Merit Badges, M.L.K., and Cheerios

Cheerios-couponThe past few weeks have certainly been filled with news, scandals, and plenty of controversial topics. Funnily enough, all the hot button issues facing Obama didn’t really inspire me to write this post. Since some readers were probably expecting a rant about these things, I’ll take a minute to clarify. Sure, the IRS thing is a problem (at least Tea Baggers are finally getting upset about something that’s significant and… you know.. real). But in the end, no right-wing organizations were actually denied their 501(c) tax-exempt status because of their political affiliation. We’re talking about a mild inconvenience in the form of a few extra questions to answer. Is it political profiling? Yes. Is it wrong, and does it need to be fixed? Yes. Is it “bigger than Watergate?” HELL no, so stop making the comparison. Now, Benghazi has been blown so out of proportion by Fox News that I’m not even going to give it a second thought at this point. Finally, the NSA tracking phone calls is also pretty big, but it’s not exclusive to Obama. This has been going on for years, and if I’m not mistaken The Patriot Act was passed under President Bush. So there’s that.

Moving on, let’s jump into what’s really bugging me. This actually branches into two separate gripes, although they’re both central to one issue. I know I’ve beaten the gay marriage horse beyond the point of revival, but a few main points have come to mind that I haven’t actually discussed before. I’ve been tossing the first around just today, but the second has been keeping me awake for some time now. So without further ado, I invite you to join me as I pick my own brain and try to build a sand castle with whatever I find.

scoutsIt’s somewhat surprising to me that my first tangent isn’t really based on religion. I mean, it certainly has some religious implications, but it’s rooted in a more universal problem: laziness. Now, I’m sure you’ve seen or heard some of the outrage in response to the recent decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay scouts in their troops. This has been a fairly hot topic for some time, and the decision was finally made to exclude sexual orientation as a deciding factor in denying a young scout entry to BSA. Obviously the strongest anti-gay proponents (I’m looking at you, Rick Santorum) have strongly opposed this decision, and many churches are no longer supporting or hosting BSA functions. Oddly enough, this alone did not enrage me that much. But this morning, Cheerios stirred the pot.

Cheerios got some heat this week for a recent commercial that featured a bi-racial couple (GASP). The commercial garnered unexpected and hateful racist comments on YouTube, which have since been removed. Apparently parents are appalled by the fact that bi-racial couples are now allowed to be actors in commercials for a breakfast cereal. “How dare they have careers and accept a paying job!” In all seriousness, it deeply saddens me that this is still a thing. We still live in a time where people shout “indoctrination” at anything on TV with which they don’t agree. We need to change that.

You may be wondering how this ties into gay marriage, and I promise I’m getting there. I realized after observing some of the backlash that a good portion of it can be attributed to laziness. Stay with me, it’ll make sense momentarily. So if I (or my children) see something on television that goes against my beliefs, like a gay couple or even a bi-racial couple, I just might be offended. That’s all well and good, but the correct response is not to shout, “you’re spreading sin and indoctrinating children” at a company. And yet, we’re doing this with nearly everything now.

The truth is, too many parents are angry because the media and corporations don’t teach their children the values that they want their children to be taught. JCPenny features a gay couple in an ad, and One Million Moms goes apeshit. Cheerios gives a spot to a bi-racial couple, and racist fundam– I mean, Tea Party members, lose their minds. But here’s the reality: corporations don’t exist to preach the gospel and educate your kids. Most commercials exist to make money, not to promote a certain kind of lifestyle or behavior. If you’re looking to Starbucks and Cheerios to give your kids good morals, you might as well drive them to Home Depot for dinner. It’s not going to happen, and it’s your job as a parent to realize that.

overprotective_mother_by_discordantprincess-d62hmcnIf a commercial or a company upsets you or defies your personal religious beliefs, and you feel that your children may be affected by that content, it’s your job to tell them that X, Y, and Z are wrong according to your beliefs. Older generations always talk about how they were “raised a certain way,” and that was never done by Kelloggs commercials and iced lattes. Whatever your religious affiliation, it’s your own responsibility to pass that knowledge and faith down to your children if you want them to follow in your moral footsteps. If you oppose same-sex marriage, tell your children why. Tell them why you don’t agree with Starbucks or the countless other organizations that support it. And when you do, ensure that your children know that the world is not always in line with your beliefs.

Boycotting companies because we disagree with their stance on a moral issue is no way to instill values. If a mother gets upset every time a gay couple is on television, how is her sheltered child going to exist in the real world? Whether she agrees with same-sex marriage or not, gay people exist. Gay people live in this country, and if parents just turn off the TV because they don’t like any of the advertising, their children aren’t going to know how to react when they see a gay person or a bi-racial couple in real life. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to let your children know that certain things do exist, even if they defy your religion. Children need to at least know that they are going to encounter these things at some point in their lives, instead of being sheltered until adulthood and then thrust into a world flowing with many “sinful” people. If parents approach these issues with more common sense, we wouldn’t have people shouting “indoctrination!!” at a Cheerios commercial.

gay-new-blackSo there’s what I have been mulling over since this morning. But what’s my other issue? While somewhat connected to the Cheerios thing, this one might actually come as a surprise to anyone that’s read the blog before. It’s no secret that I agree with the Democrats’ stance on same-sex marriage. However, I don’t entirely support one of their main arguments (at least not completely). If you’ve watched or listened to any liberal argue for same-sex marriage, you know that at some point they’re going to bring up the Civil Rights Movement, and compare the marriage equality fight to the desegregation fight of the mid-1900s. This is a grossly overused and unfair comparison.

The basic idea here is that blacks fought for the right to marry people of another race, which they eventually won, along with desegregation. So the gay marriage issue is often held up next to the Civil Rights Movement for this reason. But the fact is, the two are immeasurably different. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll support marriage equality until the sun goes down, but we shouldn’t be making this argument. There are huge differences between M.L.K. and Ellen DeGeneres. Yes, many African-Americans were fighting for the right to marry people of a different race in the 1960’s. But that wasn’t their main driving force, racism was.

segregation-drinking-fountainWe can’t compare the two movements like they’re just different kinds of apples. Dr. King fought to end segregation, which entails much more than a wedding and throwing some rice. The fact is that gay marriage is a very important issue in society today, but it’s not the same as black suffrage. Just think about this for a second: before the Civil Rights Act, we had black bathrooms and white bathrooms. Children attended black schools and white schools. We even had black churches and white churches, which was incredibly ironic in and of itself. EVERYTHING was separate. While gay couples across this country do not have the legal right to marry someone of the same gender, we don’t have the same kind of mass segregation that we had back then. We don’t have gay bathrooms and straight bathrooms. There are no gay schools and straight schools. It’s just not the same.

Homosexuals in this country are not segregated in the same way that blacks were before people like Dr. King came along. That was an entirely different and much deeper struggle for freedoms that were even more basic than marriage. African-Americans could only attend certain colleges, and live in certain neighborhoods, and eat at certain restaurants, and talk to certain people. That kind of literal and open isolation doesn’t exist with gays in America. Sure, bullying and hateful feelings make many same-sex couples feel alienated from the rest of society, but that’s as far as it goes. There are no laws that require gay people to live in certain places and obey special rules that that straight people don’t have to follow. There are not gay lynchings in the streets, like the blacks faced in the South. That’s a pretty huge difference.

MLKStill, I understand the struggle for marriage equality, and I stand right next to same-sex couples in support of it. But we cannot take a group of people, who were separated based on their race, tortured, abused, demeaned, and killed, all of which were considered legal at the time, and compare their life-and-death struggle to the current issue of gay marriage. It’s just not a fair connection, and I’m sure that it is at least somewhat insulting to people like Dr. King, who fought through riot police, tear gas, and imprisonment, only to be assassinated before his dream of desegregation could be realized.

is-it-over-yetThe same-sex marriage fight is a noble ongoing push for equality, but it is not on the same severity level as the Civil Rights struggle. I am not demeaning the cause, but we have to stop making this assumption. The most that we can consciously do is argue that those who opposed interracial marriage used the same basic reasons as those who oppose gay marriage. Let’s have this discussion in a smarter way, and respect those who have fought much harder battles to get more basic rights than those we seek today.

In closing, I know this was one of my longer posts, and I apologize. It’s not easy to articulate two different thoughts, each of them complex in their own ways. As always, we welcome any feedback, positive or negative. Whether we agree or disagree, a healthy discussion is better than no discussion at all. Now go eat some Cheerios and try not to scream at your TV.

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