Enthusiasts. Fanatics. Zealots. Extremists. Bigots. These are five words to describe differing levels of devotion to activities and ideals. This is why I love language, and why language matters.
The dictionary describes each of these words as follows:
• An enthusiast displays an intense and eager interest in something, like sky-diving.
• A fanatic is not only intense and eager but possibly irrational in his or her enthusiasm. Fanatic suggests extreme devotion and a willingness to go to any length to maintain or carry out one’s beliefs, such as a fly-fishing fanatic who hired a helicopter to reach his favorite stream.
• A zealot exhibits not only extreme devotion but vehement activity in support of a cause or goal, such as a feminist zealot who spent most of her time campaigning for women’s rights.
• An extremist is a supporter of extreme doctrines or practices, particularly in a political context. This would be a paramilitary extremist who anticipates the overthrow of the government.
But it is the bigot who causes the most trouble, exhibiting obstinate and often blind devotion to his or her beliefs and opinions. In contrast to fanatic and zealot, the term bigot implies intolerance and contempt for those who do not agree.
That’s me. Bigot Extraordinaire.
I am obstinate, and frequently blindly devoted to the ideas I hold. I actually believe that all people should be treated equally in the eyes of the law. When I get into an argument, I dig my foxhole and start shooting with every rhetorical weapon I can muster, from the epee of emotional plea, to the broad sword of sarcasm. I also love the bazooka of bombastic badgering. I will fight dirty to win an argument. Occupational hazard I suppose.
So when it comes to the things I am passionate about, I find it hard to rein in my emotions. For example, this Proposition 8 Vietnam that the Mormons, Catholics and Jewish leaders have gotten us into. I cannot tolerate their intolerance. I don’t particularly care that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has people so scared of ideas that “devout Mormons will avoid R rated movies.” I met with one Mormon to discuss gay civil rights and the LDS church doctrine. I suggested that he see the movie “Milk” to aid in our discussion. He declined. It is rated R, so he can’t see it.
I think it is absurd that the Catholics listen to a man who lives in a castle who pontificates about how they should live their lives, but it does me no harm if my neighbor decides to give up meat during Lent.
It is not my business if the orthodox Jewish leaders, who have been so instrumental in the civil rights movement, want to associate with Catholics who have a history of elevating Holocaust deniers, then the pox be on their heads.
It is when my neighbor actively tries to take away my rights that I have a visceral reaction of anger, resentment, and become intolerant and contemptuous of them. This is when my blood boils and I take off the gloves.
One of them for example is Richard Raddon, the executive director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, who resigned after his donation of $1,500 to the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign was made known. He lives just down the street from me in a nicely appointed six unit condominium complex on 11th Street. He resigned from a job that he held for a number of years. Part of me feels bad that his political convictions cost him, if not his career, at least an esteemed position that took years to achieve. On the other hand, his support aids the movement to divorce 16,000 couples. His checkbook morality is going to negatively affect the lives of 32,000 should his side win.
He’s not as bad as Mrs. Christianne Danielson of 21st Place, who according to eightmaps.com, gave $25,000 to support her bigotry.
The support these two “neighbors” of mine for such a mean-spirited proposition is pure evil in my mind. It is equivalent to the use of landmines in fields. It allows the death and destruction to be done, far from the sight of the actor.
Mr. Raddon and Mrs. Danielson wont have to face the couples who will be forcibly divorced. They wont have to look people in the eyes and tell them that the society they live in does not value them equally.
They will not have to see the tears, and hear the pain, when I tell couples that, in California, they are not considered good enough to be equal to the Raddons and the Danielsons.
So yes, I’m a bigot. I have no tolerance for the Raddons and the Danielsons in this community, and yes I want to make it uncomfortable for them. Let them find comfort in their moral condemnation of others.
I hope it is very, very, cold comfort.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.