Gays: open-hearts vs. open-minds

What is more important — being open-minded or being open-hearted?  What do you think — is Bible-belt Texas more dangerously bigoted against gays or liberal states?  I thoroughly enjoyed this videod experiment which touches these questions.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

18 responses to “Gays: open-hearts vs. open-minds

  1. Why can’t it be both?

  2. Ian

    Wow. Good on you Texas. I wonder what would happen in the UK with that experiment.

    And Donovan? What a guy!

  3. @ tildeb
    Indeed — that is the best of all worlds, eh! What do you think helps maintain an open heart?

    @ Ian
    That was cool, wasn’t it. Yes, I wonder how the different parts of the UK would display themselves. Would they reveal this irony? What are your intuitions?

  4. Ian

    Dunno. I guess that in London you would less likely find a waitress like that, but folks may also be less likely to confront her. Big cities breed a certain kind of isolationism. Where I am, I think more folks would speak up. But then most folks know each other. There are gay and lesbian couples around. I’m sure there are parts of the UK where there would be more of the high-five attitude. Here attitudes are less regional and more demographic.

  5. This is interesting and touching. But…

    I found it just the slightest bit unethical in a sense as well – and I mean the whole experiment. We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t talk politics or religion at the dinner table” and the reason for that has to do with the simple fact that when certain subjects come up, it makes the mood sour for all. If it is a political club, or a religiously toned event, then it can be assumed that the people attending are playing the game, so to speak. But in this restaurant, the customers are basically civilians (i.e. people who are not being political or voicing their potentially unpopular opinion either way) thrust into the middle of a very awkward, very staged disruption, evoking all sorts of emotions that spill out into the atmosphere. The one guy gave the thumbs up sign, and then he was accosted. Then he had to nervously double back and claim it was about the food, etc. Sure, his position is a bigoted one, and I have no sympathy for it in principle. But he was minding his own business until he the climate was artificially brought to a head, putting him in a position to feel the need to stand in solidarity with the waitress. For all we know he might only have empathized with her position 55% of the way.

    Thought experiment: Lets say that this “thumbs up” guy had no problem that these two women were a couple, but has a personal hangup with homosexuality – maybe he was raped in prison, maybe his father was viciously homophobic and a family member is ostracized, etc. So that puts him at 55% in agreement with the waitress. The cool thing about this video was that it demonstrated that there was *not* a general homophobia in the air, and most people are cool and accepting when push comes to shove. But in the process of demonstrating this, the actors and producers artificially made the atmosphere very charged, and forced an “us or them” attitude to emerge. So someone 55% sympathetic to this waitress might extend an slight thumbs up to maybe only mean to say, “I understand how you feel, it is complicated and I see you are being ganged up on” and all of a sudden he gets a moist-eyed producer in his face, going all Michael Moore sentimental on him and asking him to explain himself. Something about this rubbed me the wrong way.

  6. And to actually be on topic and answer the question you posed… : )

    I think this demonstrates that Texas is actually less homophobic (albeit indirectly) than liberal states in the sense that the Texans were more engaging in general. It’s a complex thing, because the general population in Texas would almost certainly tend to be less tolerant of gays than a liberal state in principle, but other aspects of the Texas culture seem to make up for it. They are more engaging on a human level and move beyond the specific issue of homosexuality altogether, which in a way is accepting it. Liberal state attitudes seem to pay lip service to the tolerance flavor currently in vogue (i.e. gay rights), but aren’t as willing to put down their fork and actually stand up for it when they witness an offense.

  7. @ Brandon

    If you found that “unethical”, you may find these equally morally reprehensible:

    But seriously, I get what you mean. Part of me (maybe 30%) felt the same thing during the video, but I still put my thumb up. 🙂

    As for your second comment — indeed, that is what I was alluding to.

  8. Mike aka MonolithTMA

    Oh, I can’t watch that show, unless I want to end up bawling like a baby.

    I did watch the clip and found it moving and encouraging, as I usually do with this show.

    What I find interesting is that I know people who are opposed to homosexuality, because of the Bible, but would stand up in a heartbeat to defend these couples.

  9. @ Mike
    Exactly, that is the complexity I think it points to so well. Heart vs. Mind

  10. great job by the dude that takes the waitress aside. i would hope to do the same. great job to those in the diner. and esp Donovan. thanks for posting this.

  11. posted before they got to the guys. lame-o for the first post, but very cool for texas. boo on NY.

  12. I think the video is misleading. New Yorkers are more tolerant of gays, but Texans are less tolerant of public bullying. I think we’re seeing an example of what Teri was talking about in her post on “Political Identity“.

    People from small towns and red states are more likely to affiliate strongly with their local identity, and will stand up and fight anyone who threatens that. People in red states feel a sense of ownership for their communities and have “skin in the game”. We could easily test this theory by turning the tables in the Texas videos. For example, have the waitress wear a visible cross necklace, and have the lesbian family complain openly about it, claiming to feel “offended” and “judged”. It’s quite likely that the same people would intervene on behalf of the waitress.

    Conversely, people in a major commercial center like Manhattan are just “passing through”. If you’re just there to make money, and you’re surrounded by all sorts of completely different people, you’re not going to go out on a limb and try to impose your sense of what’s right on complete strangers in a public place.

  13. crl

    Now, I wonder what would happen in San Francisco…

    Open minds are likely to lead to open hearts, and vice versa. But of the two, despite my commitment to reason, I would have to admit that an open heart alone is more likely to do good than an open mind. The bottom line is, once you get to know a few gay people, and realize they aren’t particularly evil, both your mind and your heard are thrown open. And having something to stand up AGAINST certainly leads us to strengthen our beliefs:

  14. @ JS,
    Your point is good, of course. But if, in your scenario, the cross-wearing waitress is attacked by atheist lesbians, I would applaud the defense of the waitress for the same reason I applaud the opposite in the video. I was not saying that Texans actually love gay folks deep in their hearts, but they had a spirit of live-and-let-live.

    Or do you contend that they don’t demonstrate that here.

    @ CRL
    Indeed, I agree. Nice video! Thanx

  15. I was not saying that Texans actually love gay folks deep in their hearts, but they had a spirit of live-and-let-live.

    I don’t think the video shows Texans having a “live-and-let-live” spirit; it simply shows them standing up for a neighbor who is being publicly bullied.

    I contend that Texans are far more likely to vote to pass laws restricting the bedroom rights of other, but won’t tolerate bullying in a public breakfast place; while New Yorkers are exactly the opposite.

    A quick search turned up this recent survey, showing that 53% of Texans are opposed to gay marriage, but 80% are in favor of extra legislation to prevent bullying of gay and lesbian families. Conversely support for gay marriage is 69%-25% in New York City.

    So the way I see it, the video was cleverly manipulative. Texans are more likely to impose their morals on others, whether it be in making sodomy illegal, or in feeling empowered to interfere in a bullying incident between complete strangers. The video exploits Texans’ propensity to meddle in moral matters, to make it seem as if Texans are more sincere than New Yorkers in their tolerance of gay marriage. In fact, Texans are *less* tolerant of gay marriage. They are just also less tolerant of lots of things, such as a female menial laborer stepping out of her place and bullying customers.

  16. @ JS
    Ah, I think I see. You see Texans as meddlers. Interesting.
    I must say, I like meddlers when they are stopping bullies.

  17. @JS: i think you’re right when you state “New Yorkers are more tolerant of gays, but Texans are less tolerant of public bullying.” if only we could mix the two. i’m all about “affiliate’n strongly with a local identity” mixed with not trying to “impose your sense of what’s right on complete strangers in a public place.” is it possible to build a strong community that is also open? are we able to have the strong community like the red states with the educated outlook of blue states? can we have liberals with some teeth in other words that will stop bullies?

  18. *and by liberal i mean socially so

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