Because I’m Still a Hoosier, Gosh Dernit.

Okay, I typically try to avoid bringing politics or religion into this space. I try to avoid it in every space, to be quite honest. I’m a big fan of the “live and let live” policy. So long as what you are doing is not harming me in any way, have at it. I’m not afraid of honest, face to face conversation, but grandstanding on social media is a poor place for me to express ideas. Inevitably, I’m gonna screw something up.

But I can’t just shut up about this. I’ve seen too much, read too much, learned too much… and I have to throw in my two cents. There’s just so much out there right now.

As you well know, Dear Journal, I’ve lived in Indiana my entire life. I’m a Hoosier (who prefers to be called a Boilermaker, in the time-honored tradition) through and through. My motor runs on corn, soybeans, and basketball. And my state is under attack. There was this whole Religious Freedom Restoration Act thingy that was just recently signed into law, and the uproar has not stopped.

Before you open your big, digital mouth about anything (mine included), you should at least attempt to educate yourself about the issue. In this wonderful Information Age, where Wikipedia is just a mouse click away, there is no excuse for not taking 10 minutes to investigate before spouting off. I shall now do this.

There are a ton of articles about the RFRA in Indiana, and depending on which one you read, it is either a completely necessary protection for Mom and Pop America, or an aggressive attack on rights, specifically LGBT rights.

But wait, what… there’s already a federal one of these? I’ll admit, I didn’t know that, but yep. Signed by Clinton in 1993. And 18 other states have since issued their own state versions of the RFRA. Why did we even have the original RFRA? Wisconsin vs Yoder? Apparently, Amish kids were being forced to attend high school against their religion. I guess I can see why that would be tricky. And how does the Indiana version differ from the Federal one? Well, here’s an article on that. Short story? Not very much. Other states (such as Mississippi) have far greater deviation.

So where are we? We have an RFRA in Indiana that is pretty similar to a Federal RFRA that has been on the books for over 20 years and hasn’t really caused a huge problem (that I can find).

I will submit, then, that timing is everything. Had this law been passed 20 years ago, no problemo. Today… well with what just went on in Arizona, it’s hard to see this as anything but a boneheaded (at best) or aggressive (at worst) move by the Indiana state government.

So a bunch of folks are threatening to boycott the state of Indiana. Not visit. Not spend. Nothing. To those people… how, exactly, is that supposed to help? The vast majority of the businesses I know of in Indiana are outwardly against discrimination. Do you really think the state government is going to be hurt most by your boycott? Or will all the little people suffer first, businesses will leave, jobs will be lost, lives will be ruined… and ONLY THEN will the politicians actually “feel” it. In my opinion, this is a problem with politicians throughout the nation… they are too far removed and insulated from their choices. At least give us the chance to vote these bozos out next election before you punish all of us and lump us together as rednecks or whatever. Not that we were given a lot of choice to begin with. Such is the drawback of a two-party system.

Since the majority of the backlash against Indiana that I see is from folks campaigning for LGBT rights, I wanted to share this bit of information. If you believe Wikipedia (which I do), Indiana is not even in the bottom half of states in terms of its support of LGBT rights. In fact, if you browse through those info-graphics, I would submit that Indiana is pretty firmly average in terms of support. We got some stuff right. Other stuff we’re behind. But we’re far from a redneck-filled wasteland. Such a characterization in unfair, uninformed, and completely against the spirit of equality movements in general.

In my opinion, we should stand together on this. Come to Indiana and visit the places that want you. There are plenty. The law did not require that we all adopt narrow-minded viewpoints. Show support for those that are fighting even if the government is dumb and/or not listening.

And to the folks that think this law was a good idea, I have news for you. It wasn’t. Here’s why. Even if you agree with Governor Pence that the “media is to blame,” and that this law isn’t an attack on anyone, but a reaffirmation of the existing Federal law… why do it now? AZ was just lambasted in the media for the same damn thing. Use your freaking brain, Indiana. Now is not a good time to pass this law. What is the need? There aren’t current cases pending (that I can find). There’s no clear and present danger to religious freedom specifically in Indiana. Even if you believe there is one, there’s no reason it can’t be covered by the Federal law. We already have something on the books to protect religious freedom. This act is redundant. Unnecessary. It’s only purpose was to stir the pot. It’s stupid legislation that should have been shelved until such a time as it was actually needed for a real reason.

Let’s get specific. Maybe you’re worried about a fundamentalist bakery having to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding. Okay, fine. I guess I’ve never understood why such a situation comes to blows. I’m a small business owner. The whole point of forming a small business entity is to separate the business from you. You and the business are not the same thing. You don’t have to bake a cake for anyone. Your business… perhaps they do, anti-discrimination being a thing and all. But even then, you have options. Your business could, in theory, hire someone who has no problem baking cakes for gays. Or, hell, they could take the money from the gay people, subcontract the work to a gay-friendly bakery, and give them exactly all of the money. And all you’ve done is politely decline and passed their business along to someone who actually wants it. Businesses subcontract all the time for all kinds of reasons.

But since when has baking a cake for a wedding equaled support for that couple? Did the drive-thru guy at McDonald’s support me getting fat? No, he just did his job and gave me my damn food. Working on a heart-attack is my choice, not theirs. Providing a service for money does not equal support for a lifestyle. If you think it does, perhaps you shouldn’t be in a service industry.

My fiancee cuts hair for a living. She provides a service for money. And I get to listen to her vent about it. Guess what? Sometimes she has to cut the hair of people she doesn’t even like! No way, right. Someone comes in and is having a bad day and being a bitch to her… she still cuts her hair, takes her money, and gets on with life. That’s the nature of the service industry. Grow up or get a different job.

The situation comes to blows because both sides dislike each other and want the government to settle the fight. Why? What has the government even done well recently? Legislating morality is stupid. You shouldn’t want the government to tell you what is right and wrong because they’ll inevitably eff it up. They can’t cover everyone. It’s an impossible task if you want to retain any semblance of true freedom.

Maybe this will piss some people off. If so, I’m sorry. I probably screwed something up, and you’re free to disagree/point it out. I don’t believe in censorship or limiting freedom. But for all that is good, educate yourself first! Indiana is not a backwoods, redneck, hellhole and its residents do not deserve to be labelled as such. Most of us actually have a brain and can and do think for ourselves. Was our state government acting in embarrassing ways recently? Yes. Is the entire state of Indiana hateful and supportive of discriminatory practices? No. Do we deserve to be smeared across the Internet? You decide.

Do the research. Try to understand both sides. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. That’s the only way we’re going to figure out how to coexist.

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