Friday, July 1, 2011

Record Low

After my crazy push last month-end to avoid having the lightest-posting month in my history, I dropped the ball for June. But that's okay; I'm calling June a "research and reconnaissance" month. Every once in a while, I need to spend some time out in the real world so I can find more ridiculous things to complain about. The last few weeks have certainly provided some precious fodder in that respect. Here's one example:

I recently attended an intra-company conference a.k.a. massive forced networking event. Being so positive on humanity generally, as you all know I am, I anticipated meeting dozens of really awesome people who are totally worth my time. Haha, jk. But actually it turned out to be pretty okay. A couple of days of fun, frivolous conversation and professional education left me feeling pretty good about the caliber of the associates at my firm.

So we get down to the very last day. The conference is technically over, and I'm chattering away with "Bob" from the "Somewhere in the South" office, passing the time, chewing the cud, etc., waiting for our respective transportation to arrive. Being incurably hard-wired to bring up controversial subjects if left in conversation for more than two minutes, I end up sort of indirectly ranting about religion. Not in the "here are 5,000 reasons off the top of my head why religion is totally retarded" kind of way; more like "and this one time, at church camp, the minister gave a sermon about Lord of the Rings." Strictly lighthearted, amusing, non-offensive stuff.

When I eventually come up for air, it's "Bob's" turn to amuse me. He begins talking about the highly evangelical, "in your face" Christians and why he thinks they have it wrong. Then, in a completely off-hand aside, he casually mentions that he considers homosexuality "a sin against God."

About 50 thoughts hit me simultaneously. Oh my god, I've been living out West too long, I forgot some people actually think this stuff, but then with Prop 8, maybe there are more of them out West than I think, is this what having a global company means, all these offices with different cultures and some of them are going to think God hates the gays, and am I going to have to deal with this for as long as I work here, are there people in my own office who think this shit and I don't even know, and what do I do, do I call him an idiot and walk away or do I have to be polite since he didn't bat an eye at my atheism, would it be a violation of company policy to give my unfettered opinion or would it just be career suicide, I wonder how many of the other people I met have similar ideas, thank god there wasn't time for more deep conversations this week, oh my god, he's still talking, what do I do?

At this point, someone interrupted us, and I simply walked away, resolved to never speak to "Bob" again. But what if we hadn't been interrupted? What if this had happened on day one of the conference? What if it had happened with someone in my own office? I don't even know what I'm allowed by my company to say, let alone what I should say.

Believe me, I am used to being at odds with everyone around me. It comes with the territory when you hate babies and trees, think selfishness is a virtue, and oppose corporate charity. I disagree with 90% of people about 90% of things, but there are relatively few disagreements that will make me want to have nothing to do with a person. So what happens when one of those few interjects itself at work?

I know that people are responsible for what they think. I know that I am responsible for judging people for their choices, which in part means not letting them get away with being fucking morons. I know that homosexuality and morality is a personally significant issue for me, second only to children's rights in my hierarchy. I know that changing the culture has to begin somewhere and that refusing to do business with racists, sexists, and homophobes is a contribution each of us is capable of making in our own lives.


I also know that most people don't take ideas that seriously and don't think that well. I know that most people say one thing and act another. I know that my career is incredibly precious to me, probably worth more than one minor stand, even on a major issue. I know that many of my coworkers already think I'm going to Hell for being atheist, well before consideration of my sexual behaviors. Does one more stupid belief matter, especially one so prevalent as to be virtually inescapable?

Thanks to Facebook, I now know that out of my handful of new coworker-friends, four are Christian, one with an "About Me" section that talks exclusively about praising God and another with Mother Teresa quotations (the only thing worse than the Dalai Lama), and, by far worst of all, one lists her political views as a completely unacceptable "moderate." Work is not where I get my close friends, and that's completely fine. But how do I work every day with someone who is my active enemy politically and culturally?

I'm honestly asking. Anyone?


S. Misanthrope


  1. Coincidentally, the day before you posted this, I got into a conversation with my neighbor that left me with that I-am-way-too-close-to-the-cliff kind of feeling in my gut. One minute we were strategizing how to scare off the punks who sell drugs to the local kids in the park and the next minute he was blaming homosexuals for convincing teens to experiment with same-gender sex and that was the devil at work, don’t you know.
    I knew he was Christian—are there closet Christians?—but he and his wife have seemed thoughtful, cheerful neighbors. He and I have collaborated on many neighborhood projects. I bring him pies and he fishes up sockeye so fresh they're still blinking at me when I slide the filleting knife down their spine.
    Ha! He’s been a closet lunatic all along. His leap from drug pushers to … what? gay pushers? ... left me dumbstruck. Which encouraged him; I’m pretty sure he took it for agreement.
    This is what I did when my vision returned. Asking questions always works for me; my questions are loaded and aimed at the heart.
    I asked him did he mean to say that being gay wasn't something you were born with? He said, sometimes not. I think he put the sometimes in there to soften the blow. I said, so when you're not, that means you’re willfully bad? He said, yes. I said, so all those gay couples I know (he might have blanched there) who've been together for a hundred years and taken care of each other through better and worse, etc., "you know, like you and your wife," they're not in love?
    "Oh, they might think it's love."
    "But you know better?" I asked softly while fluttering my eyelashes.
    "It's not me who thinks that, Euphie, it's Jesus."
    "Where does Jesus say that?" [100% fake curiosity on my part, skillfully disguised.]
    "I mean, the Bible does."
    "Is everything in the Bible what Jesus says?" Blank out. “Because I thought a lot of it was from before his time?” More blank out.
    Then I said all in one go -- again with the eyelash thing and leaning conspiratorially close -- "To me it just seems kinda fishy how God likes choices that look like our own. I'm just relieved anytime I see anything like love—I don't much care about Tab A fitting into Slot B, if you get my drift. And I've never been brave enough to speak for God. I figure I'll just keep finding as many reasons as I can to be kind to people who are being kind."
    By this point, I might have embarrassed him for one reason or another; if I did, I’d like to think it was my wit but it could have been my female proximity while I talked of tabs and slots. Anyway, I spoke enough of an idea for him to get the point: the whole in-the-end-only-kindness-matters. Which is what I think people are getting at when they ask, “What would Jesus do?”
    I deserve a pat on the back for not calling him a goddamn moron for thinking a make-believe sky-man ordered him to hate somebody.
    Two days later he gave me half a giant halibut, still icy-Pacific cold. Some of my atheist friends and I had a fine meal of it. Maybe I’ll make him a bumbleberry pie.
    PS. Love your writing!

  2. Ha! That's an amusing tale. Sounds like you handled the situation well. I, on the other hand, probably would have smacked him upside the head with that halibut while screaming "It's a gay fish!" I'm much more comfortable being part of the problem.