25 October 2006

Archive: Now I'm a Baby Killer

I go to a Catholic college. This week at my Catholic college is "Pro-Life Week" (or as I like to call it "Preaching to the Choir Week" or "What Separation Between Church and State? Week"). It's an entire week of campus-wide emotional appeals involving t-shirts with pictures of transluscent fetuses on them, posters about how every unwanted child will magically be wanted once it's put up for adoption, and a cemetary of tiny crosses placed in the field usually reserved for games of Ultimate Frisbee.

They do this every year and every year the fundie Catholics at the school nod their heads and smile as they walk through the embryo museum marveling at how much that gelatenous blob looks like a person. Meanwhile, those radicals on campus like myself who believe that women are people too and should have basic rights shake our heads and try to choke back the vomit gurguling in our throats.

This year, a handful of students decided to do something about it. They didn't put mini wire hangers on all the mini crosses like I suggested (By the way, if all the mini markers for the dead babies are crosses does that mean they're assuming that all the dead babies were Christian? What about the little Jewish embryos? Shouldn't there also be mini Stars of David or mini crescents for the Muslim babies? That doesn't really seem fair.) Instead, a couple of my friends set up a dignified, silent protest wherein we all stood around the mini cemetary holding pro-choice signs. Dignified signs too, they said things like "Proud Catholic for Choice" and "Keep Abortion Legal" and "The Government has no Right to Legislate Morals." They really did a great job. I suggested that we give a sign to the statue of "the virgin" Mary which stands behind the field of mini crosses. Specifically I wanted to have her hold a "I wish I could have had an abortion" sign. [Note: I was totally kidding about that. I don't think Mary would have wanted an abortion. Point of fact I don't think 'Mary' even existed.]

I got there at about 9:15 this morning. Cold as Hell. A bunch of folks had already been out there for twenty minutes or so in the cold, wet and dark. Frankly, it felt great. It was nice to be doing something . . . even if that something was being quiet and innert. We intended it to be a silent protest so that there could be no screaming matches. We talked to each other and people who came up and struck nice, rational conversations, but we weren't there to fight with anyone. And for the most part, we didn't have to. Many people (especially faculty and staff) waved, gave thumbs up or cheered as they drove by. I was really impressed by the support we got. Even some people from the anti-choice group came over and thanked us for staging our protest in such a great way. That was really awesome and I sincerely hope we've opened doors to real discourse on campus.

Of course, there were the people who referred to us as "Those Goddamn Pro-Choice people" (which I wasn't really hurt by, but some of the religious folks in the group seemed to feel the sting a bit) and a couple of people who called us all "Baby Killers." I guess they thought we were actually performing abortions right there on their field of mini crosses . . . which would have been an interesting choice, but probably not a great way of generating dialogue. We also had a group of girls come over and pray really loudly in front of the Mary statue. I briefly considered going over to them and praying loudly to Zeus, that he might smite the unbelievers with his wicked cool thunderbolts, but ultimately I decided not to. Mostly because one of the prayer warriors was a co-worker of mine and I figured it'd be awkward enough already.

The most exciting part of the day, though, was fairly early in the morning when we had our only completely irrational screamer. She had driven by a couple of times and I guess the third time was the charm because she slammed on her brakes, hopped out of her car, leaving the door open and stood in the middle of the street screaming at us. She was upset because we were staging our protest right in front of "Touchdown Mary" (which just makes it sound oh, so scared). I walked over and handed her one of our prepared statements (our plan for dealing with unruly) she told me that she didn't want anything from us people, she didn't want to hear it. So, we tried to explain that we weren't protesting Mary we were protesting the mini cemetary that they had put in front of Mary. If they had put up their mini crosses elsewhere we would be elsewhere.

She didn't want to hear it. She was ashamed for us.

I said, "M'am, will you please calm down." "Don't call me m'am!" she hollered, the very breath of Hell expelled from her mouth. "I'm sorry, I don't know your name. What is your name?" I call people m'am and sir all the time. I work in retail, it's what I do. Should I have said "Hey, lady calm the fuck down"? Probably. But I didn't and I didn't mean to offend her with 'm'am.' Of course once I knew it upset her my stupid brain wouldn't let my mouth stop saying it. But what the hell, it's not like I was going to lose any more points with her so it didn't really matter.

She foamed at the mouth for a while. Some non-sense about how the Blessed Touchdown Virgin would disapprove and how could we do this on a Catholic Campus, Jesus hates us, statues are magical, protests are evil blah blah blah. She finished by saying "I am ashamed for you all" [can you really be ashamed for someone else? I really think it's purely a personal thing but anyway . . .] "and I will pray for you all!" Bev, my fellow heathen and I both called out "Please don't!" and as she headed back to her car I said "But you do whatever you feel like you gotta do." Once in her car she called at me "Oh, real mature, muttering things at me as I walk away." I hadn't muttered but sometimes balls of rage work as effective earplugs so I called back to her "I didn't mean to mutter. I said 'Please don't pray for me, but you do whatever you feel like you have to do." She damned me again or something and then drove off to continue her rant elsewhere on campus.

I can't wait for the next protest.

12 August 2006

Archive: How I kept myself from getting a job . . .

About a month and a half ago, I dropped off an application at the video store a block from my house during my "apply anywhere there's an opening within three miles of the house" phase. I had done video store work before (at the store right across the street from the one I was now applying to) and am a massive film geek so it seemed like a good fit. Moreover, of course, it was close enough I would be able to walk to work thus making Al Gore happy, which is something I strive to do daily.

A couple of weeks after dropping off my application I got a call from a store manager (or maybe assistant manager . . . I'm not entirely certain because as it turns out, this place has a bigger hierarchy than Amway) and set an interview for the following week.

This interview was like none other I have ever had for a mindless, part-time customer service job (and I've had my share of mindless jobs and/or interviews). Having worked at a video store before, if I had to interview someone for the position I would ask things like: What letter comes after J? and what's the name of that movie where Christopher Walken plays an evil angel? and how much change do you give someone on a 99-cent rental when they give you $20.00? Oh, and how much do you know about adult movies, 'cuz people are gonna ask?

That's it. That's all you have to know to work in a video store. It's a nice job, don't get me wrong. You get to talk about movies all day and alphabetize things, which are easily my two favorite activities in the world. Sure, people skills are nice to have in that kind of environment, but no one goes into a video store expecting to see anything other than employees who are pimple-faced socially inept boys who recently graduated high school and do nothing but masturbate and play EverQuest in their parents' basement. In my initial interview though, I was asked things like: "Tell me about a turning point in your life," and "tell me about a mentor you've had," and "tell me about your home life," and "tell me where you'd like to be in five years." It's always a bad sign when a question begins with "tell me about" and doesn't end with a question mark.

But y'know what? It was a great interview. Or at least, I did very well with it. I'm a communications major, not to mention an actor, so I know how to do this kind of crap and I do it well. So, the manager/ possibly-assistant-manager told me he'd talk to the district manager and then give me a call to set up a time for me to take an aptitude test.

Aptitude test? WTF? But, whatever, right? I'm plenty apt.

So, the next week I have to skip out of the other job I've started in the meantime to go back to the video store and take an aptitude test. 'Should take about half an hour,' the guy told me. Wrong. Almost an hour and a half. And it's not that I was slow; it was a timed test, I wasn't allowed to be slow. And still, it was an hour and a half. You don't tell someone who's coming in to take a timed test that it's only half an hour when you know damn well it's almost three times that. It's a TIMED test so there's no excuse!

And, again, what do we need to know to work at a video store? The alphabet and how to type small numbers into a computer. And what was on the test? Among other things, hardcore math problems. Now maybe if I were not of the calculator generation I would have been able to do some of the math problems in my head or even on scratch paper, but as it stands I have not had to do any math aside from simple addition or subtraction without the benefit of an electronic brain far superior to mine since I was in fifth grade! I took my last math class ever two years ago and aced it without a problem. But asking me to do math without a calculator is like asking me to ready a printing press to publish this blog. I know how to do it on a computer; I should be able to do it without too.

Despite the math portions of the test (and wholly because of the reading and alphabetizing portions), I passed the test and was told that on Monday the district manager would be calling to set up an interview.

TWO WEEKS LATER . . . I finally get a call from a woman who I thought was the district manager but turned out to be something lesser but higher than the guy who asked about my goals and aspirations and made me take a fucking math test. We make an appointment for Saturday afternoon. I go down there, dressed to impress and ready to go. Now mind you, by this time I have another job (which doesn't pay very well, but it's still a job) and I'm a week away from starting school, and a month away from auditioning for a show that would pretty much rule out working nights so it's mostly moot. They've been stringing me along for the better part of the summer, I'm not in dire need of a job anymore and I really don't want to work until midnight during school because the evenings are the only time I'll get to see my wife, but I still go because maybe, just maybe, we can work something out.

I sit down with not-so-much-the-actual-district-manager Chris and she asks me to 'tell her a bit about myself." So I do the whole song and dance, 'I live just down the street with my wife and cat, I'm in school, going to be a teacher in a couple of years yadda yadda yadda.' She asks me about my availability, I tell her that I'm currently working another job during the days, but that might be gone once the summer rush is over etc. Then, she too asks me about my home life. What do people want to hear when they ask that? And why is it any of their business anyway? What, do they think I'm going to say 'My wife is really supportive in helping me kick the crack and so is my girlfriend'? I really wanted to turn it around and say, "Tell me about your home life," but at this point, I still had reason to be optimistic.

Then she says to me: "I think that's all the questions I have to ask, but could you wait here a moment?" Of course I can. She walks away. Comes back a few minutes later with the ever-elusive Actual District Manager Chris who sits down and says very directly that if I were to work here I would have to adhere to a strict dress code. I said, "No problem, I like dressing up." "You see," she says, "this is a conservative company [my skin crawls] and we expect out male employees to be clean shaven and have short hair, I just want to make sure that that's not going to be a problem because I don't want to waste your time," which is funny, of course, because if they had been paying me for all of these tests and interviews I would have earned a descent paycheck by now.

I told her that that's hard because I do act and sometimes that requires me to have facial hair or grow my hair out like you presently see it, and moreover, I haven't had my hair as short as the male employees here since I was their age. Then she tells me that if I wanted to work there, I would have to "conform" to their standard, and if I couldn't "conform" then I may not be a good fit there . . .

I think it was the word "conform" that kicked in my stupid gene.

My life flashed before my eyes. And I explained, using a great measure of restraint, that I wasn't sure I was willing to "conform" to their 1950's ideal of what a good citizen looked like and that though I would be willing to cut my hair from what it is now and trim the facial hair, I thought it was ludicrous to ask that I have to keep it that way. Moreover, this 'conservative' company that is apparently offended my male genes which produce facial hair offers a wide selection of adult films and wasn't that a little hypocritical? So my hair is longer than you'd like, what do you say to applicants who are too fat? Must they be turned away as well? (Turns out, they have no officially policy on fat) I asked why she was allowed to have hair that touched her collar and how she would feel if the company dictated her hair length. She explained that she would have to decide which was more important to her and that it wasn't that they wouldn't hire me because of my hair; it's that I was choosing to not be hired by not getting a shave and a haircut. I told her that in every other way I would be perfect for this job. I know how to do the work, I know movies and I'm damned good at customer service. Isn't it absurd that my personal appearance clean and well dressed albeit kind of hairy is the only thing keeping me from getting a job for which I'd be a perfect fit?

I kept my anger in check though I was fuming inside. I acknowledged that I was cognizant that it was not her rule; she simply had to enforce it but that it was a terribly unenlightened rule and that hopefully someday the powers that be will break out of their '50s mentality. I apologized for having wasted their time, which I only did in the hope that she'd reciprocate and I could tell her just how much of my time she had wasted but instead she told me that I hadn't and she was sorry that the company and I weren't a good fit.

What I've come to conclude is this: throughout all the preliminary interviews they were trying to figure out if I would fit into their conservative christian ideal (we'll just ignore the porn in the back) by asking about my family and my aspirations etc. and so on. Of course they couldn't ask me right out: Are you some kind of godless vegetarian pinko peacenik and none of my answers betrayed the fact that I deny the holy spirit, vote democratic and my wife didn't take my last name so they just assumed I was a 'good christian' sort.

What it all boils down to, though (vast right wing conspiracy or no) is that if I had just shut the hell up and gotten a hair cut I'd have a nice mindless job that was close to home and would help pay be bills. Sure, I would have been a sell out, but is that so bad? Must I wave my freak flag? It's one thing when my ideals keep me from eating meat, going to Mel Gibson movies or letting people slide when they assume everyone has an imaginary friend named Jesus, but long hair doesn't even qualify as an ideal. My wife likes the hair, but in asking me to cut it, it's not like they were forcing me to bow toward Mecca or eat a baby.

I guess what I'm saying is: I feel like a real ass.

13 July 2006

Archive: Weak Stomach Reaction

Recently, a number of people have posted a bulletin with the headline "Don't look if you've got a weak stomach" (or some variation thereof). The bulletin asks a number of questions which I will now endeavor to answer.

1. Why do we sleep in church but...when when the sermon is over we suddenly wake up?

In my experience, born and raised in the Christian Reformed Church, very few people slept through the sermons . . . which is not because it was a raucous good time or anything like that. There was no "Amen"ing or hand clapping, just good ol' three point sermons. My father, however, was a strong exception to this rule. I can't recall a single church service where my father remained awake. As for why he slept, I have only these conjectures to offer: a. He was tired from working long hours at his bakery and committing acts of fraud and adultery all week; b. he believed his presence in church was more important than his attention, after all, his god really only cared about the headcount, or; c. it was important that he be seen at church so that all of the other people coming to church to be seen would know him to be a good, pious man. It's likely a combination of all of these things and, to some extent these (at least the latter two) are the reasons why many people attend church and either sleep or simply tune out. If you really believe god is everywhere, what the hell does church attendance matter? Sure, catholics aren't really allowed to read the bible themselves, but protestants are, so what's to stop them from worshipping at home and occasionally picking up a Philip Yancy to help clarify things? How does that parable about the two men praying in the temple go? The one man shouts out his prayers so that he'll be heard and people will know he's a true believer -- there's a lot of that, I think in church attendance today, as well as people with jesus fish on their cars and whatnot-- "Look at me! I'm a christian! jesus loves me and I love him back, but in a totally not gay way, of course!"

2. Why is it so hard to talk about God but so easy to talk about sex?

Well, first off, I think if it really were easy to talk about sex in this country we'd be better off. Instead we stigmatize it and make it something dirty, something not proper in certain company. Thanks for that, Puritans.

Secondly, I don't think people find it hard to talk about god at all. Listen to talk radio sometime. Look at bumper stickers. Everyone's talking about their relationship with god. Except, of course, with those who disagree with them. Believers have a very hard time, I've found, talking about god with skeptics, because (and feel free to challenge me on this) they hate to be challenged on their beliefs. It's really what separates the skeptics from those who believe blindly. Skeptics love to be challenged, it's what we do, we constantly re-examine and re-evaluate things -- that's why science is so much fun. Whereas believers avoid that sort of thing, hence their belief in things that don't stand up to evaluation (again, talk to me about this if you disagree).

3. Why are we so bored to look at a Christian magazine..but so easy to read a playboy magazine?

As a Playboy subscriber, I have to say, it actually is worth reading for the articles. Let's face it, 'steamy pictorials' all pretty much look the same, but the articles and interviews in each are new and interesting. Again, if we didn't have such an unhealthy view of sex in this country, Playboy would not be something people hide under their mattresses.

I can't speak to christian magazines but my guess would be that if, in fact, people are bored by them, they are probably boring. Just a guess.

4. Why is it so easy to ignore a Godly myspace messages...yet we repost the nasty ones?

This is just an offensive question, because it assumes that things that are not "godly" (which, one can probably safely assume means "overtly christian in nature") are "nasty." There's a heck of a lot of gray area, friends, between "godly" and "nasty" (and, I would suggest that a great deal of "godly" messages, this original post included, are rather "nasty").

5. Why are churches getting smaller...but bars and clubs are growing??

Oh yes, churches are in such danger in this country. *rolls eyes* C'mon people, that's a stupid, stupid thing to say.

First off, there is a movement (and has been for some time now) to make churches larger and larger. Mega-churches that seat thousands are all over the place so churches have quite literally gotten bigger. And, take it from someone that knows, if you need to find an open bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan on a Sunday, good luck! but if you want a church we have hundreds upon hundreds to choose from.

And do not give me that Bill O'Reilly 'secularists are taking over our country,' bunk. If that were true (and oh, that it were true) we wouldn't have an evangelical president, science would not be on the defensive in classrooms around the country, gay marriage would not have been amended against in every state where it was put to a vote and churches would not have the tax free status they have abused for so long. Hell, you can't spend a dollar in this country without inadvertently acknowledging a god.

6. Think about it...are you going to repost this or ignore it because you think you'll get laughed at?

I did think about it. No, I will not repost it (at least not in its original form). But I will also not ignore it. And really, do christians fear getting laughed at (or worse) for admitting their beliefs? Because if they do, that's just crazy paranoia. They are the majority in this country! Understand that. This persecution complex must be some kind of crazy wish for martyrdom.
christians are running this country. All three branches of government (both state and federal) belong overwhelmingly to christians. Get over this notion that you are the underdog, bravely touting your beliefs to a world that hates and fears you, because it's simply not so. You are in charge. It is people of opposing faiths and those of us without religious belief that are the outcasts. It's tragic that atheists so often have to keep their lack of belief to themselves in order to keep their jobs, friends and family while christians accuse them of being the persecutors.

The post ends with this:

Just remember God is always watching you.
repost this "dont look if you've got a weak stomach"if you truly love God and you know he's always there.The Lord said " deny me in front of your friends and i will deny you in front of my father".

Lovely. Scare tactics. Trying to guilt people into reposting because 'god already knows you've read this, and if you don't repost it he will be very angry with you, and you wouldn't like him when he's angry.' It's an appeal to irrational fear (or simply guilt) and I hate it.

Now, I have not posted this to be anti-christian and I certainly hope I didn't offend those of you who originally posted this message. I am posting this to engage in a dialogue. According to the post, we have a hard time talking about god. Well, I don't and I invite any of you to talk about it with me. Those of you who agree with me, I'd like to hear from you, but mostly I'd like to hear from those of you who don't. Let's talk about this without making it personal or getting angry at each other. I won't try to convert you if you don't try to convert me, instead let's just talk.

I've said my piece.