Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

The Great American Cop-out

3443769760_7f0f3ba505I don’t really care about the Miss America pageant—actually, I think it’s kind of weird—but an article caught my attention today about Miss California Carrie Prejean, who believes her anti-same sex marriage opinion cost her the Miss USA title on Sunday.

Scanning through, one statement caught my attention:

“I was raised in a way that you can never compromise your beliefs and your opinions for anything.”

This is a common enough statement to make.  In fact, it seems to be the most common statement made by anyone disagreeing with anything controversial.  Today it rubbed me the wrong way.

Seriously?  Is that the message you got growing up? “Never compromise your beliefs and your opinions for anything”?

I mean, I get it.  There are some core beliefs that people have a right not to compromise.  And I’m certainly not trying to knock her for standing up for what she believes in. But aren’t there any opinions or beliefs out there that should be open to compromise?

What kind of world would we live in if no one stopped to examine his or her opinions/feelings about something?  What kind of person refuses to consider changing his or her mind about anything—even if there may be good reasons to at least consider it?

Let me be clear: I realize this isn’t a frivolous issue, and I don’t want to assume she hasn’t thought her opinion through.  I’m really not trying to address gay marriage.

I’m simply questioning the fact that “I was raised not to compromise my opinion” is a suitable answer in our culture—an answer corresponding to a position that seems to be valued and prized.  To me, it sounds like the most acceptable cop-out in America right now.

I’m certainly not going to raise my kids that way.  I want them to be able to think critically and be open to the possibility of change when necessary.


  1. That very attitude got George W Bush elected.


    I wonder when it became the norm to accept or condemn things so unflinchingly and without any room for debate. It’s a disastrous attitude.

  2. F- that. Question authority. Learn what you’re railing against. Form your own opinions.

    Cause the majority of our opinions in our younger years are based solely on what our parents believe.

  3. I haven’t seen the data, but my hunch tells me that the beauty pagent demographic is not particularly gay friendly. So I think her blame is misplaced.

    She probably spends more time examining her hair than she does examining her ideas. Not that her hair doesn’t look great, but she might want to balance those activities a bit more in the future.

  4. Wow, that’s quite the stereotype you got going. In any case, (beauty pageant contestants aside), I think the particular attitude Prejean represents is prevalent throughout our culture–not just among her demographic.

  5. You’re right, the attitude is prevalent. Here’s my frustration in a nutshell:

    The conceit that keeps a beauty pageant from being anything other than a soft porn wet t-shirt contest is that the contestants are role models.

    Miss California’s answer was designed to enhance her standing as a role model.

    Unfortunately, our most visible role models seem to be of two varieties: Either the rigid fundamentalist Miss California types, or the “All choices are equal, all paths are valid” anything goes types.

    In neither model do we get any room for thoughtful discourse that can lead to insight.

  6. Quite true.

  7. Difficulty is, our American moral fiber is founded on Locke’s “you have a right to swing your fist however you want until it touches someone’s face.” It was an ethic that tried to preserve individual freedom while also ensuring social responsibility. Unfortunately our social responsibility is so thoroughly mediated by prosthetic–effectively providing the illusion of fist swinging without face touching–that our individuality is almost never mitigated by social responsibility.

    This means that the moral majority can wreak havoc without ever having to be present to the havoc wreaked. And being present to the other is what enables us to engage our capacity for compassion, a precursor to compromise.

  8. I like your observation about compassion being a precursor to compromise. Given that, I understand your generalization about the ‘moral’ majority. But I wonder if–even though the MM is the most eager to own this no-compromise position–this attitude is actually working in more subtle ways across the ideological board.

  9. I don’t know whether or not you intend to make a claim about our current situation being thoroughly mediated as opposed to other situations, but I think the following is important:

    The social is always mediated through prosthetic, from ritual masks and tattoos to clothes and language. We are always constructing and deconstructing out faces. Identity is a mediated inter-action.

    I would take this further and say that prosthetic lies at the heart of identity. In other words, the opposition prosthetic-essence ultimately breaks down, when it comes to identity.

    Historically, I think the ‘moral majorities’ in most societies have always used prosthetics to keep minorities ‘out of sight.’ That said, it is important to think how new technologies make for new social interactions. How does marginalization take place online?