Eric Miller and his organization Advance America (such as my deep dive into Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act). Miller and Advance America have a huge mailing list of supporters, many of whom are willing to fund his efforts and many of whom are willing to show up at the Statehouse to give voice to their fear hatred love for gays*. He has spent the last few years railing against equality for the LGBT community and against gay marriage. He was one of the frequent speakers at the recent hearings in Carmel (where he ultimately lost as the anti-discrimination ordinance that he opposed was adopted). And he was one of the loudest voices in favor of amending the Indiana Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. Furthermore, he was both a vocal supporter of RFRA and a vocal opponent of the so-called “fix” for RFRA. So, while he has had some wins recently (most notably passage of RFRA and the defeat of an anti-discrimination ordinance in a small city), he has seen more defeats. Very public defeats.

Anyway, there has been some discussion recently about whether the Indiana General Assembly would adopt an amendment to the Indiana civil rights statute to incorporate protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. And there has been discussion and speculation, especially following the passage of the RFRA “fix” and Carmel anti-discrimination ordinance, that Miller and Advance America might be seeing the beginning of the waning of their influence on Indiana politics.

Then came this video that Advance America posted earlier this week:


I must have missed when this sneak attack is going to occur. For that matter, when is this Organization Day? And about those corporations and special interest groups that he talks about… Do they have millions of dollars? I wasn’t quite clear on that either.

I don’t know about you, but setting aside the actual message that Miller is delivering, I found this to be one of the worst solicitation and warning ads that I’ve ever seen. Would it have been possible for Miller to have been any more repetitive (without really saying anything) in four and half minutes? It is so repetitive and says so very little. A sense of desperation permeates the entire video. You’d think that he is afraid that Indiana is about to declare the Second Amendment unconstitutional and take away all guns, make Christianity illegal and close all churches, or make Islam the state religion and force everyone to convert. Maybe all three.

But seriously, think about this video and Miller’s message to his supporters. Think about what he is worried about and how he is willing to convey the message: “The children of Indiana are in danger,” he proclaims. Um, from what? But that sort of fear-mongering is Miller’s standard operating procedure. Remember, this is the man who claimed that, should same-sex marriage become legal, pastors could be imprisoned for preaching Biblical verses about homosexuality.

It isn’t until 3:45 into the video that Miller finally tells viewers that the “sneak attack” he fears could involve “sexual activity and children”. That’s it. That’s all he’s going to tell viewers. Why? Why doesn’t he explain what he’s really worried about?

Perhaps it’s because he recognizes that more and more Hoosiers are in favor of granting protection from discrimination to members of the LGBT community. Maybe he realizes that talking about non-discrimination in business, housing, and employment won’t generate the kind of revenue that some vague fear about children and sex will. Maybe he realizes most Hoosiers just aren’t too worked up over the idea that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers live among us and just want to be treated with fairness and dignity. But perhaps, his thinking must go, “if we can make people afraid that those evil gays and their icky sex might be forced upon our children, then maybe they’ll send us money to keep paying for my nice suits!”

Just how desperate has Miller become? How far has Advance America apparently fallen? Here was the tweet from Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) in response to Miller’s video:


I cannot imagine any Republican, let alone the Speaker, offering a public rebuke like this to Eric Miller, even just a few month ago.

Finally, to quote Gary Snyder at Indiana Talks: “Is It Really A Sneak Attack If We Know About It In Advance?”


*By “love” I think they mean “we love you, but we think you’re going to hell for having icky sex and so we don’t want you to be treated fairly because … um … Jesus”. Or something.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Biased and Misleading Headlines About Palestinian Attacks on Israelis

Do you remember the headline about the man who was killed in a classroom full of children after they’d apparently allowed themselves to get in the way of his bullets? What about the one about the airline passengers who died when a building knocked the plane out of the sky? How angry would you be if headlines following 9/11 focused on the deaths of the hijackers without mentioning the acts that they had committed? How angry would you have been if, following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the headlines focused on the death of Adam Lanza without explaining that he had just killed children?

Yet those are the sort of headlines that are used to “describe” the ongoing wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis (and Jewish holy sites). Here are several examples (most taken from CAMERA’s article Wave of Palestinian Violence Accompanied by Spate of Bad Writing):


That headline comes from the British newspaper The Independent (and is was later corrected, somewhat). What does that headline omit? How about the fact that the boy in question had just engaged in one of the stabbing attacks. He stabbed two Ultra Orthodox men (both in their 60s). In other words, the headline focuses on the deaths of those who have committed the terrorist acts and says nothing about those who have been the victims of the attacks. As CAMERA also notes, when The Independent previously mentioned a 16-year-old Israeli killed by a Palestinian, that Israeli was described as a “teen” not as a “boy”.

Consider this headline and story from The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook page:


Those two Palestinian teenagers? Yeah, they were the knife-wielding assailants that the story mentions. And the victims? One was a 14-year-old Israeli boy riding his bicycle after buying some candy. This particular story is also interesting because Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a televised speech, accused Israel of executing the Palestinian assailants:

In a televised speech on Wednesday night, Mr Abbas condemned the “occupation and aggression of Israel and its settlers” who “execute our boys in cold blood, as they did with the boy Ahmed Manasra”.

One problem. Not only did Israel not “execute” Ahmed Manasra, they even treated his injuries in an Israeli hospital (where he confessed to the attacks). Yet when Israel criticized Abbas for his claim that Manasra had been executed, The New York Times would only refer to Israel’s accusation:


The article notes that Mansara is alive and that Abbas said that he was executed, but the headline, rather than talking about Abbas’ lie, focuses on Israel and its accusation. Oh, and why would Abbas lie about Israel having “executed” a boy? Incitement, anyone?

Here is some video of the incident:

Or how about this headline from USA Today:


The first paragraph of the article is just as bad:

Four Palestinians were shot and killed by Israelis Saturday in separate stabbing incidents in Jerusalem and the West Bank in the latest in a month-long upsurge in violent confrontations.

Do either the headline or introductory paragraph give you any context to tell you that the Palestinians who had been killed were the ones who had stabbed or tried to stab Israelis?

And here is a headline from the Los Angeles Times (which was also corrected following a complaint from CAMERA):


Do you see a pattern here?

Maybe Reuters will do a better job:


Hmm. Whom and what is a “knife man” and why did the mean Israelis kill him? Might it have involved an attempt by “knife man” to, you know, stab Israelis? Isn’t that, you know, pertinent to the story?

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but twice in the last week or so, a Jewish holy site (Joseph’s Tomb) has been firebombed by Palestinians. How does CNN report the firebombing?


Yep. It just caught on fire somehow. And note how CNN headlined an attack on an Islamic mosque:

West Bank Mosque

If a mosque burns, it’s an attack that can be blamed on someone (ooh, Jews!), but if Palestinians attack and burn a Jewish shrine, it appears that no agency or ill will is involved.

Sometimes, the headlines (and even articles) are so egregious that they border on being ghoulishly funny:


This one is from The New York Times. There are few things to note here. First, the man “died”. He wasn’t murdered. He simply died. Maybe he died from natural causes, coincidentally at the same time that the rocks pelted his car. Who knows. Second, when do rocks pelt cars? Don’t they need, you know, a human arm to throw them? Well, if you read the article you’ll see that some Palestinians were out for some good-natured fun of throwing rocks at the road. I’m sure they weren’t aiming for cars on the road or the people in those cars, right?

A few more examples (I could probably go on for pages and pages and pages). First, the Irish Independent:


The Telegraph:


Sky News:


Daily Beast:

Israeli Crowd Kills Bystander

A brief note about this last headline: It describes a truly tragic event. In the confusion following a shooting by a terrorist in an Israeli bus station that killed one and wounded several others, bystanders killed an innocent man, apparently thinking that he was the terrorist. But here is what is important about this headline. It gives you no context to understand that the man was killed in the chaos and confusion in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack. If you read that headline, you’re left to think that a bloodthirsty crowd of Israelis decided to kill someone rather than that they were either trying to apprehend a terrorist or, perhaps, were responding with understandable but unacceptable anger to the terrorist attack.

To go back to the questions I posed in the introductory paragraph, how would you have felt if you saw this headline the day after 9/11:


So ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why are these headlines written the way that they are?
  2. What is the effect on public opinion when people read headlines like these?

Finally, I thought it was worth sharing video of some of the recent terrorist incidents. Be forewarned that these are disturbing videos:


Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to find “clean” versions of these videos; I apologize for the quality and any additional commentary that were added to by third parties.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Victim Shaming, Invented Stories, Ignorance of History, and Comparisons to Lucifer: The Scary Worldview of Ben Carson

When I wrote my initial analysis of the Republican Presidential candidates, one of my critiques of Ben Carson focused on some of his previous statements.

I think that he’ll have an extremely hard time convincing voters (other than those on the far right) to vote for him, in light of statements like these:

  • “Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
  • “I mean, [our society is] very much like Nazi Germany. And I know you're not supposed to say ‘Nazi Germany,’ but I don't care about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”
  • “You know, we live in a Gestapo age, people don't realize it.”
  • “I think most people, when they finish [AP history], they'd be ready to go sign up for ISIS.”
  • “You know, Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is, in a way — it is slavery in a way because it is making all of us subservient to the government.”
  • “They've [ISIS] got the wrong philosophy, but they’re willing to die for what they believe, while we’re busily giving away every value and every belief for the sake of political correctness.”
  • Carson said he couldn't be sure “there will even be an election in 2016” if Republicans didn't go on to win [in 2014]. (His wife also said they were keeping their son’s Australian passport handy if the election didn’t go their way.)

Recently, Carson, who is currently polling second behind Donald Trump, has decided to add to this list of memorable statements. His most recent pronunciations make for great sound bites and may be delicious red meat to the base that he’s trying to capture. However, a politician who offers such blatant bullshit as a path to success is, I think, a danger to how our system is designed to operate, unless, of course, the media starts doing actual journalism and calling out candidates for the bullshit that would otherwise be accepted as truth by a voting public that often doesn’t have the means or the time to dig into each and every thing that a candidate says.

So what has Carson said lately?

First, let’s look at some of his responses to the most recent one of the more recent school shootings, this time in Oregon:

"I would not just stand there and let him shoot me," Carson said on "Fox and Friends" Tuesday morning. "I would say, 'Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can't get us all.'"

I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda thinking that maybe Carson has watched Die Hard a few too many times. Or, perhaps he thinks that the way heroic characters behave on TV and in the movies is a reflection of real life. As one of the survivors of the Oregon shooting said, “Nobody could truly understand what actions they would take like that in a situation unless they lived it”. Carson tried to walk his remarks back a bit later by saying that he wasn’t “judging” the shooting victims. But isn’t that just what he was, in fact, doing, by saying that he would have been more heroic than they had been?

Carson also offered this memorable statement in response to renewed calls for increased gun control measures:

“As a Doctor, I spent many a night pulling bullets out of bodies,” he wrote. “There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking — but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away. Serious people seek serious solutions.”

Think about that one for a minute. People killed by guns are not more devastating than “taking the right to arm ourselves away”. I don’t know. Dead bodies, ripped apart by gunfire, seem pretty devastating to me, especially when we remember that nobody is looking to take away the right to arm ourselves. Rather, people are looking for ways to reduce gun violence, looking for ways to limit access to guns by those with mental conditions or who are a danger to themselves or society, looking for ways to limit access to military style weapons or to armor piercing bullets, all in order to have fewer bodies for doctors like Carson to pull bullets out of. What I find devastating is that people like Carson are so willfully blind to what the real issues are or are so willing to fear-monger and give voice to those who really do fear a government attempt to take away all guns.

Carson talks about “serious people” seeking “serious solutions” but he can’t even seriously articulate the issue. And what is Carson’s “serious solution” to the problem of gun violence in America? Let’s read what he says on his website:

It was no accident that our Founding Fathers enshrined the right to own firearms as the 2nd element of the Bill of Rights, immediately after establishing our free speech rights. I cannot and will not support any efforts to weaken The 2nd Amendment.

The 2nd Amendment is a central pillar of our Constitution. Our Founding Fathers added it explicitly in order to protect freedom in the United States of America. It provides our citizens the right to protect themselves from threats foreign or domestic.

That’s it. That’s Carson’s “serious solution”. Hmm. Perhaps he’s not really one of those “serious people” about whom he speaks? Or perhaps he doesn’t really think that people being slaughtered in our schools, churches, and movie theaters is a serious problem.

Anyway, Dr. Carson was just getting started…

You see, to prove that he wasn’t judging victims of mass shootings, Carson decided to “share” the episode of the time that he went to Popeye’s for dinner and was held at gunpoint (he had to explain, further, why he, a vegetarian, was going to Popeye’s in the first place). Others have written about this episode in more detail, so I’ll just provide a quick recap of the important bits. When pressed, Carson’s campaign explained that the details about the episode were contained in Carson’s book. Only, they aren’t. And when pressed for more details, the campaign said that they wouldn’t take any more questions on the subject. And when others, like the Baltimore police (where the incident is said to have taken place), looked into the episode, they could find no evidence of it. Plus, it’s worth noting that Carson didn’t fight the alleged assailant; rather he told the guy with the gun to target the Popeye’s employee behind the cash register. For more details, read this full recap from Snopes. But, hey, it must be true because Carson said that he is a “God-fearing Christian, it’s something that happened. It’s not something I made up.”

Carson also wants kindergarten teachers to have access to guns in their classrooms:

“If I had a little kid in kindergarten somewhere would feel much more comfortable if I knew on that campus there was a police officer or somebody who was trained with a weapon. I would feel more comfortable,” Carson said in a new interview with USA Today’s Capital Download. “If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn’t.”

Educating a group of 30 six-year-olds is easy, so let’s give the teacher the responsibility to be able to defend those children from people armed with military-style assault rifles, too.

Furthermore, apparently Carson doesn’t limit his victim-shaming just to victims of mass shootings (I wonder if he blames the Sandy Hook kids for not attacking their murderer). Nope. That would be too easy. No. “God-fearing Christian” Ben Carson also thought it would be a good idea for a little ahistorical victim shaming aimed squarely at the Jews who apparently allowed Hitler to kill them in the Holocaust. Seriously.

Ben Carson, a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, blamed the Holocaust on Nazi gun control in an interview on CNN Thursday.

Host Wolf Blitzer read a section from Carson's book, A More Perfect Union, in which Carson writes:

German citizens were disarmed by their government in the late 1930s, and by the mid-1940s Hitler's regime had mercilessly slaughtered six million Jews and numerous others whom they considered inferior … Through a combination of removing guns and disseminating deceitful propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance.

“I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” Carson elaborated in the interview. “There’s a reason these dictatorial people take the guns first.”

The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors and responds to anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, has long opposed the use of Nazi comparisons in the U.S. gun control debate. “The idea that supporters of gun control are doing something akin to what Hitler’s Germany did to strip citizens of guns in the run-up to the Second World War is historically inaccurate and offensive, especially to Holocaust survivors and their families,” Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director at the time, said in 2013.

Conservatives have a history of comparing gun control advocates to Hitler and the Nazis. The ADL’s 2013 comments were provoked by The Drudge Report’s choice to use an image of Hitler to illustrate news that President Barack Obama was pursuing limited gun control measures after 20 first-graders and six school staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, were murdered by a gunman.

Many historians disagree with the idea that armed German Jews could have prevented the Holocaust. And as Alex Seitz-Wald, a journalist then writing for Salon, explained in 2013, the full story of Nazi gun regulation is more complicated than Carson and his ilk might like:

University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt explored this myth in depth in a 2004 article published in the Fordham Law Review. As it turns out, the Weimar Republic, the German government that immediately preceded Hitler’s, actually had tougher gun laws than the Nazi regime. After its defeat in World War I, and agreeing to the harsh surrender terms laid out in the Treaty of Versailles, the German legislature in 1919 passed a law that effectively banned all private firearm possession, leading the government to confiscate guns already in circulation. In 1928, the Reichstag relaxed the regulation a bit, but put in place a strict registration regime that required citizens to acquire separate permits to own guns, sell them or carry them….

[Hitler’s] “1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition,” Harcourt wrote. Meanwhile, many more categories of people, including Nazi party members, were exempted from gun ownership regulations altogether, while the legal age of purchase was lowered from 20 to 18, and permit lengths were extended from one year to three years.

The 1938 law did ban Jews from owning guns. But as the ADL explained in 2013, “the small number of personal firearms in the hands of the small number of Germany’s Jews (about 214,000) remaining in Germany in 1938 could in no way have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state,” which eventually conquered most of Europe.

I could go on and on, cite historian after historian about just how wrong Carson is (not to mention how offensive his comments are). Allow me instead, to offer just a few articles for you to read: Ben Carson Is Wrong on Guns and the Holocaust by Alan E. Steinweis, professor of history and Holocaust studies at the University of Vermont, From Guns to Migrants: Not Everything Is Like the Holocaust by David Frum, and Why Ben Carson's Rant About Gun Control and the Holocaust Is So Dangerous by Jay Michaelson. And this statement from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is worth noting:

Nazism represented a singular evil that resulted in the murder of six million Jews and the persecution and deaths of millions of others for racial and political reasons. Comparing contemporary situations to Nazism is not only offensive to its victims, but it is also inaccurate and misrepresents both Holocaust history and the present. The Holocaust should be remembered, studied, and understood so that we can learn its lessons; it should not be exploited for opportunistic purposes.

Of course Fox News’ favorite purveyor of psychiatric malpractice, Dr. Keith Ablow (and really, how does he still have a license?) thinks Carson is precisely right: Why Ben Carson is right about Jews, the Holocaust and guns. After reading the articles cited above, it may be instructive to read Ablow’s essay to try to understand the mindset of the far-right gun advocates who, I think, would prefer a society in which every one of his is armed 24/7.

Carson, for his part, isn’t backing down (despite what Jewish groups and historians are saying); instead, he said of arguments that gun control was not responsible for the Holocaust:

“That's total foolishness,” Carson told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. “I’d be happy to discuss that in depth with anybody but it is well known that in many places where tyranny has taken over they first disarm the people. There’s a reason they disarm the people. They don’t just do it arbitrarily.”

Oh, how I’d love to hear that “discussion” … but of course, you know that it will never happen.

And before I finish, it’s probably worth sharing another interesting statement from Dr. Carson, this time on the subject of evolution his views of those of us who do believe in science:

“Ultimately, if you accept the evolutionary theory, you dismiss ethics, you don’t have to abide by a set of moral codes, you determine your own conscience based on your own desires,” Carson told Adventist Review, the magazine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church of which Carson is a member for a 2004 cover story.

“You have no reason for things such as selfless love, when a father dives in to save his son from drowning,” Carson continued. “You can trash the Bible as irrelevant, just silly fables, since you believe that it does not conform to scientific thought. You can be like Lucifer, who said, ‘I will make myself like the Most High.’”

I see. So because I believe in science, then I dismiss ethics, don’t have a set of moral codes, don’t selflessly love my children, and am “like Lucifer”. Yes, a leading candidate for the office of President of the United States said that people who accept evolution or don’t believe in the Bible are “like Lucifer”. Good to know. And I really hope someone asks him about that statement during one of the debates.

So let’s tally things up, shall we?

Carson wouldn’t let a criminal shoot him; rather, he’d either rush the gunman or, more likely, tell the gunman to shoot someone else. He also made up a story to prove his bona fides regarding experience with gun violence and then refused to answer more questions when people started to question his lies (by the way, bona fides based on lies aren’t really bona fides, are they?). He insists that he doesn’t judge people as he judges them. He wants kindergarten teachers to be armed. And he blames the Holocaust on gun control and the failure of Jews to properly defend themselves, even as historians tell him that he is wrong. And finally, for good measure, he trashes as Satanic those who believe in science (remember that he is a neurosurgeon).

And this man wants to be President?

No thank you.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Does My Advocacy Mean That I “Hate Christians”?

(I wrote this post a few days ago, but then delayed posting it to take the time to “sleep on it”…)

I hope that readers of this blog (or of my Twitter feed) will recognize that the fight for equality and against discrimination (and not just in terms of gay rights) and the constant struggle against efforts to lower the wall separating church from state have been among the driving themes and topics on which which I’ve written. In addition to this blog, I’ve been active in organizations and boards who have, among their goals, the expansion of rights and equality and the recognition and celebration of diversity. In those capacities, I’ve done everything from engaging in issue briefing trips to Washington, D.C. with local leaders, testifying before the Indiana General Assembly, speaking at Holocaust observances, and helping to organize political debates and candidate forums. And I can’t count the number of times that I’ve participating in a discussion or dialogue (in one form or another) in which equal rights or church-state were primary topic.

Thus, I don’t think anyone should be surprised when I criticize what I perceive as impermissible or unacceptable religious activities within or at the behest of the government (especially public schools). Nor should anyone be surprised when I trumpet my happiness at the adoption of a law designed to reduce discrimination (or the possibility thereof). I’m vocal in my beliefs and thoughts and anyone who reads this blog or otherwise follows me online will discover that fact very quickly.

One thing that I’ve repeated over and over on this blog (and on Twitter) is that I welcome real dialogue and conversation on complex and difficult issues (though I prefer that dialogue on a forum like this blog and the comment section rather than Twitter at 140 characters). When I receive a negative or hostile comment, I usually try to engage, though I’ll admit that when I receive an anonymous comment that offers nothing but insult, I’m more likely to respond with a degree of derision. Again, I can’t begin to count the number of times that I’ve read or heard something with which I fundamentally disagree and made an effort to be a part of the discussion.

Now, I recognize that some people gain pleasure from being intentionally provocative and insulting; it’s the nature of social media.

But sometimes…

Last week (September 30, to be exact), I attended my daughter’s choir performance. As I’ve done during prior similar performances, I posted some tweets criticizing the overtly religious song selections for a performance at a public high school (especially as it was not the “Holiday” show). I plan to write more on that subject in the next week or three. Anyway, later that evening, I got into a somewhat heated discussion with someone I consider to be a friend (at least on Twitter; we’ve only met in real life a few times); but, as heated as the discussion may have been I think that we would both (at least I hope that he would agree…) characterize the discussion as substantive and without animus. He took exception to a statement that I made and, over the course of a half hour or so we were able to discuss both the comment that angered him and the broader subject matter of religious songs in public school performances. It was a brief but substantive discussion.

The same, however, cannot be said of another very brief conversation that evolved out of my tweets about the choir program and which resumed earlier this week. A person (who I will leave unnamed) with whom I’d had just a very few brief previous interactions on Twitter (which began just a few weeks ago and which, I thought, were friendly and non-controversial, including a very brief discussion of which temple I’m a member of and why), responded to one my tweets by criticizing my criticisms of the religious content of the choir program. Actually, that’s not quite correct. He didn’t criticize the substance of my tweets; rather, he appeared to be criticizing the fact that I was offering critical commentary. I’d post the exact text of the tweet that was sent to me, but it appears that he deleted it. I found it odd that someone who I understood to be Jewish (and an alumnus of Carmel High School…) to be critical of my complaints about the inclusion of religious songs in the school program (as church-state issues tend to be one of the areas, at least in my experience, about which American Jews tend to hold relatively similar views). So, when I pushed him, just a little (“Oh. Why? Do you want your Jewish daughter praising Jesus in a public school choir? Year after year…”) I didn’t get any sort of substantive response.

I was a bit bothered by the exchange, but it was just a small blip and I was much more focused on my wife’s newly sprained ankle and the more heated exchange that I mentioned.

Until Monday night.

Over my years of writing this blog and tweeting, a lot of insults have been hurled my way. But Monday night another Jew appeared to allege that I “hate Christians”. Whoa, what?

In the wake of the Carmel City Council passing the anti-discrimination ordinance that I’ve been advocating for in my capacity as a member of the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Human Relations (and for which I posted my remarks to the City Council Finance Committee), I tweeted:

Great news! The anti-discrimination ordinance has been adopted by the Carmel City Council by a 4-3 vote. Equality wins; fear & hate lose.

In response to that tweet, the person in question tweeted:

Let the lawsuits begin.

My response:

By whom? Those who want to be treated fairly or those who scream that homosexuality is a sin (with a punishment of death…)?

Had the conversation gone where I expected, I would have pointed out that the Carmel ordinance does not provide a private cause of action by someone who believes that they have been discriminated against; in other words, a victim of discrimination cannot sue under the ordinance. Instead, they can file a complaint with the city who will then investigate and determine if further action is warranted. A lawsuit could, however, be filed by a business who feels aggrieved by the ordinance requiring that business to refrain from discriminating. That’s the direction another conversation that I was having concurrently went, but it isn’t the direction that this conversation took. Not even close.

Instead, his response:

A noun. A verb. And “I hate Christians.” We get it Mike. God you’re a fucking bore.

Then, in his next three tweets (which did not include my Twitter handle but which certainly seemed to be addressed to or discussing me), he said:

I’m quite content that I don't have to see certain schmucks at my congregation. Some people are just plainly rotten from the inside.

How many times can you listen to a guy kvetch about the same people until he is called out? My number is low.

Some old men are just living unhappy, sexless, pathetic lives. And they can only subsist by pretending they are fighting against *evil*.

Seriously. No discussion of the merits of the ordinance; no discussion of the issues at all. Just personal attacks. Of course I responded:

“I’m a fucking bore“. And here I thought we were engaging in dialogue. Guess that’s too hard for some people.

And “I hate Christians”? Really? Because I don’t like people - any people - who use religion as a sword against others?

Sorry but suggesting I “hate Christians” is beyond offensive. Goodbye.

I added two more “public” tweets not directed at him:

Because I support anti-discrimination law & oppose those who dislike gays because of the Bible, I’ve been told that I “hate Christians”.

Same guy says I’m unhappy, pathetic, pretend to fight “evil”, and am “rotten from the inside”. And he’s glad I don’t attend his synagogue.

I’m not sure why this exchange bothered me. It’s not a function of needing validation for what I do or any sort of concern that I might, in fact, harbor the sort of ill will of which I’m accused. And it certainly isn’t me just being thin-skinned; I’ve been called worse (“war crimes apologist” comes to mind). But I guess it did make me wonder how other people perceive what I do and say.

I’ll also acknowledge that the fact that the person in question is Jewish bothered me (probably more than it should). I’m the first to acknowledge that Jews on not monolithic on any idea or subject (even Israel, a fact that always seems to surprise some of my Republican friends), but even those Jews in the community with whom I have had substantive policy disagreements (come on, you know who you are…) have, for the most part (and with one major exception that I may write about some day…), kept our discussions civil and without suggestions of improper motive or personal attacks. So that sort of response coming from within my own community was … well, let’s just say unexpected.

So let me ask you the question: Do you think I hate Christians? Do you think that I hate anyone? Do the things that I’ve said or written in favor of equality (generally) or gay rights (in particular) or on the subject of “religious freedom” demonstrate that I have a particular animus for Christians? Or do you think that both my words and my deeds demonstrate that I have a commitment to find ways to reduce hate and intolerance? Are the things that I’ve said and written directed, not at any particular group, but rather at those who act upon a worldview that I believe is harmful to others? Are my comments and criticisms fair? Are my efforts in public sphere worthwhile? And are the things that I write on this blog perpetuating problems or aimed at finding resolutions?

Oh, and if I’m such a “fucking bore” why does he follow me on Twitter?

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