Penguin tale upsets fundamentalists
The intensity, in certain circles, of antigay hostility is truly astounding. Now consider the following true story. Two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City (obviously liberal penguins) cared for a fertilized egg together and co-operated together to raise the chick. A completely true story.
A story book about this true incident was published and the fundamentalist crowd is apoplectic. Baptist Press is shrieking that the story book “has ignored an important fact -- the penguins long ago split up, with one of them going on to nest with the opposite sex.”
Ah, folks, did you notice we are talking about penguins here. They are birds. To crow (pardon the pun) that the penguins “split up” is about the silliest thing I ever heard. Two penguins of the same sex raised a chick and exhibited some homosexual behaviour. But the idea that a bird has a sexual orientation is a bit premature. Homosexual behaviour has been documented in many, many species. It is not unknown in the animal world any more than in the human world. But is it the same a human sexual orientation? That is not clear to me.
Presumably Baptist Press (who knew Baptist’s could read?) thinks there was a plot to cover up the “break up” of the penguins. (I honestly can’t believe I’m speaking about penguins “breaking up”.) BP reports: “Although the six-year relationship between Silo and Roy [the two male penguins] made headlines nationwide, the breakup was mentioned far less. The book was published before the two penguins split.”
And then they quote the fundamentalist Warren Throckmorton as saying that the penguin who left for a female was the “world’s first ex-gay penguin.” Throckmorton said: “"At times gay activists will use the animal kingdom to support the link between naturalism and human sexuality, and yet when Silo ... took up with a female penguin, the gay activists were downplaying the importance of that,. You can't have it both ways. It either means something or it doesn't."
It either means something or it doesn’t. Cut and dried, white and black. Typical fundamentalist thinking. It can mean something in one way but not in another way at the same time. Does it mean animals have sexual orientations? Not necessarily. But it does mean that homosexual behaviour, which is different from one’s sexual orientation, is not uncommon in the animal world. Fundamentalists used to claim that only sinful humans engaged in gay sex. And they claimed that proved homosexuality is unnatural -- a term they seem incapable of defining in a logical way.
Old Warren says: “"What we shouldn't do is commit the naturalistic fallacy that if it's natural then it's morally acceptable, I don't get my moral reasoning from watching the barnyard. I get my moral compass from other places. If I want to know what's moral, I go to church. I don't go to the barnyard."
As if church is a reliable place to learn about morality.
Whether or not penguins have gay sex does not address whether gay sex for humans is “moral” only whether it is natural. And natural means found in nature. Now Throckmorton’s fellow Bible addicts had proclaimed for decades that the alleged “absence” of homosexual conduct in the animal kingdom proved that “not even animals” would stoop “so low” as to engage in gay sex. So they were wrong. And now they turn the argument inside-out to attack people who support equal rights for gays.
As I said animal behaviour only tells us what is natural not what is moral. And equally it tells us what is natural and not what is immoral. But that claim was made by the Religious Right for decades until they were once again show to be ignorant of reality -- they delve in reality so little one can hardly blame them for being so woefully misinformed.
Now what would make homosexuality immoral? First, not that absurd collection of fairy tales called the Bible or the other absurd collection called the Qu’ran. Cloaking ancient bullshit with god talk doesn’t make it a source of rational morality.
I start with some certain presuppositions regarding my moral code. First, is one doing something that violates the life, liberty or property of another person? If the answer is yes then I say it is immoral and it ought to be a crime.
Next I ask if one is doing something that is inherently self-destructive? Consenting sexual activity between adults is not inherently self-destructive. Now there is a case to be made that indiscriminate sexual contact is inherently self-destructive but that is true no matter the genders of the partners. Something that is inherently self-destructive, is, I believe, immoral. But homosexuality is no more inherently destructive than heterosexuality.
My ethical values however go much deeper. I also ask whether or not one is treating their partner in a loving manner. There can be cases where a voluntary sexual encounter is inappropriate, even immoral, merely because one party has “used” the other in a manner that they have reasonable cause to believe will cause distress for the other. That to me is immoral although it is certainly not a crime and ought to remain outside the realm of the legal system.
But what amazes me is the inability of fundamentalists to see morality in a proper perspective. They seem to focus almost exclusively on the genitals. I have heard parents saying the most abominable, damaging things to their children. And good Christians just ignore this. But let two adults rub their genitals together and the fundamentalist explodes.
I remember one time I was in New York City’s Washington Square near the great arch. A young boy, I would guess around 14, was practicing his tennis serves by hitting the ball against the arch. His father was standing there “instructing” him. But this man was a monster. He would scream the most abusive things at this boy if he missed the ball. The man was psychotic in my opinion and I’m sure that the boy today has little to do with the creep.
At first when you hear this abuse you are taken aback. My first thought was one of disbelief. Did I actually hear what I thought I heard? He was now quiet and I ignored it. Then there was another vile outburst at the child. I turned to watch. And then another. I had enough now. The park was filled with people and they all pretended they didn’t hear a thing. This was child abuse. It may not have been physical, though I am convinced that the man was not beyond that, but it was severe abuse.
I lost my temper and went after the bastard. I started screaming at him. He seemed horrified that anyone would say to him anything remotely similar to the way he was treating his young son. The boy was shaking and trying to tell me: “No, it’s my fault. It’s my fault. Don’t yell at him.” At that point I knew this kid had been abused his entire life and had accepted the lie that he was responsible for his treatment. I wanted to smack this father right then and there. I told him off and walked away because I was on the verge of assault.
A few seconds later I heard this mindless fuck scream again at the boy and turned to go back. A man who had witnessed my intervention however decided he would say something. And he was now letting this father have it as well.
Now if public surveys are anything to go by the overwhelming majority of people in that park were Christians. Yet it took a godless atheist to stand up for a child who was being terribly abused. The others just ignored it and only after I said something did another person step in.
But what do you think would have happened it these people stumbled across two individuals rubbing their genitals. Outrage. Now I’m not saying it is appropriate to have sex in public view. But I am saying the Christians have a disproportionate view of what it means to be moral.
Even if I assume, and I don’t, that homosexuality is “immoral” it would be so far down the list of moral crimes as to warrant almost no attention at all. A man who mistreats his wife bothers me a lot more than two individuals fo the same sex loving one another. There are so many “sins” rooted in hatred and contempt for others. Yet these get ignored.
We have Christianists endorsing the use of torture by the US government. We have the use of torture ordered by a self-proclaimed “Christian” president. And most fundamentalists are saying nothing about it and those who do speak out are endorsing it! Let two men kiss each other good bye in public and watch how the Christians respond. The kiss offends them. Torture doesn’t.
All around us we have people inflicting emotional, and often physical, pain on others. And the fundamentalists are in the forefront of inflicting such pain. They intentionally say things which are meant to hurt people. And to me anyone that intentionally tries to inflict emotional pain on others is immoral. And that immorality is of a far more serious nature than any two adults voluntarily touching one another in way intended to give pleasure.
What sort of warped values must one have to spend so much time attacking people for bringing pleasure to one another while ignoring those who inflict pain, discomfort and abuse?