I Can’t Hear You I Can’t Hear You I’m Dead


October 14, 2011 by rebelwithalabelmaker

So, when my younger sister Rita was little, she had this thing she used to do when she didn't want to hear what you were saying.  She would scream "I CAN'T HEAR YOU I CAN'T HEAR YOU I'M DEAD!!!!".  Over and over.  Most kids would cover their ears while doing this, so as not to hear counter arguments such as "Dead people can't talk", but not Rita because she had supersonic vocal chords.  It was unnecessary.  When she yelled, we couldn't hear ourselves, the passing firetrucks, or the ringing of the phone as city hall called to say "Give that kid what she wants, we have noise pollution laws, you know".

Me, I wasn't that loud.  So I would plan revenge plots.  Problem was, I am absolutely terrible at holding grudges–bad memory.  I would leave little sticky notes attached to my tooth brush saying "remember you are on a hunger strike".  Like Ghandi.  And maybe, if I had remembered to brush my teeth each morning, I would have been more like Ghandi.  Maybe.

"Be the change you want to see in the world.  Failing that, brush your teeth in the morning because that's the change everyone else wants to see in the world."

One argument for reading news is that it allows you to better create change.  I'm not so sure that this is true.  Reading the news leads to a sense of urgency about change, but I usually can't see a way to translate that into action.  Except greeting Gary at the door when he gets home to work with an infuriated "Did you know they're restarting the Angola Prison Rodeo and people can pay 15 dollars each to watch volunteer convicts be attacked by bulls?  Did you know?  We have to do something RIGHT NOW!"

And what would that something be?  A strongly worded letter:  Dear Angola, I am never coming to your stupid prison.

I was never going to go to their stupid prison anyways.  I have already decided that if I go to jail I want to go to the one in Kingston in the old fashioned castle that looks like DisneyLand.  Beside all those prison farms that the government shut down.  Which I did not hear about via the news, but which I did write a letter about: 

Dear Harper:  Now I am not going to vote for you and first chance I get I am putting very boring graffiti on your toilet.  After I am done having Hepatitis A, which has crippled my political activities.  As I am sure you have noticed.

 In writing class they taught me that you should have ideas connecting one paragraph to the next.  And so, having mentioned Harper, it is only natural that now I will move on to talking about persecution of LGBT people, which is also in the news.

Right now, the Supreme Court is hearing evidence against Bill Whatcott, who distributed a bunch of horrible pamphlets in Saskatoon saying that Gay people should be kept out of the schools and that they are sodomites and pedophiles and such.  I know about this not from reading the news at the time, or even from reading the pamphlet.  It was was undoubtedly put into my mailbox–so that would have been the last anyone saw of it.  I know about all this because my congregation is one of the organizations acting as intervener in the case–again, because of a personal contact that was made.

It's an interesting dilemma.  Nobody is arguing that it's a good thing to put such pamphlets in mailboxes–not even the anti-gay people, since it discredits them by association.  The question is, can we reasonably put sanctions on this kind of thing without beginning a downward spiral into a totalitarian state with no freedom of speech?  The court has to weigh peoples' right to not be persecuted for their sexual identity against peoples' right to freedom of religious expression.  Right?

I don't think so.  I would be dead set against arguing that people can't say that certain actions are against their religion–but there's a distinction to be made here between the meaning of someone's statement and the form of it.  To say that a person can't express a religious conviction in the form of a vicious attack on vulnerable people isn't to say that they can't express their religious conviction.  It's a mistake to equate Whatcott's pamphlets with a discussion of religion.  It would be more accurate to equate it with my youngest sister shrieking "I CAN'T HEAR YOU I'M DEAD!!" so loudly that any meaningful conversation was undermined.  If the content of her sentence was "I HOLD RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS AGAINST THE EATING OF PORK!"  it wouldn't make the shrieking any more acceptable.

Noise pollution laws exist for a reason–so do hate pollution laws.  These constraints don't shut down communication–they create the space for it to occur. 

So, my great moral questions of the day:

1)  How do we simultaneously guard freedom from persecution and freedom of religious expression?

2)  Does being informed about the world actually translate into more action to improve it?

3)  "Volunteer" convicts being attacked by bulls?  Why would anyone volunteer to be attacked by a bull?

4)  Did the bulls volunteer?

5 thoughts on “I Can’t Hear You I Can’t Hear You I’m Dead

  1. Shannon says:

    You should come to Rebekah’s Reasonable Women Meetup! We discussed some of these issues when we talked about Muslim women and head/body covering. My conclusion following the discussion (although perhaps not everyone would agree with me) was that it is nearly impossible to 100% guarantee both freedom of religious expression and freedom from persecution (aside from actually changing the minds of those involved who believe that their freedom of religion must take the form of persecution). If we want to protect all women from being FORCED to wear a Hijab/Niqab/Burqa and we pass a law to disallow the wearing of said garments, then we also infringe on the rights of women who truly are educated and informed and are choosing freely to wear those garments. Laws that protect the vulnerable sometimes do that. Is it a fair trade? Some will say yes. Others will say no.

  2. Liz says:

    I can’t WAIT to be able to join the Reasonable Women’s Meetings–they sound really interesting. My issue, though, with trying to legislate away oppression by banning the Hijab/etc is that I don’t see it as a tool of oppression–I see it as a religious tool being used to oppress. You could say the same thing about the Bible, and I don’t think we should ban it either. If we try to legislate away the oppression by banning the tool, the oppression finds a new avenue. In this particular case, I am thinking dollars to donuts that the women won’t be allowed to leave their homes any more… …hardly an advancement…

  3. Greta says:

    Are we really liberating women if we pass a law forcing them NOT to wear the Hijab? I thought liberation was getting to choose your own clothes….

  4. Debby says:

    I’m a news junkie but the Angola Prison Rodeo was new to me. Thanks to Wikipedia I learned that this takes place at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Oh, THAT Angola.
    When I first moved to Saskatoon I went to the rodeo at the Ex to immerse myself in local culture. I emerged somewhat scathed. Rodeos are bad enough with expert cowboys and cowgirls and expert cows and horses. But then, I looked at the video on the Louisiana State Penitentiary website http://angolarodeo.com/ and I’m not so sure now. Those guys all looked pretty proud of themselves.
    Do you think the Canadian government would bring back the prison farms if they could stage a rodeo once a year that brought in tourists from Germany?

  5. Liz says:

    It’s funny–with the Hijab thing, I feel like if we want to treat women as fully thinking beings, that means respecting their choices. With the rodeo thing, I feel like even if it’s what the prisoners want, they should be over-ruled… double standard, I think…

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