I hate alcohol. OK, hate is too strong. I have a disdain for alcohol. I’ve never drank and I never will. People look at me (and I’m sure your head is cocked in bewilderment right now) like I’m insane when I tell them I don’t drink and they always ask me why and I tell them because I don’t want to. It’s just not for me. I’ve tasted beer and it is the most foul concoction I’ve ever tasted. Not only the taste, but I can’t stand the smell. I don’t see how anyone can drink it and not just drink it, but drink so much of it. I also don’t see the point in getting drunk. I understand having a few drinks to loosen up and relax, but drinking in excess to the point of vomiting, falling down, or blacking out, doesn’t seem like a good time to me. When I was in high school and college, I did not enjoy being around my friends when they drank. They would ask me if I didn’t mind if they drank and I’d tell them it was cool, but inside, I was upset and annoyed. And I’m not talking about being around them while they’re drunk, I’m talking about simple casual drinking. We could be hanging out having a great time and then the second one of them opened a beer, my mood would completely change. I would sit there and silently judge my own friends and feel superior to them. I was always miserable and wanted leave. I knew then it was wrong of me to judge, but I still did it. Why? I couldn’t answer that question at the time. I eventually realized, I was the one making myself miserable. I was the problem, not them. So, why should I stand in the way of my happiness, let alone someone else’s? If no one’s driving drunk or being violent, why should I stand in the way? I was depriving myself of being happy and having a good time solely because I didn’t agree with what my friends were doing, even though they weren’t doing anything wrong. I needed to let go of something so trivial.
And I have. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still uncomfortable around drunk people. I don’t hang out in bars or clubs. If a friend invites me to a party, I’ll go because I want to see my friends and laugh at their expense. If drinking makes you happy, then drink. I don’t care. I wasn’t put on this planet to stand in the way of someone’s happiness and this same reasoning applies to gay marriage.
If no one’s getting hurt, what’s the problem? Gay marriage isn’t a threat to society. In fact, I could argue that alcohol is more of a threat due to the number of drunk driving fatalities each year and the number of lives that are ruined by alcoholism. Even though I despise alcohol, I have never gone out protesting to bring back prohibition. I have never knocked a beer out of someone’s hand because I didn’t want them to drink. I have never held up a sign that reads, “GOD HATES ALCOHOLICS!” I have never lectured anyone about how great being sober is and the dangers of alcohol.
Two people who love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together isn’t the beginning of the apocalypse, it’s the beginning of something beautiful. It’s love. It’s the same love you have for someone of the opposite sex. Why stand in the way of that? If your belief is because it’s gross, then it’s perfectly OK to think that. If you’re attracted to the opposite sex, no one expects you to think two members of the same gender having sex is appealing to your tastes. I think the image of two guys having sex is gross too, but I do this little trick where I don’t think about it. It’s that simple. If you find something gross, don’t think about it. I find spiders gross and you know that scene in Kill Bill Vol. 2 where Uma Thurman steps on Daryl Hannah’s eye and it squishes between her toes? That is one of the most disgusting scenes in film history to me, but guess what? I don’t think about spiders or that scene. In fact, all the things in this world that I find gross, I don’t think about. It’s pretty neat how that works.
People were upset with Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend on television after receiving the news that he had been drafted by the St. Louis Rams becoming the first openly gay player drafted in NFL history. It was a kiss that some people got way too bent out of shape about. It was an emotional moment that could only be expressed through tears and a symbol of love. Was it gross because it was two men? Would it have been more acceptable to you if it were two females? I’m sure for some meathead, NFL-watching bros it would have. The cries of, “How am I suppose to explain that to my kids!?!” poured all over social media. My six-year-old nephew saw the moment and asked my dad why that man kissed that other man and my dad replied, “Because he’s happy.” With no further questions, my nephew went back to playing Minecraft and his little, fragile mind was still intact. That’s how easy it was to explain to a child what happened. Why does it have to be so hard? I doubt that moment is going to stick with him forever and lead him down a path of debauchery and crime because he saw a man kiss another man.
There are legitimate reasons why Sam fell to the seventh round other than his sexual preference. He had a very poor combine and he’s a tweener player. He’s too slow to play linebacker and he’s undersized to be a defensive end, but he didn’t become the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by being a bum either. Cynical people will say the Rams drafted Sam for publicity. I really don’t care. This was something that needed to happen. Seeing him breakdown upon hearing the news he had been drafted was powerful and hopefully it will inspire other homosexuals to come out. It doesn’t matter if Sam plays a single down in the NFL, he has made a lasting, positive impact on the league. A league that has far more greater problems with domestic violence and concussions than a gay athlete. It was another step toward a day when this isn’t news and it’s the norm.
Some are opposed to gay marriage because of their religion. This really gets me. When I was a kid, I went to summer Bible school for maybe three years in a row. Around the ages of 5-8. The main reason I went was because my best friend was going and I didn’t want to be excluded. I never really paid attention to any of the scriptures, although, looking back, I don’t recall a lot of scripture reading. I’ve never read the Bible from start to finish, only passages here and there. But what I did learn as a kid is the overall message of Christianity, which is to love, have compassion, and just be a good person. These are the essential points of what Jesus taught. That’s really the overall message for all religions. And that’s all I’ve ever needed from religion. One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Paine who said, “The world is my country. All mankind is my bretheren. And to do good is my religion.” I believe that 100%. Yet, some people are opposed to gay marriage because of one line in the Bible.
I don’t believe in God or an afterlife. I don’t like being called an Atheist because I’m not going around trying to prove God doesn’t exist and I also don’t like labels. Those people suck. If you believe in God, that’s great. I support that. I don’t care what you believe in as long as it helps you be the best person you can be and you practice love, tolerance, and compassion. I have never tried to convince anyone that God doesn’t exist because I don’t know. I don’t want to live my life worrying about if He does or does not. I truly hope He does and when I die, I will feel confident in the person I was here on Earth that I will get into Heaven and if I’m sent to Hell solely because I did not believe, then I can live with that because I will still have no regrets and I will know in my heart and mind that I tried my best everyday to get along with and love the people around me. Every morning when I wake up, the only thing I want to do is laugh and make people laugh. If I can just make one person laugh with one of my sub-par jokes on social media or in real life, then I feel good about my day. I want to envelope my whole being in a cocoon of laughter and love each and every day.
I believe in the Golden Rule of treating people how you would want to be treated. I believe in being a good person and doing what’s right, not because my soul may go to Heaven one day, but because it’s just the right thing to do. For me, this is the only life I have and I want this place to be as happy and fun and loving as it can possibly be. Heaven is now for me because I don’t know what awaits me when I die. I wasn’t put on this Earth to attack and belittle people. I don’t have time for those that spread hate, judge, condemn, are constantly negative, or are just assholes for the sake of being an asshole. I don’t get hate. I don’t understand racism, homophobia, and sexism. I don’t understand going through life being pissed off at an entire group of people. I do understand being angry at an individual, perhaps one that committed a crime against you, but if that person is black, I don’t understand being angry at an entire race of people because of one individual. Where’s the rationale? That’s such a dangerous and stupid way of thinking. Why would anyone live like that? Living with hate and anger takes up so much time and energy that could be better spent doing something you love or discovering new things to love.
Over the last year, I’ve tried really hard to stop using the word hate as hyperbole in regards to things related to pop culture or everyday tasks. Things like, “I hate Nickelback.” C’mon, do I really hate them? Am I seething with rage, ready to take someone’s life upon hearing a single note of one of their songs? No. I dislike their music, but I don’t truly hate them. If you like them, that’s quite all right. I’m not going to convince you otherwise. Another: “I hate doing the dishes?” No, I don’t hate doing the dishes. I just feel mildly inconvenienced about doing them. Hate is too strong a word that gets thrown about way too much in everyday language.
It saddens me when I hear someone who considers themselves a person of God spout hate by opposing gay marriage or making racist or sexist comments. Somewhere along the line that person either missed or ignored the overall message of their religion, which is to love and do good, and instead chose specific lines from their religious text to support their prejudices and hate. That’s wrong.
Shrugging it off and saying, “Well, nobody’s perfect,” or “it’s just the way I was raised,” is a weak excuse too. My dad’s dad was born and raised in Alabama. He was every southern stereotype you can think of, including a huge racist. At one point in his life, he was a Klan member. My dad has told me many stories about my grandfather, none of them are pretty or happy. I never had much of a relationship with him, nor did my dad. I don’t know if my dad was racist as a kid because that’s how he was raised, but I do know there was a point in my dad’s life where he said he was never going to be like his father. He was going to work his ass off to be a loving and supportive husband and father. He wasn’t going to walk out on his wife like his father. He wasn’t going to beat his kids like his father. He wasn’t going to be a drunk like his father. He wasn’t going to hate and hold prejudices toward people who were different than him like his father.
My dad was raised by a racist man and not once have I ever heard my father use any derogatory words to describe any race of people or homosexual. “Being raised that way” is no excuse for racism, sexism, homophobia or hate of any kind. Once you become an adult and can think for yourself, you’re the one who makes that decision whether or not to love or hate. It’s that simple. Just because you were raised a certain way doesn’t mean it was right. Parents can be wrong. It’s up to you to decide.
In June 2011, my grandfather committed suicide. A self-inflicted gunshot to the head after a night of heavy drinking to give himself the courage to pull the trigger. My grandfather died alone and miserable from a life of hating. He had no friends. He was the father of four children who rarely called or visited, if at all, because of the resentment they held toward him for the way he raised them and the person he was.
Our family drove to Alabama to attend the funeral which was held on my great aunt’s property. He was to be buried with his other brothers and sisters there. The ceremony lasted a whole five minutes. My uncle said a few words and then he and my dad lowered his urn into the hole and we covered it with dirt. Not many tears were shed and the few that were did not belong to my dad. I’m fortunate that I haven’t had to attend many funerals in my life, but of the few that I’ve been to, this one was the saddest. This was a man controlled by hate who drove away all those who tried to love and help him and the impact of his death left a ripple the equivalent of tossing a grain of sand into a pond.
He left a suicide note in the form of a tape recording. My dad refused to listen to it because the tape would contain one of two things, either A) He would ask for forgiveness for being who he was, which for my dad, was too late. Or, more likely, B) He would place blame on the family for his suicide, and if that was the case, my dad did not want to let him have that final act of selfishness to make him angry.
You are in control of the things you believe and your values and morals. Evolving those thoughts over time by constantly assimilating new information is how we develop and become better, more intelligent people. Not living in the past and clinging to vague or outdated lines of text or divisive symbols. I love history because I want to learn what past generations got right and what they got wrong so we can hopefully build on what they got right and learn from their mistakes to avoid them. That’s why clinging to a belief that is widely regarded as wrong doesn’t make sense to me. Change in life is inevitable and the deeper you dig your heels in over a misguided belief about race, gender equality, or homosexuality, the farther you’re going to get dragged because everyday progress is being made for equal rights in America and holding on to the past is not going to stop it.
So again, why stand in the way of someone’s happiness? Why spout hate? Why live in fear? Why hang on to prejudices? What are you gaining from it? I’m not trying to come off as high and mighty with all of this. Trust me, I’m far from perfect. I also know talking about religion and politics is a fool’s errand because everyone is so entrenched in their views and beliefs that they aren’t willing to consider change because they feel what they believe is right, but I ask that if you’re reading this and you’re someone who’s guilty of clutching to prejudices and has seeds of hate toward a group to have an open mind and really do some inward thinking about yourself and ask what are you getting out of it? Learn from my grandfather. I know his case is extreme, but harboring the smallest grains of hate can consume you over time and leave you a bitter, miserable old person and that’s not a life worth living. Just let go and your life and the life of others can be so much more. It’s a simple choice.