Friday, June 07, 2013

Respect the rules

So many people on the Internet are proud of Roy Costner IV for throwing out his approved valedictorian speech and reciting The Lord's Prayer after he was told not to. He is becoming a hero who stands up for what he believes in. He is quoted as saying, 

I decided God is such an important part of my life. I feel like if we take Him out of school, it's going to hurt the school more than help. But I've noticed this past year more types of arguments, more types of fights going on that I think could be prevented with bringing God back into school.

Just so the world knows, I happen to share his Christian faith. I think it's an important part of life, just as he does. I think a little more faith (regardless of style, name, or particular ways of practice) couldn't hurt anyone and would probably make people a little better overall. After all, major religions have one common thread - "Don't be an asshole."

However, I recognize that not everyone agrees with me. The freedom I have to believe a certain way is extended to others who may choose to specifically NOT believe the same way. I can't run around saying "God is good" without expecting at least some people to say "No he's not." And I can't get mad if some people think that way. To avoid these kinds of situations, arguments or other religion-fueled difficulties, we just remove religion from public arenas. This is not oppressive like the religious fanatics want you to believe. We are not censoring your thoughts or beliefs. We're censoring your mouths. It's the old cliche - "if you've got nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all" rethought. You think being a Christian is being nice. An atheist disagrees. What makes you or them right? Nothing. It's personal. It's intimate. 

So this valedictorian is told he can't use religion, agrees, has a pre-approved speech, takes the stage, rips up his speech and turns the rostrum into his own pulpet. If a Muslim did it for Allah, people would freak out. If an atheist did it just to say that God does not exist, there would have been a riot. So why is it ok that he did it in the name of Jesus? It's not. You want your religion respected? So did everyone in the audience that happened to have a faith that was different. You just happened to be sitting in the buckle of the Bible belt where you were the majority. Try that shit in a melting pot like New York City where there's one of every kind of person in most buildings. You can't spout your own very personal beliefs and think that EVERYONE will likely agree.

I have spent about 3-4 hours between yesterday and today looking at articles and reading about 2,200 user comments. I have found some very clear cut reactions. Those against this kid talk about the separation of church and state, respecting everyone's own beliefs even if they differ from his, and the rules in place by the school and school district. Those supporting him have (almost, but not quite exclusively) made comments about Godless people being filled with hate, saying that because of God he will be successful in life, and they have made snarky, sarcastic comments saying that maybe if he wasn't white and went on welfare he'd be better accepted by the left. Of those two overarching themes, which seems more hateful? Remember, that I am an advocate for the right, conservatives and Republicans overall; yet here I am arguing against my own for going WAY overboard.

I honestly don't care what his topic was. My issue is that his topic was something the principal told him was off limits. I don't care if the principal said "You can't mention chewing gum" and he did a speech about chewing gum. He's a valedictorian, so presumably intelligent. He knows right from wrong. He knows the rules. He was given one and willfully and purposefully broke it. The act of ripping up the approved speech on stage shows that the intentionality was to take a stand more than it was to pray. And that is what pisses me off.

You are 18, man. At what point were you given the right to spit in the face of the administration that was appointed to those positions? When did you become above the rules? You need to get out in the world and make your bones and earn the right to change the system. You can't just stand up and do it your way because you feel like it, you arrogant son of a bitch. You're a kid. So you want to talk about respect for religion? How about your elders? The rules? Your peers? Differences in people? Personal beliefs? Wait a minute, this isn't about any of that, is it? This is all about you. It was graduation, there was no tomorrow for you in high school so you thought you'd make a splash. I'd hold your diploma if I ran that show until you made amends, not for being overtly religious, but for being blatantly and purposely defiant of the rules. I'd put you back on the news to apologize for your petulance. 

I don't care what your GPA was. I don't care how intelligent you are. It takes more than IQ to make the world go round. You need to work on your EQ. You need to know how to deal with people and know your place. I'm not proud of you for taking a stand, although I do respect your ability to get yourself heard. Now, stop being self serving about it and do some good in this world - real good, not your version of it.

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