Monday, November 21, 2016

Tolerance for the Children of Gay Parents But Not for Orphans (or Contrarian Aspies)

As part of getting Kalman ready for pre-school, every other Friday, I take him to the Pajama Library Gan Katan at the Jewish Federation of San Gabriel and Pomona Vally. It is a great program and I love the people there. I am particularly grateful to the staff for going the extra mile to accommodate Kalman and me.  

This past meeting, I had an interesting exchange with one of the people running the program. In honor of the national holiday invented by Abraham Lincoln to drum up northern patriotism during the Civil War, we sang a lovely little thank you song.   

Baruch ata Adonai, thank you, God
Thank you for the candles
Thank you for the wine
Thank you for the challah
That always tastes so fine.
Thank you for my family
They love me when I’m happy
They love me when I’m sad.

Afterward, the group leader explained that originally the song said "thank you for my mommy, thank you for my dad," but they changed the lyrics to be more inclusive. I raised my hand and commented that "obviously, this was to be inclusive of orphans." The leader did not take kindly to this and said that this was not for orphans and asked me if I was being sarcastic. I responded that "as an aspie, I am incapable of sarcasm." I let the issue go and we actually had a much more pleasant conversation after group. 

To be clear, I strongly support tolerance for children raised by same-sex parents. It is not as if these children have violated any biblical commandments. I even support tolerance for homosexuals as I am morally opposed to initiating physical violence against anyone. Unlike the group leader, I also care at least as much about orphans, whom I am commanded by the Bible to not offend. I also care about people with sulfite allergies who cannot drink wine, people (like my step-mother) with celiac, who cannot eat challah and people who struggle with depression, who go through long periods of not being able to be happy without actually being said. If we were to be logically consistent and apply the same standard as we would to not offending children from same-sex families, the entire song would have to go. When asked if I was serious in saying that I was more concerned about people with celiac than I was about homosexuals, I responded that "as a classical liberal, I always place physical danger over non-physical danger. Since celiac itself presents an inherent physical danger while homosexuality does not, concerns about celiac should take precedence." 

Feel free to reject my conclusions, but note that I operate from a clear set of principles. If you want to disagree with me you are going to need to set forth your own principles and it will not be enough to say that you are tolerant as that just begs the question of whom. You cannot say that celiac patients should know that we love them and accept their challah-less lifestyles as it is equally reasonable to assume that children from gay families know that we accept them even with their two mommies or daddies.     

When it comes to not giving offense to homosexuals, there are two logically consistent positions. We can say that everyone, gay, straight or celiac, must be protected from offense. Alternatively, we can say that society has established certain codes of speech and behavior and these include not using exclusionary language against homosexuals. Not that homosexuals are inherently more deserving of protection than those with celiac, but we recognize that society cannot protect everyone and so we must accept that society, for whatever arbitrary reason, has chosen homosexuals. Note that saying that society is being arbitrary is a more powerful reason than saying that it actually makes logical sense. I can always counter your logic. But if society is being arbitrary then I have no choice but to accept this as the price of membership. 

As it should be clear from the example of the song, total acceptance is not really possible. Whatever language you use, someone will always be excluded. This leaves the second option. If the group leader had rebuked me by saying that I was being impolite then she would have been on solid ground. Of course, there is a price to be paid for such a position in that it is a fundamentally a conservative position. If she did this, she would not be able to claim that she was being open and welcoming. Her argument would be as valid and morally useless as if she criticized my holding a fork and knife in the "wrong" way.

As an aspie, I get fearful whenever I hear liberals talking about acceptance that does not explicitly mention those on the autism spectrum. To not include those on the spectrum is to imply that we are not deserving of acceptance. I have no problem living in a society with arbitrary rules that I have to either take or leave as long as we are being honest about it. If we are going to talk about acceptance than I demand the right to be accepted as a highly contrarian aspie, who fulfills his state of being by attempting to elucidate the most logically consistent position he can, regardless of whether neurotypicals feel comfortable. Anything less does not allow me to feel safe and accepted.     

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