If you’re going to be angry, do it right.

Indiana didn’t just pass a law that makes gay marriage punishable by jail time.

This didn’t just happen.  No, really. I know your gay friends (like mine) are probably linking to posts about that and everyone is angry about being dragged back into the dark ages.  And I understand being angry and feeling like recent victories are pissed on when things like this happen.  I mean, I wanted to be angry too.

Only that didn’t actually happen.

Indiana has had laws for many years that say falsifying information on a marriage application is illegal and punishable by a fine or jail time, and they’ve had a law saying that officiants who sign falsified marriage certificates can also be punished.  This seems, to me, like a perfectly rational law.

Fact number two, gay marriage isn’t legal in Indiana and never has been.

Fact three, when updating their application process Indiana made the boxes for the applicant’s names say “male” and “female” instead of “applicant one” and “applicant two”.

Is that, perhaps, rubbing a poo-covered stick in the eye of the gay rights activists who have been giving their sweat and tears to try to get gay marriage recognized in Indiana?  Absolutely, it’s a crap move.

But…  Gay marriage isn’t legal in Indiana.  So there aren’t going to be any gay couples trying to apply for licenses in the current hetero-based application system, so nobody is going to be falsifying documentation claiming they are a gender they aren’t in order to apply for a marriage license, so no officiants are going to be signing off on falsified certificates, so nobody is going to jail.

And if tomorrow gay marriage was legal in Indiana, a few lines of code could fix the whole problem.

So we shouldn’t be angry about the Indiana government’s dick move.  No, really, friends, we shouldn’t be angry about that.

We should be angry about all of the reactionist bloggers getting us to waste our venom on something that is, at the end of the day, relatively meaningless.   This is like letting the bully goad you with the poo covered stick and bum-rushing him and getting it all over yourself, when instead you should be looking at all your classmates as they sit idly by and either do nothing or point and laugh.  The problem isn’t that Indiana did a dick move, the problem isn’t that gay couples are going to be thrown in jail, the problem is that the fact that Indiana is digging it’s heels in on an archaic definition of marriage and aside from a few reactionary bloggers, nobody cares.

When the bully sticks the poo in your eye, psychology tells us that getting angry at him won’t help you.  If you are in trouble, and there are bystanders around who are doing nothing, what you are supposed to do is call them out. Hey, guy in the blue shirt, I’m in trouble!  Get help!  Hey, girl with the curly hair, can you give me a hand?  Hey, big guy over there, do something!

The same is true of if you are in a car accident, or if you suddenly feel pain, or if you see someone fall into a river and other people keep walking by.  Our natural tendency is to tune out disaster and assume someone better fit to deal with things will deal with things- or to assume that because everyone else is doing nothing that such is the appropriate course of action.  The best move for anyone is to start calling people out, in order to demonstrate that silence is not okay.

So don’t jump on the evil Indiana bandwagon.  Start a conversation. Start calling people out.  “Hey, don’t you want to see the marriage application process change?”  “Hey, look at how entrenched the language is, what are better words to use?”  “Hey, why do you think everyone got so angry so quickly?”  “You over there, why do you think people weren’t more honest about what happened?  Who started this firestorm anyway?”

Cause, hey, the tempest in a teapot doesn’t happen just because.

But let’s not waste all of our energy yelling at bully who only wants to see us angry.  (Because, honestly, isn’t that what some of the other side of the argument really is?  Doesn’t it serve their interest to keep gay couples as angry foaming-at-the-mouth activists ready to tear the jugular out of society?)

There is still a productive conversation to be had, one about the perceptions of society and how long it takes to make the language change, and with it expectations.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be angry.

They should, but they shouldn’t self destruct.

They need to be purposefully angry, pointedly angry.

Properly, productively angry.

They should show empathy to those who profit from their anger, and righteous rage at the ones who can be won by it.

One thought on “If you’re going to be angry, do it right.

  1. It’s so easy to find things to be “outraged” about with even the most cursory poking around. I fell into this during the 2012 election. I ended up forwarding and RT’ing a few “can you believe this?” sort of things and then after one realized that the information on it wasn’t accurate. As a scientist, that was an unhappy wake up call — because data should be at the heart of discussion. I’ve tried to verify things better since — and it’s really not that much extra work.

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