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    How soon is now?

    There’s an expression in Japanese–have I maybe discussed it before?–that combines two first-year words into an exponentially more complex and useful idea: ありがた迷惑. Those who remember Styx know ありがとう (arigato, usually rendered “thank you” but more literally a classical form of an adjective that means “it is a thing to be grateful for”). 迷惑 (meiwaku, “pain in the ass,” “annoyance”) is a word you use a lot in a country of such frictive crowding. An arigata-meiwaku is what you get when someone meddles out of a sincere desire to be helpful but ends up making things worse. The sister role played by Laurie Metcalf on Roseanne is a good example.

    So is France’s new hate crimes law:

    The French Senate Wednesday night gave final approval to legislation making it a criminal offense to speak or publish homophobia.

    The bill adds sexuality to an existing law banning hate speech against other minorities.

    Under the legislation, anyone who provokes hatred or violence on the basis of sex or sexual orientation could be fined up to $60,000 and be subject to one year in jail.

    The bill was fought by the Roman Catholic church which claimed it could be used against priests who speak out against homosexuality or to censor the Bible. [Enh…never happen!–SRK]

    Despite the concerns of the Church, the legislation had little difficulty in the conservative dominated Senate.

    The bill which had been pushed by President Jacques Chirac gives France the toughest hate-crime law in the European Union.

    French gay rights group Inter-LGBT hailed the vote as as a decisive step to combat growing homophobia.

    The government drafted the law after a young gay man was brutally attacked. After he was beaten his assailants poured gasoline on him and set him on fire leaving him severely burned.

    Stories like that make me want to punch a hole in the wall. Once that feeling subsides, though, we’re left with all the usual questions about hate crimes legislation. They’ve been articulated before, but since these bills keep passing, it’s obvious that we need to keep repeating them: For one thing, isn’t dousing someone with gasoline and torching him already punishable under French law, or has everyone been busy making sure the produce meets EU shape and color specifications? For another, is it really possible that people still harbor the delusion that forcing people not to talk about deeply-held beliefs will simply make their potential ill-effects vanish? Do those who sympathize with gays really think we need the deck stacked for us this way? If they don’t think we can meet the opposition with persuasive arguments in our own favor, why do they themselves side with us in the first place?

    And the issue that saddens me most to contemplate: Are there really gays who think we can only function well in society if we’re subjected to nothing but compliments and Nerf-ball questions? If they’re that lacking in conviction about their own moral choices, why don’t they, indeed, just convert to Christianity and off-load the responsibility onto someone else?

    This flood of rhetorical questions is going to start sounding hysterical, so I’ll knock it off. I can only marvel anew that the most basic life lesson–(1) not everyone is going to love you + (2) there’s nothing you can do about it, so deal–is being so ineptly handed down to so many people.

    Added on 24 December: Amritas is a dear as always to link me, especially with the compliment that I’ve acquitted myself well at the sociology-by-way-of-linguistics posts he specializes in. I have to say, though, that if I were really as good at that sort of thing as he is, I’d have given you the words for “thanks but no thanks” in Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese, with due explanation of which parts were native and which borrowings.

    Since he has another post up related to the perceived religion-evasion of holiday greetings, this is as good a time as any to clarify something I discussed here. That is, I think that forcing a greeting such as “Happy holidays” on people is ridiculous. So is forcing Nativity scenes and such out of the public square.

    I just don’t think that “Happy holidays” is in and of itself a denatured substitute. A lot of people do use it that way, yes, but to me it’s a nicely economical way of conveying, “I hope you had a good Thanksgiving” + “Merry Christmas” + “Happy Hanukkah, if you’re Jewish” + “Happy Kwanzaa…uh, if that’s how you pronounce it and even though I’m not entirely sure what it is” + “Happy New Year!”

    Contrast this with, for example, “Have a nice day!” Blech. “Goodbye” is perfectly adequate, and “Have a nice day!” adds nothing to it. It takes the goodwill conveyed and, if anything, makes it less intense. Not being one to reject polite gestures, I’ve never drawn myself up to full height and replied, “Actually, I plan to fill the remaining time before midnight with wickedly scrumptious indelicacies, but thank you all the same.” Been tempted, though.

    4 Responses to “How soon is now?”

    1. Michael Brazier says:

      The politicians who pass hate-crime legislation aren’t siding with you, they’re using you. Gay men to these people are not human beings to be argued with; they’re sacred icons to be venerated. Laws against blaspheming the icon are passed, not to help the icon, but to prove the legislators’ virtue — and to demonize the skeptics who ask difficult questions.
      Similar motives drive many political movements. The supporters of the Kyoto Protocol, for instance, made the Earth’s climate into an icon, and demonized the USA for subjecting it to rational appraisal.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      That’s the effect, and certainly there are some people who are sufficiently cynical that their motivations don’t go any deeper. But I think there are others whose sympathies are genuine; the problem is just that they see gays (and Mother Gaia) as unable to fend for ourselves.

    3. Normal Desmond says:

      Let me begin by saying that your blog is terrific. Personal, insightful, well-written and entertaining. Once again, a brilliantly articulated and reasoned entry. Kudos.

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      Why, thank you. That’s very kind. And if that was just what you wanted to begin by saying, then, by all means, continue. :)