Even though it’s usually depressing, I try to keep abreast of the news so that I have at least a vague idea of what’s going on in the world around me. I still remember going to a retreat up in the mountains of Washington state which was so far removed from any contact with civilization that there was no phones, no radio, no TV and no internet access. You’d only see a newspaper if someone brought one with them when they arrived. However, after spending a week on the side of that mountain with no contact with the outside world or modern conveniences like cars, I was stunned to find out how alien everything in our modern society felt. It was absolutely wonderful, and I’ve been meaning to go back there for years.
On the other side of the coin, I was also stunned to learn that people wondered what planet I had come from when I said I had no idea Princess Diana had died in a car wreck while I was busy communing with nature. Why couldn’t I have been there when Michael Jackson died instead?
Now, the other day, I read a news article that President Obama has nominated a policewoman from Minnesota to be the first openly gay U.S. Marshal. My first reaction was: Why is this news? Did she cheat on her taxes, too? Apparently not. The brief news story makes mention of the president’s rocky relationship with the gay community and specifically his pledge to end the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the US military despite his lack of concrete efforts to do so. It reminds me of an Bloom County cartoon from the 1980s in which Milo is calling NASA about shuttle launches back when NASA was making a big push to get the first [fill in the minority/ethnic/special interest group here] into space. Milo asks if NASA had launched a blind, Indian contortionist or some such and the NASA spokesman said “Yep, he went up this morning.”
I’ve never thought of myself as homophobic. I just plain don’t understand why a man or a woman would look at another person of the same sex with lust in their heart to borrow a phrase from Jimmy Carter (and to think that man won the Nobel Peace Prize), and let’s not talk about lopitoffamy or addalittletomy surgical “interventions”. That just makes my skin crawl to think of looking at an original, standard equipment item attached to your own body that’s functioning properly and not cancerous and decide you can’t stand the thought of living with it another day so badly that you pay good money to have it removed. Uh, uh. No thank you, sir. Step away from me with those sharp objects.
So, this news story, to me at least, is a thinly veiled article about progress the administration is making towards ending discrimination against homosexuals. Despite the fact that I am a committed, life-long heterosexual, I have always wondered what sexual orientation has to do with what a person does for a living. As far as I’m concerned, the only criteria beyond education and prior work experience is whether or not a person is physically capable of performing the duties and responsibilities of a particular occupation. For instance, I’d love to be able to earn a living as an airshow pilot; however, I am not sure that I’m physically capable of keeping myself from puking through a 10 minute aerobatics routine. Does that mean I’m being discriminated against?
Then, today, I see another news article about the administration’s efforts on behalf of the gay community (http://apnews.myway.com/article/20091014/D9BB3IIO0.html). This article makes no bones about the fact that the administration is working to end workplace discrimination against the gay community. Okay, fine. More power to you; but, really, how far do we need to go with this?
I mean, seriously, do we need to be adding more groups to the list of protected classes? I think we have more than enough of those already. I think the fact that we even have to have a list of protected groups is a sad commentary on us as human beings. Think about it for a minute. Companies are in business to make money. Non-profit groups exist to effectively achieve a certain goal or provide a certain service while wasting the least amount of resources necessary. They should WANT the best, most productive person for the job regardless of what the look like, which god they worship or who they pick up in bars; and, yet, here we are still dealing with discrimination in the 21ST freaking century since Jesus came down from on high to show us the way.
Does that mean we have to force people under penalty of law to do what’s in their best interests? Have any of the government’s affirmative action efforts to coerce people into being “diverse” changed anyone’s attitude about anything? I doubt it. I still hear racist jokes and religious jokes, hear stories of sexual harassment and glass ceilings, and more. We’re still seeing a culture of thin skinned victimization reported in the media, and you can’t disagree with President Obama without people looking throw your dresser drawers for a Klan robe. The only thing I’ve seen discrimination laws do is keep lawyers busy like they needed any help with that.
I tend towards a healthy dose of common sense in my opinions. I think an employer should be entitled to seek out workers who fit within the culture and demographic of their business to more effectively work within an industry or market. Does it make sense to force a fundamentalist Christian organization to hire an openly gay or transgender person as a lead spokesperson? Probably not. Does it make sense to hire a person who barely has a command of the English language and speaks with a heavy accent that no native born Texan can understand to sit in a customer service or help desk call center? No, it doesn’t AT&T. Neither of those scenarios make sense.
My feeling is this: If a business person is too stupid or small minded to over look their own prejudices so that they can hire the best person for the job and pay that person according to the value they bring to the company, that company deserves to lose money. Their competitors won’t always make the same mistake. Unfortunately, a distressing number of them do.