Wednesday, August 01, 2012

I Don't Suppose Mr. Lamont Ever Asked To Be On That Pedestal

I had this teacher in junior high.  He was actually one of my favorite teachers in junior high and, really, in my scholastic life.  We'll call him Mr. Lamont.  Mr. Lamont made learning fun, but also made us work hard.  He cultivated creativity and rewarded excellence.  He did not put up with mediocrity.

You have to know that in junior high, I was kind of a weird kid and very much a nerd and an introvert (all of which are probably still true).  Mr. Lamont was my first period of the day, and I would show up easily a half hour before class even started and just hang out in Mr. Lamont's room.  He would let me read his Far Side books and is actually the person who introduced me to the genius that is Gary Larson and The Far Side.  Sometimes Mr. Lamont would listen to his short wave radio.  I really liked him and am always grateful that he reached out to a somewhat socially awkward kid like myself.

Besides the Far Side and the shortwave radio, I have some very distinct memories of Mr. Lamont.  I remember his class was social studies, and we learned a lot of geography in his class, and actually his class gave me a great interest in geography and geopolitical affairs.  I remember he would ask us various questions about topics we were studying, and if we answered correctly, he would throw us candy (or one day it was oranges (Cuties, I guess they were - the small ones)).

I remember an assignment we were given to create a commercial for something, and I did one on cereal that I was so proud of and which also was kind of brown-nosy, and he was unimpressed and said it was a typical commercial and that there wasn't much in it that was different from regular advertising.  At the time, I was kind of crushed by his assessment, but the truth is, he was absolutely right, and it taught me to be more creative and visionary.

I remember he was a super BYU football fan, something in which I had little interest.  But I remember some teachers who were Utah fans "kidnapping" a BYU teddy bear he kept in his closet, and he was not amused.

I remember my brother had gotten illegal cable from a friend of his, and I happened to mention this to Mr. Lamont, and he got pretty serious about the legal ramifications of it, and I was so afraid I had gotten my brother in trouble.  Mr. Lamont didn't do anything about it, but it did teach me about the importance of ethics and following the law.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Lamont's class, and I still consider him one of my favorite teachers and felt he was very effective and influential in my education.

I was kind of excited when I came across him about three years ago on Facebook and messaged him to let him know just how much he had influenced me and what a great teacher I felt he had been to me.  I was pleasantly surprised when he messaged me back and was even more surprised that he remembered very well who I was.  In his words, I was "kind of an odd, but likeable kid."  True, that.

We became Facebook friends, and I discovered that we couldn't be on more opposite sides as far as our political ideologies and personal interests.  That's fine.  I have plenty of friends on both sides of the political spectrum as well as in between, and I try not to get too wrapped up in letting it affect our friendships.

Well, I guess the other day he said some things that caused some of his more liberal friends to attack him.  I have no idea what was said, but I do get the impression it was in relation to this business with Chick-fil-A's CEO's comments against gay marriage.  I really haven't gotten involved in the Chick-fil-A brouhaha.  I don't eat there anyway, and the owners and runners of Chick-fil-A can believe what they want, and the people who don't want to support them can do that, too.  It's no skin off my nose either way.  I have bigger battles to wage than whether one ought to boycott Chick-fil-A or not.

But in response to his liberal friends' attacks, Mr. Lamont's posted a rant in which he said the following:


Let's recap, shall we?

1. Chick-fil-A president says he supports the Biblical version of marriage (a man and a woman) and that he does not view "same-sex 'unions'" as marriage.

2. Every idiot in the US with nothing to do except get their views from Bill Maher and Louis Farrakhan immediately screams, "HATER!"

3. My point remains the same: why is it that when someone that is NOT black, or hispanic, or homosexual, or violently liberal, or transgender,or an albino mutant lesbian with webbed feet, states their VIEWPOINT, their OPINION (in other words, exercises their constitutional right to FREE SPEECH): why is it that when someone like me, that really understands what tolerance means, when we express our opinion, and it doesn't EXACTLY "toe the Party line", why are we "haters"? When you cretins on the Left side of the aisle told me, on a daily basis, how stupid George Bush was, or when you tell us in the media, on a daily basis, that white Americans are racist and intolerant and homophobic (another laughable term), why are we not allowed to disagree? Yet if I say that Obama was (and is) too inexperienced to be President, I am instantly branded a racist. When I say that I do not agree with the idea of same-sex anything, I'm called a homophobe. (Parenthetically, what could I possibly be afraid of? That I would get nailed with a man-purse?)

When labels ("Hater!" "Racist!" "Homophobe!" "Right-winger!" and so on) because the only answer you have for someone else's viewpoint, you have lost the ability, no, the WILL to reason and think on your own. You have now entered the world of animals: yeah, some of you are as cute as the dickens, but you're not any smarter than the dog next door. I love dogs, but I learned a long time ago that the conversations with them are fairly one-sided. (See Exhibit A, below).

If you wish to communicate or get in touch, please, by all means, use my personal email...But don't look for me on Facebook. To quote Howard Beale (Network, 1976): "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore."

Now I don't care if he's against same-sex marriage or if he supports the Chick-fil-A CEO's right to disagree with same-sex marriage.  Truth be told, I think the CEO has a right to believe whatever he wants to believe and that the company has a right to support whatever causes they want to support.  It's a free country.

Nor do I disagree with Mr. Lamont's right to exercise his freedom of speech or in his right to believe that Barack Obama is too inexperienced to be an effective president.  I also agree with his perspective that when people disagree with each other, they often toss off unfair labels or generalizations or cause their arguments to become ineffective due to their name-calling or regurgitating someone else's talking points as their own.

All of that is fine.  No, what bothers me about Mr. Lamont's post (which, admittedly, was written in a fit of annoyance or anger) is his assertion that he is somehow more tolerant than the people he is railing against.  His argument loses credibility when he tosses out the same generalizations and stereotypes he is supposedly railing against.  But I guess it's okay for him to do it since he is defending his own side.

So those who disagree with him are "idiots?"  Those who have a different viewpoint than him only got there because they're getting their information from the likes of "Bill Maher and Louis Farrakhan?"  And while I think the terms "racist" or "homophobic" are thrown around too much in situations that probably do not warrant them (just because someone disagrees with same-sex unions or makes a politically incorrect observation about race doesn't necessarily make them racist or homophobic (although they may well be)), at the very least my former teacher has shown a great deal of insensitivity to race and homosexuality and liberalism in his post.  I don't think terms such as "violently liberal" or "albino mutant lesbian with webbed feet" or "cretins on the Left side of the aisle"  or calling the term "homophobic" "laughable" or the use of such a cheap stereotype of a joke as "what could I possibly be afraid of? That I would get nailed with a man-purse?" (I cringe re-reading it) or accusing those who disagree with him because they throw out such labels as "Hater," "Racist," "Homophobe," and "Right-winger" as having the intelligence of the lower animals of the world help buoy my former teacher's credibility.  

How does his doing exactly what he is accusing the same people on the liberal side of doing helping his argument?  It isn't.  He's no better than the people he's railing against because he's doing exactly the same sort of name-calling as those he's upset with.  He's sunk to the same level.

Again, I don't care that Mr. Lamont believes what he believes.  I don't care that his viewpoints are diametrically opposed to my own.  I don't argue his right to disagree with me or his other liberal friends.  I don't even disagree with his assertion that the attacks and name-calling from his liberal friends are counterproductive.  No, what disappoints me is that he sunk to the same level as them in doing the same thing, and therefore his rant has just as little weight as the very attacks he is decrying.

At the very least, he comes off as insensitive and intolerant; at the most he perhaps does betray feelings of racism and homophobia.  I don't know that Mr. Lamont is either racist or homophobic, but this rant doesn't do anything to defend the accusations that he might be.  

His own nephew wrote in response to his rant: 

I am completely shocked and somewhat speechless. Tolerant?? You have insulted SO MANY minority groups with this post, including the one I belong to. That is NOT tolerance. You believe that I, your sister's son, do not deserve the same rights as my friends and family who identify as straight? That is fine and dandy, you are entitled. But don't call people who disagree with you Idiots, and don't say that we lack the ability and will to think on our own. I don't think I've ever been as disappointed with anyone on my mother's side of the family as I am right now. 

I kind of echo the sentiment.  Mr. Lamont still remains one of my very favorite teachers and I will always be grateful for the influence he had on my education.  I never wanted to lose respect for him.  But I have.  I once had such admiration for this man.  Now I just feel disappointment - not because of his political or social views; not because we disagree on certain issues; not because he believes different things than I do - no, I am disappointed in his hypocrisy and in his being the very intolerant and name-calling type of individual he is lambasting in his post.

"Hey, Kettle.  Pot called.  You're black."


Crisco said...

My middle school teacher with whom I'm a Facebook friend also posted this comment. However, it looks like it's a "share" or copy of someone else's post. I'm not sure who the actual author is. I have avoided all the talk or posts on the Chick-fil-a thing.
My teacher was my German teacher. He definitely challenged us to open our minds and think.

Crisco said...

What an interesting coincidence. I'm also friends with a teacher from middle school, though he's my German teacher. He also posted the same argument. It appears it was authored by someone else and he just copied it.
He doesn't live in the States anymore, so not sure why he cares.
Anyway, I tend to ignore these debates. They just aren't helpful, and they cause too much pain.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Actually, Crisco, I'm quite sure it is the same person. I changed his name in my blog, but it is his post. He was indeed a German teacher in middle school and doesn't live in the US right now, so it's highly likely that you and I had the same teacher and possibly attended the same middle school.

I actually tend to avoid these kinds of debates as well, but I did quite enjoy this article about the Chick-fil-A debate. I found it very well-reasoned and balanced, and she brings up a lot of valid points. It's worth a read: