Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Open Letter to Tom Hanks from a Mormon

Dear Mr. Hanks,

I have been a fan of yours for years. Several of your films are among my very favorites. I truly believe that you will be remembered long after your time as one of the greats of cinema history. It is because of the enormous respect I have for you that I address this to you and not to one of your many colleagues who similarly seem to think that your status as a celebrity, even a very talented one, grants you unique wisdom or understanding in the realms of politics and social conflicts.

I refer specifically to your recent comments regarding California's Proposition 8 and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (of which I am a member). Let me be clear that you are entitled to your opinion, but your statements demonstrate some enormous misunderstanding and ignorance about not only mormons, but the very issues at the heart of Prop 8.

Firstly I take issue with your characterization of the support for Prop 8 as "un-american." I find it ironic that you would even use this term, since the mere idea of being labeled such by supporters of the War on Terror had a number of your colleagues incensed to the point of nearly frothing at the mouth in their indignation. There is nothing more american than people making their will known through an organized vote. It is, in fact, one of the chief founding principles of this great nation.

But, you say, this is wrong because it is "discrimination codified on [a] piece of paper." I submit that nearly all of our laws are just that...discrimination. We discriminate against the murderer, the thief, the rapist, and the abuser. We discriminate against those who drive faster than the speed limit and those who do not wear a seatbelt. We discriminate against minors. We discriminate against those with physical or mental handicaps. Discrimination, the act of giving preference to one thing over another, is a given. The only question is whether or not that discrimination is justified. It is only right, for instance, that a person without the ability to see clearly not be allowed to drive a car.

Now, let's make a few things clear. First, most of us who are against same sex marriage are not trying to tell people how to live their lives. No one is trying to make gay sex illegal. No one is telling gays that they can't live together. What's more, gays can get married in any state in the union today. There are plenty of churches, even in Utah, that are willing to perform the ceremony. They can buy rings, wear white dresses, make whatever vows they wish to make, and if they so choose, they can live together and have all the sex they want. No human right is denied them. This is not about being able to love whomever they choose or live however they want. It's about validation. They want society to condone their lifestyle, not tolerate it.

So the question becomes, is society justified in giving preference to heterosexual relationships over homosexual ones? In answer to that let me ask this: Is society justified in giving preference to a relationship between two adult people over one between a man and a prepubescent girl? The answer should be obvious.

The issue is a definition of marriage and it's purposes. If marriage is nothing more than a vehicle by which two people express love for one another and a commitment to faithful companionship, then there would be no reason to bar anyone from marrying whomever they chose. But marriage is about family, as cogently and eloquently proclaimed by the leadership of the LDS church. Part of this is the undeniable fact that biologically two people of the same gender cannot reproduce, but the more important fact is this: marriage is the best way to raise up healthy, happy, responsible members of society. Marriage is not just husband and wife, it's also son and daughter. The family unit is the fundamental building block of society. As such it is in society's interest to encourage it.

And that's really the discrimination we're talking about here. It's not an issue of a law telling people that they can't live as they choose. The law says only that this kind of relationship will be encouraged through official recognition because it is of fundamental benefit to society and all other relationships will not because they are not.

Your colleague Sean Penn said that mormons and blacks should be ashamed of their support for Proposition 8. It is he who should be ashamed. You might ask yourself what these groups have in common. Blacks and mormons in particular have been subjected to real, sustained, deadly persecution in this nation. We all know what blacks have been through, but you may not be familiar with the history of persecution of mormons. Long years of people driven from their homes, men and women being tortured and killed, defamation, wrongful prosecution, and all manner of horrors, culminating in the 1838 "Extermination Order" issued by Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs declaring that mormons "must be exterminated or driven from the state." Effectively it was "codified on a piece of paper" that it was open season on mormons and they could be killed at will.

The point is, Mr. Hanks, that to frame the issue of same sex marriage as a civil rights struggle is deeply insulting to groups who have experienced real persecution. No human rights are being denied gays today. Society simply does not want to condone or encourage their lifestyle.

I don't really hope to change your mind, Mr. Hanks. I still deeply respect you and you are still entitled to your own opinion. It is my hope, however, that you might consider that I'm entitled to mine as well, that there might be a rational, reasonable cause to oppose same sex marriage. Even more, I hope that in the future you might dig a little deeper before making stupid, ignorant remarks about beliefs that you obviously do not understand.



Brien said...

1838, not 1938.

Other than that, nice work. Articulate and well-worded, even if I don't totally agree.

Dirtius Maximus said...

Edited. Thanks for catching that.

Nancy said...

Good job. I think you ought to make an effort to actually get the letter into Tom Hanks' hands.

BeatlesDiva said...

We all know were I stand with gay rights and I find this letter remarkable. I agree with what you said and I hope that not only Mr.Hanks see this, but many more people that are in the public eyes.

I told a friend of mine just the other day, there's so much misunderstanding with the LDS church and lately I'm getting worn out standing up for it, but I realize that it is important that I stand up for our beliefs.

Thanks again for this letter!

Becca said...

Did you really send that to Tom Hanks?

PN3 said...

Very well stated.

Dirtius Maximus said...

Thanks for your kind remarks, Nicole. I'm glad that you approve.

Becca, no, I did not send this to Tom Hanks. An "open letter" is one that you don't necessarily send, but rather post it somewhere for all to read.

If someone knows how to get this to Tom Hanks, though, I certainly wouldn't mind if he did read it.

Becca said...

Oh... haha! That would be way cool if you did send it to him and he read it. Maybe he would agree with you and become your best friend- than give you 1 million dollars!