The Bigotry Epidemic?

A while ago, my husband wrote an open letter to anyone who had left the Mormon church, asking that they rethink their decision and come back. He didn’t write a full-on sermon, just a general “We need you – please come back” statement. Within hours, he had a slough of angry comments about how naive he was, how offensive his letter was, and generally denouncing him as a bigot.

There were some comments that made a good point. One reader, an ex-Mormon, pointed out that Ethan was getting negative feedback because he only addressed a few reasons people had left the church, and many felt he was over-simplifying their difficult decision. You know what? I’ll take that. That was a respectful comment, and a valid point. What bothered me was the tidal wave of hatred from less respectful readers who seemed determined to make sure the world knew that there was no God, but if there was, He would have sent my husband through Hell seven times already by now.

We did a little investigating, and discovered the high hater traffic was due to a link someone posted on an anti-Mormon site. Apparently, someone was so offended by my husband’s post that, instead of ignoring it, they wanted to make sure the entire world knew about it. The funniest part for us was reading the comments on the anti-Mormon site. These comments can be summed up as:

“Wow. Is this guy really this dumb?”

“Yup. I actually know him personally, and he gives free time to the church, volunteers to help those around him, and does good things without expecting a return. It’s going to ruin his life eventually, and he’ll never be able to hold down a relationship.”

No lie. This was the argument. We thought this was hilarious, especially since we were recently married and obviously very happy with our relationship. I fell in love with Ethan primarily because of the selfless way he treats others. I’m sick in bed as I write this, and he’s been taking care of me all night. I don’t see how that’s going to make me want to leave.

But I digress. The real point of my post is not to complain about the negative response of the masses to my husband’s blog post. My concern goes a little deeper than that.

Why are there anti-Mormon sites?

Because there are anti-Mormons, yes, I know. We all have freedom of speech, and it’s not my business whether you want to believe in the LDS faith or not. But I want you to think about this. If I established an anti-gay site, I would be a bigot. If I established an anti-Hispanic site or an anti-Black site, or an anti-abortion site, or an anti-feminist site, I would be a bigot. By definition, I would. a bigot is “a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group).”

So tell me something. Why is it that if I established or frequented an anti-gay site, I would be (rightfully) called a bigot, while if I frequented an anti-Mormon site, I would be considered an informed individual who asks a lot of questions before becoming involved in something? Why is it socially acceptable for people to blame White Christians for society’s problems, but if I have the audacity to suggest that a Black student should study harder for a grade, I’m discriminating against him or her?

Now, let me clarify: I’m not saying that feminists, Blacks, Latinos, gays, or any group of people is trying to spread hatred. Everyone I know personally – with one exception, who thinks our relationship is doomed because my husband is selfless – would shy away from stupid, demeaning commentary. If they felt I was being a bigot, they would approach the topic respectfully, point out my lack of perspective, and possibly even discuss it with me personally over lunch. Which is why I don’t understand the hatred online. I firmly believe that any two people can treat one another respectfully, if they both set out to see the other person’s perspective.

If the internet is to be believed, we have an unmatched bigotry epidemic on our hands. I simply don’t believe that. I think we have an over-sensitivity epidemic on our hands. I believe there is considerably less discrimination now in the U.S. than ever before – we’re not perfect, but you know, we’re trying.  And there is a difference between disagreement and discrimination. While there is still real bigotry alive and well in the States, I think most of the discrimination incidents we hear about are simply disagreements blown out of proportion. I feel like our real problems will be ironed out a lot more quickly and effectively if we can all stop looking to take offense and start looking to share our opinions without attacking our “opponent”: the stranger who had the audacity to disagree with us on social media. ♦

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You have died of dysentery.

I was sick two weeks ago, lying in bed with a cold, whining about how tired I was, and generally sleeping my life away. Fortunately, my new boss believes in human rights: he told me to take care of myself, stay home, and get better. After working in a restaurant kitchen where a customer’s dinner had a higher value than my life, I wanted to kiss the man. Fortunately for everyone involved – especially my husband – I didn’t.

Yesterday at church, I started feeling a little faint. I was fasting, so this wasn’t super weird; I broke my fast a little early and ate some Halloween candy. That bought me a few hours. But at about 8 o’clock last night, I was suddenly a train wreck. My back ached, my head ached, my legs ached, I was freezing, I was sleepy, I was dizzy… I was sick. After a bath, a lot of blankets, and a massage (thanks, Ethan), I managed to fall asleep.

This morning, I was a little better, but when I asked to go home early, my boss said he could tell I’d been struggling. I’m still sore and cold. I’m still tired. And most of all, I’m still whiny.

Which brings me to my current dilemma. Mormons are crazy obsessed with genealogy. Our heritage is where we get our strength to carry on. And the problem is that my ancestors were not whiny people. My grandpa Allen woke up at 5am every day, took the toaster out on the balcony so he wouldn’t set off the fire alarm, and toasted himself some blackened charcoal for breakfast. Apparently, it “settled his stomach.” My grandpa Frank worked two or three jobs most of his life. When he was sick, he figured, “I can be sick at home or sick at work. Might as well go to work.” When he had a heart attack in his late eighties, he took a few weeks off after his open-heart surgery, then came back to work part-time. I have ancestors who sailed to America, who helped found Jamestown, who crossed the plains in the Oregon Trail and the Mormon trek. Toughness runs in my family.

So I have this haunting vision of hitting the other side, swapping manly stories with my bad-awesome ancestors, and proving what a wuss I really was in life. I imagine it something like this: “I crossed the American Plains in a handcart, got dysentery, and gave birth in the snow after my husband froze to death.”

“Well… I had a massive headache one time while I filed my taxes. It was like, two in the morning. And the forms were really confusing. And one time, I had the flu. Yeah, I totally threw up, like, five times.”

Oregon Trail

Yeah, we’ve got better medicine, and we don’t have to go through the same stuff. But a part of me can’t help feeling spoiled when I’m lying here just because I’m tired. Seems I need to find some compromise between taking care of myself and taking care of my ego. Or maybe I just have too much ego. Hmm… ♦