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on Mayor Steve Reed

Steve Reed was the long-time Democrat mayor of Harrisburg City, and he died last week. I knew Mayor Reed and I feel compelled to say some things about him.

My uber-Republican grandparents Ed and Jane introduced me to Steve back in the early 1990s, when he was first running for mayor of Harrisburg. When I queried how such ardent partisans as they could support a Democrat, the response they gave was a life-changing truism that is worth everyone remembering:

“Support the best candidate who will do the best for The People, regardless of political party.”

And besides, the Republican Party had long since abandoned Harrisburg City, as the GOPe has chicken-out abandoned all other urban areas across America. So there was no real Republican to challenge Reed.

The truth is that Steve Reed really did have the best interest of The People, the citizens of Harrisburg City, at heart. Like a lot of gay men his age, he felt that his opportunity for personal companionship was self-limited, and so he had nothing else to live for than his citizens, the people he viewed as being under his care. And he did dutifully care for all of us to his best ability.

When a bad vehicle accident would occur in the city in the very dead of night, or a homicide, Steve would show up in coat and tie, maybe fuzzy slippers on his feet, to find out exactly what happened so that he could try to fix the cause. Or at least communicate to the city’s citizens what had happened, so that there was the least mystery possible. He was always on the job. The guy cared about his job in a way that hardly anyone ever cares about public service jobs any more. Reed was truly a public servant in every good sense of the phrase.

Long ago I joked with Mayor Reed that when he died, I was going to embalm his body, dress him up in one of his dowdy suits, put a cigarette in his hand, and prop him up in the window in his old office, so that the citizens below could look up and see Steve, The Mayor, still on the job, still doing his best for us, and that knowing all was well, they would all be consoled of all concerns and go on with their lives, happier and more confident. A perpetually stable Harrisburg.

He always smiled at that joke.

His attempt to build the nation’s premier cowboy / Western museum was a great idea, like his successful idea to build an incredible civil war museum. But that Wild West Museum did not happen only because it lost momentum, despite having a veritable mountain of wonderful bona fide Western frontier artifacts to show. When the museum lost momentum, questions began to arise about how all those wonderful artifacts had been obtained with scarce public funds, and where were they kept, etc. And once those questions were asked, it was the beginning of the end of Steve’s reign. Such was the public’s trust in Mayor Reed that he could really do no wrong, and when he demonstrated that even great people have weaknesses, the public mostly abandoned him.

The last I saw Steve was at a home in Uptown Harrisburg, down the street from where we live. It was a gathering of a political who-is-who in the area that I rudely barged into uninvited, and the hostess, Peggy, cheerfully greeted me with hugs and a hot drink nonetheless. The three of us, Peggy, myself, and Mayor Reed, were all back in a corner chatting while eating fresh fruit. Steve looked happy, and Peggy was her usual 100 MPH self. Until Steve asked me “Josh, you don’t support Trump, right?”

“Of course I do, mayor, I absolutely do support President Trump. He is doing a great job for America, and I think you of all people should appreciate how hard that is to do,” I responded.

Peggy exploded, poor thing. She was standing elbow to elbow with me, and her unhappy response was broadcast in bits and pieces across the side of my sweater and cheek. She was nearly foaming at the mouth with anger, indignation, her eyes were crossed, and a garble of unintelligible words poured forth from her mouth that I did not have to actually understand in their particular to understand in their overall gist.

Peggy disliked (still does) President Trump, and was ummm…frustrated that I would support him.

“Ignore him, Peggy,” said Mayor Reed. “He is just saying that to get a rise out of you.”

Mayor Reed looked at me, smiled, popped a grape in his mouth and walked off into the bigger party. He was politic to the end.

In our hunting camp there hangs a large moose head above the living room. It is named “Stephen” after Mayor Steve Reed, because it was purchased from the eventual auction of the Harrisburg Wild West Museum contents. When I picked up the enormous wooden crate with the moose head inside, I couldn’t wait, and I opened it up right away in the bed of the pick up truck. Inside was all the original documentation going back to the original purchase of the moose by Steve Reed, years before. He had acquired it from an old frontier saloon in southwest Minnesota, and apparently many cowboys had hung their hats on it over the decades. It was a real, bona fide emblem of the wild west; at least as the Western frontier was known in Minnesota.

Steve the Moose now looms over all our comings and goings at camp, provoking small children to squeal with delight and with fright, and grown men to pose all manly-like. No question the moose head is a symbol of the Big Woods and all that is wild in America, a proper companion to other real cabin furnishings like beaver pelts and traps. But to me, Steve the Moose symbolizes Steve Reed the mayor, the all-knowing bull moose, watching over his sanctuary, his people, his charges.

It is comforting to me.

Bye, Steve, you are gone but not forgotten. Here, let me dust off your ears for you. And have a light.

Mayor Steve Reed looks at one of the Remington bronzes he purchased for his Wild West Museum. The bronze was among the gazillion other real wild west artifacts sold at auction. Denver Post photo credit

Ammin Perry cartoon symbolizing about $7 million city dollars up in smoke, and Mayor Reed did like to smoke

Steve Reed the moose still oversees all

“Alt-Right”: What it is, what it is not

“Alt-Right” is one of the buzz-phrases popularized by the hard fought election, and it started with Breitbart.

Because I have been a Breitbart reader for six years, since the news site’s inception, I have closely followed the political developments spun off from its reporting.

One of those political developments has been the emergence of the “alternative right,” or “alt-right,” a loose assembly resembling the grass roots Tea Party activists who started in 2009, whose unofficial identity began to solidify and coalesce as the international “news” media, academia, and BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES openly flouted accuracy and integrity in favor of their common big government agendas.

Primarily Constitutional conservatives and libertarians, whites, Asians, and intellectually emancipated Blacks, this newly named Alt Right is nothing more than your next door neighbor – you know, the guy with a job, a backyard grill, a family dog, a pretty wife and a couple kids – getting disgusted with BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES and the establishment media, and deciding to make his own political way without their misguidance.

These are Americans who do not identify with the Right as defined by the washed out and spineless Republican Party, but who instead arrived at conservative values from alternate experiences and places. They are not “official” conservatives because of some political party affiliation, but because of their run-ins with bad government and official overreach.

Enter into it the gay guys who recognize that they are not only now accepted by general society, but they are desirable neighbors sought by normal suburban taxpayers throughout America.

No longer content to live in gay ghettoes within depressed crime-ridden Democrat-run urban hellholes, these gay men have ventured farther afield and found themselves warmly welcomed by our neighbor, the guy with the family, grill, and dog, because gay men are overwhelmingly law abiding taxpayers whose biggest crime is looking contemptuously upon their neighbors’ unraked leaves. These are pretty damned good neighbors to have, and in return, these gay men have increasingly left the old liberal political ghetto and accepted that they are safer with a strong national defense, concealed carry laws, and immigration enforcement skeptical of gay-killing Muslims newly arrived from Islamic hell-holes.

The one man most responsible for the coining and use of “Alt-Right” is Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

Milo was one of the first politically incorrect purge victims at Twitter, whose gay CEO truly hates the openly gay Milo, because Milo is a conservative.

Typical of the Left, Twitter tried to deny Milo a platform for his unique political perspective and simply shut down his Twitter account. No reason given. No free speech rights for you, conservative gay Milo!

But Milo refused to butt out of politics and instead went head-to-head with Twitter, culminating a six-month battle with his highly effective “Dangerous Faggot Tour” (indeed it is called that, I am not making it up, go look it up). Across America, Milo the dangerous faggot was threatened, assaulted, maligned, and repeatedly denied access to university campuses as a speaker because his gay conservative message does not comply with politically correct culture.

As leftist activist Sally Kohn recently said, conservatives do not have free speech rights “because they are wrong” (again, I am not making this up, you must look this up). Milo discovered this un-American attitude on his own, and he broadcast for any and all to see just how hateful and intolerant liberals are. As a result, he became an Alt-Right hero and icon.

Because he’s on the political right, but coming at it from an alternative place than the traditional political party source, Milo, and by extension Breitbart, is Alt-Right.

What the Alt-Right is not: Racists, bigots, kooks, although the establishment mainstream media liberals would like you to think so. Then again, they are the same people who call flamboyant Milo a homophobe. Seriously.

 

Orlando shooting = immigration policy overhaul

The Muslim shooter of 49 innocent Americans in Orlando made his political and personal positions clear for a long time, in tweets, videos, facebook posts, and then recorded telephone 911 calls from the bloody floor of the bar he shot up.

Omar Mateen stated up front for months that he was a follower of ISIS, and he was following the plain dictates of Islam.

The Koran explicitly lists the cruel punishments for gays and infidels, and Omar Mateen followed through like a good Muslim.

The mainstream media is doing everything they can to digress, ignore, avoid, and pretend that the cause of this horrendous event is anything but what it is: Another Islamic attack on Americans.

Islam is a philosophy incompatible with Western civilization. Oh, Americans have big hearts, and we are always trying to find ways to make everyone under the sun feel welcome. But that should not involve committing national suicide. That is the very definition of political correctness.

Trying to punish law-abiding Americans for the actions of insane immigrants and followers of insane belief systems makes no sense, and we will not abide efforts by liberals like US Senator Bob Casey to strip Americans of their Constitutional rights.

The irony is that the Left wants to strip us of our rights for committing thought crimes, ie “hate crimes,” while the actual haters are allowed to roam freely among us, committing crimes in the name of their inhuman belief system.

The failure of the Left in its response to the Orlando shooting is overwhelming. America is being split into citizens who see plainly what is wrong, ie anti-gay violence by religiously correct Muslims, and those who ignore the obvious outcomes of their defective immigration policies.

Historic Harrisburg gets an A+

Annually, in mid-December, Historic Harrisburg arranges a tour of historic homes around the city.

In the interest of showcasing our wonderful city, participating private citizens open the doors to their homes to utter strangers, who, for the modest price of the ticket, can walk through at their leisure.

Yes, there are docents, volunteers who stand guard over privacy and valuables, but nevertheless, strangers in abundance are in your home. Homeowners exhibit grace and panache, some swilling their umpteenth glass of wine, yes, but they maintain decorum and patience through a six-hour tour that would put me over the edge within an hour. Maybe less. Well, for sure less.

It’s an impressive commitment to place and pride in community displayed by these homeowners. In fact, the tour is a big statement about the sense of close, shared community we all share here in Harrisburg. Although I have lived in a bunch of different places, I have never seen anything like this tour, or this shared sense of belonging. Again: Absolute strangers are in your home, hundreds of them, and it works really well. It is an unusual arrangement. I like it.

Today’s tour was of homes mostly in Bellevue Park, a grand island of landscaping, natural contours, natural areas, and spectacular homes. My grandparents built a beautiful home in Bellevue Park many many decades ago, and I grew up going there for holidays. Summer visits involved playing in the large in-ground pool with my cousins and eating huge amounts of delicious food prepared by our grandmother, Jane. Winter holidays involved eating huge amounts of delicious food prepared by our grandmother, Jane, and then walking it all off around the park, followed up with playing pool in the basement.

My memories of Bellevue Park are long, distant, and misty-eyed. My grandparents were loving people, and we kids felt their love. Oh, how one longs for the simpler days of youth, with innocence and guileless smiles, statements of affection truly meant. Being in Bellevue Park today was like taking a time machine trip back 40 years. In a way, today’s tour was an expression of the same guileless, innocent sharing that we had as kids, but today was between and among adults and families who have previously never met one another.

Trust is the by-word for today’s Historic Harrisburg tour.

As it turns out, many of the older residents whom I met today recalled my family, and recounted trips they had taken with them, pool parties they had enjoyed there, John Harris High School events and teams they had played in together, and political events where the pool evoked then-fresh images of “Mrs. Robinson” and her lifestyle. And I met quite a few former colleagues and acquaintances, themselves taking stock of these updated homes for their own renovation plans, or providing valuable assistance as volunteer docents.

Isn’t that something. Community may always be where you find it, but one place it never disappeared from is Bellevue Park, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. One other similar historic neighborhood I have seen is Squirrel Hill, in Pittsburgh.

It is also important to recognize the many gay men and couples who have ventured further out of the city’s center to bring revitalization to some of the park’s older homes. If there is a ‘down’ side to tolerance, it is that gays are moving ever farther from the urban cores where they have traditionally played a pivotal and leading role in the fight against urban blight by rehabilitating decayed neighborhoods. Now, gays are recognized as exemplary and desirable neighbors in traditional family areas; their colorful sense of style and personal flourishes are valuable, and are just not going to be replicated by anyone else. Surely not by me or my fellow knuckledraggers. Bellevue Park is now home to a large number of gay men. I won’t say it is a gay community, because it is not. It is simply a community with many gay people in it, and it is a great place as a result.

Thank you and an A+ to Historic Harrisburg for a fine afternoon well spent with my wife, who doted on every kitchen, every light fixture, every antique stained glass window, who relished meeting every single person today, and who left the going ga-ga over the omnipresent quartersawn oak all to me. Yes, there was tons of beautiful quartersawn oak in every home. That is pretty much all I remember. Oh, that and the old friends.

Beating that dead horse? You bet

Religious freedom is specifically protected in the US Constitution’s First Amendment. It is one of the hallmarks of American liberty, one of our claims to fame.

Enter liberalism AKA fascism.

If you are Brendan Eich, founder of Mozilla, and you believe in the Bible and you vote that way, and you donate money to causes and candidates who represent that view, why…you are FIRED. Yes, fired for your religious and political views.

If you are Elaine Huguenin of Elaine Photography in Albuquerque, New Mexico, you are now in violation of a state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual behavior. So Elaine was sued because she didn’t want to photograph a gay wedding. Our super lame US Supreme Court refused to stand up for Elaine’s rights.

Wedding cakes for same-sex couples have also become cause celebre.

So apparently it is now against the law to believe in the Bible, to follow the Bible, and to follow your religious conscience.  It appears that it is now illegal to be against gay behavior.  And it appears that you can be fired for being insufficiently supportive of gay behavior.  Is it against the law to be against gay behavior?

My question is, Can a gay baker be compelled to make a birthday cake for an anti-gay activist? Like, say, anti-gay Westboro Baptist members?

Like so much of this issue, the whole thing stinks to high heaven of double standards. Tolerance for one should be tolerance for all. First Amendment rights are clearly under attack by the very fascists who proclaim themselves to be the most tolerant and open minded of all.

American rights are being lost, and I will keep beating on this dead horse, until it gets up and starts running like it used to.  Giddy up!

Lesbian activist Camille Paglia speakin’ the gospel

http://dailycaller.com/2013/12/19/paglia-duck-dynasty-uproar-utterly-fascist-utterly-stalinist/?onswipe_redirect=no

Lesbian activist Camille Paglia calls gay activists “juvenile, fascist, Stalinist, intolerant…” And she’s right.

People like me, who strongly support a person’s right to be who they are born to be, straight or gay, without harassment, intimidation, penalty, are now personally penalized for holding Biblical views.

Is this free speech? Is this protected religion? Duck Dynasty guy got railroaded because he believes in the Bible. Wow. Folks, are you paying attention? Your religious views are no longer protected. But everything else is protected, even if it has nothing to do with the founding of America. We are in a fight, people. It’s a good fight. Better win it.

Is pro-gay political community anti-Bible bigotry?

Duck Commander guy says what he thinks about gay sex. A bit too graphic for me, but he’s entitled to his opinion. His views are basically based on explicit Biblical values. Next thing ya know, he’s being attacked as a “bigot.”

OK. I understand that a gay person doesn’t want to hear those views. I’m also sure that people who follow the Bible don’t want to hear the views of pro-gay sex advocates. If there’s parity in life, then there’s equality here, too.

Right?

Doesn’t this Duck Commander guy deserve the same First Amendment rights as other Americans? And if his views are “wrong,” then are his opponents anti-Bible bigots?

I’m trying to figure this issue out. It seems filled with double standards and bullying by political advocates who just cannot accept that other Americans disagree with them. And that disagreement results in severe career punishment.

If it’s wrong to punish someone’s career because they are perceived as gay (how does one ascertain that a person is, in fact gay? What’s the level of proof?), then why is it OK to punish someone’s career because they hold traditional Biblical views?

It is one thing entirely to support a person’s right to be who they are. It’s another thing entirely to say everyone is equal, except for you. It’s equality for everyone, or for none. Tolerance for one, tolerance for all, right?

The Duck Commander guy has zero equality, apparently. So much for First Amendment rights or protecting Biblical views.

Framing the Issue, Defining the Person

Although I spend most of my work time with muddy boots out in the field, I obviously have a passion for government policy and issues. My college and graduate school degrees are in government (and economics, and statistics, and history, and…and…), so “big issues” have always motivated me. And thus, I write about them.

As a sound policy advocate, I am always wrestling with framing an issue or defining the person behind an issue, say, in a public race for office.

One of the aspects of this process I am getting better at is understanding what motivates someone else who sees it differently than I.

And here is my conclusion: Power, power, and more power over decisions, resources, and people is what motivates the vast majority of people who take a stand on something. Especially in politics.

Take, for example, last week’s decision at the Boy Scouts of America. In my mind, the decision to allow gay people is not an issue. After all, how would I know someone is gay unless they tell me? I could not care less about who is gay, or straight, and in fact I enjoy the presence of a number of gay people because they are funny, smart, and entertaining. I have nothing against gays. But what I do have an issue with is talking about sex with my kid, and who does it, and why.

And so, the political advocates of being gay say they have a right to talk about their sexual preferences any time they want, and I respond that now I know how women feel when meatheads make stupid comments that can be construed as sexist or come-ons. There is just zero room for discussing sexuality or sexual preferences in public or with kids not your own. And so I frame this issue naively, thinking it is about what is best for kids (knowing that adults who also object to having sexuality pressed upon them can take refuge in myriad anti-sexual harassment laws).

Every kid should have a sex-free zone drawn around them. And yes, talking about your sexual preferences is S-E-X-U-A-L.

And thus are parents like me unfairly defined as bad, bigoted, evil, cruel, etc. The issue has been framed in a way that automatically makes us “bigoted” if we disagree, thereby removing our ability (power) to defend our ideas. But I prefer to frame it in a way that protects kids, my kids, from being sexualized. And thus, I will stand my ground and say “leave the kids alone.”

Gay people who want to hang out at my house and debate this, or have dinner, or play cards, are welcome any time we know you are arriving.

BSA Policy Should be Zero Tolerance for Sex

It hurt to send this to my son’s Boy Scouts troop leader today. Ben is a wonderful man and an important part of our son’s life:

“Hi Ben.

I don’t care who is gay.

And no one has a right to talk about sex with my son Isaac.

Sex has no place in the BSA.

The moment that a teenager or adult talks about sex with my son at a BSA event is the moment I file a lawsuit against BSA for sexual harassment and then withdraw from the troop.

The correct policy should have been a zero tolerance for sex, period. Talking about sexual behavior is innately sexual. It’s an innately private subject without any legitimate purpose around kids.

You are and have been a fantastic troop leader. I’m very sorry to send this to you. But I must protect my son. Isaac has a right to be free from sexualization by older kids and adults. The new BSA policy says that someone has a right to sexualize my son. That’s wrong, and the BSA is now looking like an unsafe place, the wrong place for my son.

Josh”

Stepping Across the Barricade: I’m 47, Married, Religious, and Love My Gay Friends, Daggonit

Stepping Across the Barricade: I’m 47, Married, Religious, and Love My Gay Friends, Daggonit

By Josh First

July 31, 2012

Preface:
1) I do not hate, dislike, or otherwise work against homosexual people.
2) Since my college years I have known casually and also been close friends with many gay people, both women and men. I love my gay family members as well as a couple of my gay friends.
3) I am not gay, I am not attracted to men, but rather have always had a “thing” for older women. Now that my marriage is closing in on 20 years, I’m finally getting what I always lusted after: An older woman.
4) I have stood up for gay people, in the office during my professional career and during social situations in college, since I was in my teens.
5) If I were to see a gay person being physically attacked for the simple reason that they were gay, they could and always can count on my immediate involvement and intercession on their behalf. I’ll physically defend your right to be gay and free from harassment and assaults, and I’m a tough brawler.
6) I believe that people are born gay, that it is not a choice at least most of the time, and that God made gay people the way they are; more power to them. Someone had to fill Isaac Mizrachi’s shoes, and it sure isn’t going to be a knuckle dragger like me. I admire anyone defending our nation with a gun, gay or straight.
7) Be gay if that’s what you are. Live. Be. Enjoy the free air as much as I or any other person enjoys it. You are just as entitled to it as any other human. I don’t care if you are gay.
And…8: During the two times I have run for public office (U.S. House PA-17th District, 2010, and PA Senate – 15th District in 2012), I have taken open, strongly worded policy positions against discrimination against gay people in the work place, in the application of government benefits, and in equal protection of the laws of the land.

Given the forgoing, you would have to be a lunatic to say that I am anti-gay, bigoted against gays, or somehow an anti-gay crusader.

And yet, all these things have been said about me, and much worse, over the past week since I dared to raise a nuanced policy discussion about preventing the sexualizing of children. In sum, to recapitulate what started the ruckus, I support the Boy Scouts of America policy of not sexualizing their kids. In terms of gay people, it means that open displays of sex, discussing being gay, gay-ness, gay acts, and other human sexuality in general are all off limits, forbidden, and utterly unacceptable. Because these are, after all, children. This applies to gay, straight, and pedophile adults. Think what you want, but keep your thoughts to yourself.

My child is not going to be a battleground in this culture war issue. Homosexuality is sexuality, and sexuality of all sorts does not belong in the scouts nor around little kids. People pushing sexuality make me uncomfortable for obvious reasons, whether they are straight or gay. Sexuality is a private matter. Kids and sex don’t mix. 

Sexuality is sex; it is not race, religion, etc. no matter how much culture war proponents want to say it is. That’s the problem with culture wars. Demands are made of others to suspend belief, suspend reason, suspend debate and just kowtow, or die. 

Once again, to recapitulate, it is my opinion that talking about sex or sexuality with children who are not your own, especially in the Boy Scouts-type setting, is unacceptable. Adults, sex, and kids do not mix.

Unless the kids are yours and you are parenting them by describing human sexuality. Or, if you consent to having the “birds and the bees” be described for your kids at school by a professional in a public setting.

A few reasons probably account for the heaps of criticism on the position I took. First, gay people generally want to be accepted like anyone else (why wouldn’t they?), and they mistakenly believe that someone is singling them out for unfair treatment in a policy discussion like this. A second reason may emanate from straights who support gays’ right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and discrimination, and these fine folks believe, mistakenly, that any criticism of gays (even criticism that is leveled equally at both gays and straights) is automatically unfair and out of bounds. Another reason may be simple politics, as in “I will attack you and destroy you and harass you and demean you and lie about you if you say something I disagree with.”

Reading those comments, we had all three reasons at work.

What does it mean to be gay?

Well, being gay means that you are attracted to people of your same sex or gender.

Only you know how you feel about sex, unless you tell someone, or act flamboyantly in ways that convey your sexuality (or perform sex acts where others can see them). For gay men, this may mean acting effeminate, dressing in women’s clothes, or adopting modes of communication that tell other men that they are attracted to them. For straight men, conveying your sexuality usually results in charges of sexual harassment. At the very least, you’ll have been known to have ‘hit’ on someone.

The point is, unlike skin color, which is obvious to all but the blind and accounts for race and ethnicity, and religion\creed, which can be observed many different public and private ways, being gay or straight is not something that can be publicly observed under normal circumstances.

Which is one reason why I supported adding being gay or being perceived as gay to Pennsylvania’s anti-discrimination laws.

The bottom line is this: Sexuality is not race, ethnicity, religion, or creed. Human sexuality is a thing unto itself, and usually it is taboo. We have taboos against incest, sex with animals, and until recently, homosexuality. In recent times, we recognized that private sexual relations between consenting adults are their own business, and that they must be accorded the same protections as anyone else when there or out in public.

In free societies, we ensure that minorities of all sorts are free from discrimination, because discrimination undermines the promise of equal protection and opportunity for all citizens. Minorities are defined as being different than the Protestant majority formed by the Europeans who settled America. If someone tells you over the phone that they are African American, you can then later on compare them to a European American’s skin color and see the difference, and measure their minority status. Religion is often strongly correlated with race and ethnicity, and ethnicity is often strongly associated with certain names. Thus, many names (Goldberg, Rosenberg, Stein, McCloud, etc.) give a hint about the person’s place of origin, potential ethnicity, and religious affiliations, however tenuous or committed.

Gays have the misfortune of being in a category that should be protected, but which cannot be easily verified, at least without the removal of some clothing and the performance of acts that must by necessity for all citizens occur only in private among consenting adults. Verification is going to be a challenge.

There are those of us Americans who are raising our kids to be both tolerant of others, including gays, and also be religious and modest. This means they are taught that some subjects cannot be discussed in public, but that everyone is entitled to the American dream. It means that we expect others to display the same inhibitions that we exhibit, and to respect our boundaries as they expect us to extend respect to them.

However, American public life is increasingly coarsened and with it the standard for public discourse is lowered. One measure is how Hollywood continues to abuse its power of persuasion and suggestion with movies glorifying violence and sadism. Another example is the blurring of private and public lives, where innately private acts are displayed in public. This means that some people now believe that they may, nay, even must, be able to force upon you their own beliefs, practices, and thoughts. Even if they are offensive to you as much as you accord them the right to be and do what they will. They demand such respect even while simultaneously stating that you yourself believe in only stupidness and bigotry.

Which gets to the conclusion of this essay: Tolerance is a two-way street. And tolerance does not mean acceptance. No one has the right to demand that someone else adopt their way of thinking or risk being called a bigot. You cannot do it with religion, and you cannot do it with sexuality. People have a right to have comfort zones, to have beliefs. Gays have a right to be free of discrimination. And parents have the right to say that they do not want Little Johnny knowing that men are attracted to each other like Mommy and Daddy are, and all the discussion that such attraction entails. There is no easy answer to this, as one side must gain and the other must by necessity lose in such a situation. Picking sides means no further dialogue, with each side manning its barricades. Some friends have let me know which side they are on, and they exclude me from that side, which I think is both illogical and unnecessary.

I like to view myself as someone who has stepped over the barricades and extended a hand of friendship to the other side. Demanding that I drop my discomfort, or that I kowtow and say certain words to make someone else feel as though they have won, well, that just prolongs the conflict, because it’s not right. Given the preface above, I wonder how many gays will say the same for my religious belief system. Or am I the only one who needs to be tolerant?