‘Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she wouldn’t. She said it was a mean practice and wasn’t clean, and I must try to not do it any more. That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don’t know nothing about it. Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it. And she took snuff, too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself.’
Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
I’ve fond memories of reading Huckleberry Finn a few years ago.
So last night I picked it up off the bedroom floor and began reading it over again.
The paragraph above comes from the opening chapter. Something about Huck’s thoughts on widow Douglas’s refusal to let him smoke reminded me a little of discussions on Twitter, papers, in city pubs regarding the upcoming marriage referendum on Friday.
I think that Widow Douglas is well within her rights to deny Huck the opportunity to smoke as he is a kid living in her house under her rules. She has adopted Huck and bears responsibility for his welfare. Looking after him means shooting down his request to smoke.In her judgement smoking is not appropriate behaviour for a young lad she is trying to look after.
From Huck’s perspective she is a bit stern,a religious killjoy, someone who is out to ‘sivilize’ Huck and clamp down on his personal freedom. But that is only because she cares for his welfare in her own particular way and firmly believes the best thing for Huck’s flourishing is to stop him smoking.
She doesn’t give him the freedom to smoke.
It’s not because she doesn’t care for him but because she is trying to care for him as best she understands.
Huck of course can see through her hypocrisy in that she takes tobacco herself.
He might have a point that the story of Moses has no relevance to his life and that there may be more benefits in smoking.
He may well be having his personal freedom restricted as the widow tries to sivilize him and make a man of him.
Perhaps he could get angry about it and go and huff in his bedroom like we’ve all done as teenagers when denied something we really wanted to do.
But I don’t think any of that means that Widow Douglas is a heartless old windbag who is not trying to be loving.
Just because people deny people stuff and say no to things doesn’t mean that they are necessarily uncaring and cruel people.
I’ve seen and heard some stuff from ‘Yes’ voters who seem to make out that people who are voting ‘No’ are automatically unloving, heartless people who want to restrict people’s freedom and take away their rights.
It’s the same thing now with people talking about religious fundamentalists and how it’s great they have been brought to heel over their refusal to make a cake with the words ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
I understand why people are pissed off with what they see as intolerance but it is a position I struggle with because I also know that these are good people.
Some of the most loving, tolerant, kind hearted, generous free people I know are voting no or would vote ‘No’ in this referendum if they had a chance. They aren’t homophobic, Nazi, hate filled types, in fact quite the opposite.
I want to defend them when people on newspaper comment sections make them out to be people filled with hate or when someone with ‘Yes’ stuck on their profile badge say they’re Nazis.
Or make the sneering comments that they’re unenlightened knuckle draggers. They’re not from my experience.
On the other hand I can understand why it might seem that way if you’re a yes voter who believes that some in Ireland are not being treated fairly or are being discriminated against. I guess that I’d be angry and more than hurt by people wanting to block marriage and by some of those posters that have been going up.
I can only guess though.
I can’t imagine how I’d feel really because I’m a straight man. How can I possibly understand what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes?
As Huck says:- ‘That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don’t know nothing about it’
I don’t know nothing about it.
But that works both ways doesn’t it?
Just as I don’t know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a gay man perhaps you don’t know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of someone who has been brought up in a church going background where life from childhood revolves around what the Bible teaches. Who knows why they have reached the decision they have in their conscience? Perhaps they’re scared of stuff? Perhaps they’re frightened of the world and need things that make sense of the world, things that are black and white?
Perhaps you can’t know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of type of fundamentalist Christian who mightn’t want to say something that goes against their conscience.
You can’t claim to know stuff about peoples faith by reading a bit of Richard Dawkins or liking The Flying Spaghetti Monster because that is to reduce the mystery of being human.
I’m personally not a ‘No’ voter.
I don’t find any argument from the ‘No’ side convincing enough for me to feel like I should be trying to block it happening.
As Christian I think it would be hypocritical of me to say that a Christian baker shouldn’t be forced to ice a cake saying ‘Support Gay Marriage’ while also saying that two gay men shouldn’t have the right to get married.
If I value my freedom to worship and live life as I choose I can’t see how treating others how I would like to be treated would lead to me voting no.
The difference for me between the referendum and Huck asking Widow Douglas if he could is that Huck was a kid asking an adult if he can smoke whereas in the referendum we have adults asking other adults if they can be allowed the freedom to live their lives as they see fit.
I don’t it is fair of me to vote no and I think people should have the freedom to live life the way they want.