Diary

"Point/Counterpoint" with "Max" on my Dan Savage post

Maximilian Schell in "Judgment at Nuremberg"

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I got a couple of very polite responses from a commenter named “Max” on my post the other day about Dan Savage’s speech in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. My response to one of his comments started getting rather long, so I figured, “What the heck? Make it a post!”

I don’t know Max personally – I would love to get to know him better – but as I said, he has been very polite in his comments, and he makes some very valid points. I appreciate his candor and his willingness to put forth his opinions. (If Max is a “she”, my apologies in advance!)

First, a little background – here is Max’s first comment and my response to it. If you are interested, please feel free to read those comments first – as I said, Max has been gracious and kind in his responses, and I appreciate that very much.

Max responded back last night (after I had shut down my computer for the night), and I wanted to respond to what he wrote. I hope that my response is taken in the civil manner in which I intended to have it read – sometimes it’s hard to make things sound reasonable without having people misinterpret one’s meaning.

Max says:
May 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Thank you Teresa for your response and for being willing to have a dialog with me

I agree with you about several things. Students have every right to walk out in protest for any speaker they find offensive. And I agree that Mr. Savage was rude and wrong to attack them personally. I disagree with you about a couple of things too. Dan Savage is a known commodity who has been talking directly on these issues for years. Whoever chose him to speak knew exactly what they were getting. But then again, I think young adults who are interested in journalism should be exposed to ideas especially when they deal with areas of rapid social change. But that’s just my opinion and I am not here to argue.

I do want to offer another perspective. The message of Dan Savage is a lot deeper than you are giving it credit. It is a message that millions of Americans cheer. Sure, he is expressing anger and yes he is consciously offending people. That is part of what people relate to.

If you want to understand what it is like to grow up homosexual in modern middle America, there is no one who can articulate this better than Dan Savage. The anger is part of this (and if you think about it, it is understandable if not justified). You hear the cheering in the video… that isn’t trivial. There are millions of Americans who relate to exactly what he is saying.

And if you want to find an advocate for homosexual teens (and our homosexual teens desperately need advocates) there is none better than Dan Savage. This is why he is given national prominence in spite of the fact he offends people.

You can choose to see this as a juvenile squabble where two competing sides accuse each other of bullying. Any parent knows the “he started it, no she started” game. But then you will miss the deeper message.

Have you been willing to listen to his broader message particularly as it relates to your family? I am not suggesting you should accept it wholesale, but understanding is often very meaningful. This means being willing to listen to a very different perspective from yours. Once you get past the initial surface conflict, Dan Savage might be just the person to help you do this… that is if you want to.

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My reply was much too long to post as a comment, so here goes:
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Dan Savage is well-known in the LGBT community. Another 300 million people in the US have no idea who he is.

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Dan Savage is a known commodity

I would submit to you that Mr. Savage is a “known commodity” to a very SPECIFIC group of people which only comprises about 3.8% of the entire American population (although there are pockets where the percentage of the LOCAL community are much larger ).

I would also submit to you that an OVERWHELMING majority of the homosexual population is over the age of 18; I’m guessing very few of the students at that particular conference were over the age of 18.

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Whoever chose him to speak knew exactly what they were getting

I think that even they were shocked at what they “got”. There is an expectation that a professional speaker will know how to tailor his/her message to the audience they are addressing – in this case, Mr. Savage was speaking to a group of teenagers, most of whom were probably NOT homosexual.

I’m guessing many students in that audience were as young as 14 years of age – barely out of childhood. As adults, we have an obligation to protect children and to give them a safe and secure environment in which to grow and develop. “Shock troop” tactics are not the way to treat impressionable young people.

There is an expectation on the part of parents when they send their kids off to a conference like this that their children will be protected. What Mr. Savage doesn’t seem to realize is that he has also tarnished the reputation of the organization who sponsored this conference.

Mr. Savage is “about” Mr. Savage, and he doesn’t appear to understand that he has a responsibility to respect the integrity of the organizations which invite him to speak at their functions.

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Sure, he is expressing anger and yes he is consciously offending people. That is part of what people relate to.

That is what people who don’t care about the feelings of others “relate” to. Part of being a kind human being is understanding that you DON’T go out of your way to offend people.
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The young lady on the right grew up gay in middle America. The young lady on the left is growing up with Down syndrome in middle America.

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If you want to understand what it is like to grow up homosexual in modern middle America, there is no one who can articulate this better than Dan Savage.

Perhaps you weren’t paying attention to what I said in my post – MY DAUGHTER IS GAY. We suspected it for a very long time before she came out – but she had to reconcile herself with that reality BEFORE she could come out. We accept her for who she is – I have never had a problem with her.

The problem that I had was coming to grips with the fact that many things that I had taken for granted about her future weren’t going to be what I had assumed. Believe it or not, it takes a long time to work through that “grief” stage – but I did my best to shelter her from that.

Her youngest sister has Down syndrome, and Michelle couldn’t understand why it was harder for me to accept the “transition” when she told us she was gay.

I explained to her that we knew Rebecca’s condition from birth – we knew what we were dealing with from the start. And Rebecca was a baby, so she didn’t know about the months and months that I grieved for an uncertain future. Michelle was in school most days at that time, so she never saw the tears that I shed coming to grips with a different future for her sister than I had been expecting – one filled with many challenges for her.

By the time Michelle announced that she was gay, she was 14 or 15 years old. By that time, she had been telling us for at least 3 or 4 years that she WASN’T gay. Perhaps you cannot fully understand what a shock it is to be told that something you accepted at face value all of a sudden isn’t. I’m only human – I don’t turn on a dime. I had to re-set everything. That takes time.

When a child is 15 years old, they see all of that happening in front of them and they assume that they are being rejected.

I explained to Michelle that I wasn’t rejecting HER – I was recalibrating all of my internal expectations, in much the same way that I had to recalibrate all of my expectations for our youngest daughter when she was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

And I hurt for Michelle – in much the same way that I hurt for Rebecca – because I knew that she was going to be facing some real challenges as a gay person, and I wasn’t always going to be there to help her fight her battles. It’s hard enough being a teenager – I knew that it was going to be even harder for her.
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Just a little slice of "middle America"

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The anger is part of this (and if you think about it, it is understandable if not justified).

Funny – my daughter also grew up gay in “middle America” – she doesn’t act like Mr. Savage at all. So, no – his anger is not understandable, and it is not justified. He just wants to be able to throw a temper tantrum and he wants the rest of the world to be forced to watch.

When my kids threw temper tantrums, my reaction to that was, “You want to throw a hissy fit, that’s fine – but I don’t have to listen to it.” They were sent to their rooms until they calmed down. When they were ready to behave like civilized people, they were allowed to rejoin the family.

Amazingly enough, they appreciate that now. I am quite proud of all of them.

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You hear the cheering in the video… that isn’t trivial.

You’re right – that is the cheering of children who think that they are “sticking it” to the people in charge.

We accept that that is how children act, and we do our best to teach them that adults don’t act that way. Most of them eventually learn.

And what they were “cheering” wasn’t the gay message, what they were cheering was Mr. Savage calling the Bible “Bullshit” and ridiculing those who don’t agree with him.

It’s somewhat surprising that someone who was raised Catholic doesn’t remember that Leviticus is in the Old Testament, and the New Testament supercedes that. The Levitican laws were written to help people survive in the desert – they seem antiquated to us nowadays because we have modern conveniences, but they helped keep people from dying from hunger and disease back in the days before refrigeration and vaccinations.

Funny that he doesn’t make those same claims about the Koran – the part that supercedes their equivalent of the New Testament is QUITE harsh and unequivocal about the treatment of gay people; interestingly enough, it has a lot in common with Leviticus.

Would that same crowd of children be cheering Mr. Savage if he were to talk about the Koran and the Muslim people in the same derisive manner in which he speaks about Christians?

Or would they accuse him of being intolerant?
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Max von Sydow in "The Greatest Story Ever Told"

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There are millions of Americans who relate to exactly what he is saying.

And there are many, many millions MORE who can’t relate at all to what he is saying, and who don’t spend any time thinking about it in the first place. Many of those millions feel that the methods that he (and others) chooses to use to express his message do a lot of damage to his cause.

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And if you want to find an advocate for homosexual teens (and our homosexual teens desperately need advocates) there is none better than Dan Savage.

As the mother of a gay teen (now young adult), I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you on that point.

Mr. Savage has a chip the size of Texas on his shoulder, and he is perfectly willing to burn the whole system down in order to exact his revenge.

That’s not who you want for an “advocate”.

I don’t want my child to learn to be bitter – it’s hard enough to make one’s way in the world, but it is hundreds of times harder to make it when you carry a grudge.

There is a reason that people LIKE Ellen DeGeneres – have you ever taken the time to wonder why that is?
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She's cute, she's funny, and she treats everyone with kindness. What's not to like?

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You can choose to see this as a juvenile squabble where two competing sides accuse each other of bullying.

I don’t see it as a squabble at all.

Mr. Savage is the one who started a project against bullying.

I’m merely pointing out the hypocrisy of that when juxtaposed against his behavior.

Tolerance is a two-way street – and Mr. Savage doesn’t appear to want to be held accountable for his intolerance.

That’s not how it works.

If he expects people to “tolerate” his message, he damn well had better hold himself to that same standard. If he isn’t willing to do that, then he needs to understand that people are not going to feel obligated to listen to him.

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Have you been willing to listen to his broader message particularly as it relates to your family?

It’s hard to know what his “broader message” is when he is so busy denigrating the very people that he claims to be trying to convince.

Frankly, I am not willing to even start a conversation with someone who calls my religion “bullshit” – I’m not going to give that person the time of day.

I’ve got better things to do with my time than to allow someone to abuse me like that.
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Words can hurt, no matter who says them

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I am not suggesting you should accept it wholesale, understanding is often very meaningful. This means being willing to listen to a very different perspective from yours.

And yet, Mr. Savage is not willing to extend that same courtesy to those who have a different perspective from his.

Ironic, isn’t it?

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Once you get past the initial surface conflict, Dan Savage might be just the person to help you do this… that is if you want to.

Perhaps you don’t get the jist of my post.

I don’t have a problem with my daughter being gay. I love my daughter – always have, always will.

I do, however, have a problem with activists of ANY ilk who presume to come in and tell me that I have to change my life to accommodate them. These same people get upset when I turn around and tell them that if they want me to accept them as they are, then they have to also be willing to accept me as I am.

You see, Mr. Savage wants to be accepted for who he is; he does not want to have to change who he is.

Fair enough.

But that street runs both ways.

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[Cross-posted at Koch’s Tour]
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