If you were one of the 295 million Americans who did not watch the Miss USA Pageant on NBC Sunday night, then you missed a sparkler of an incident that has since been blown up to a full fireworks show.
Celebrity-gossip blogger Perez Hilton, a pageant judge, was tasked with asking a question of one of the five finalists. He drew Carrie Prejean, Miss California.
Hilton's question was "Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?
Prejean's answer was "I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be between a man and a woman."
Hilton was clearly disappointed in Prejean's answer. Some members of the audience even booed (shame on them). And Prejean ultimately was runner up to Miss North Carolina who won the pageant.
Later Hilton referred to Prejean as "a dumb bitch" for her answer and said that had she won the Miss USA title he'd have stormed the stage and ripped the tiara from her head.
I'm gonna say this several times, so pay attention: This spat is not about gay marriage or any other civil rights debate.
In a softball interview with Larry King tonight, Hilton insisted he had no regrets, insisted that Prejean's was the dumbest answer in pageant history, insisted that Prejean's answer was the wrong answer, insisted that he didn't want Prejean's opinion but rather the answer a representative of all Americans would have given, and tried to spin the controversy into a referendum on gay marriage and civil rights.
News Flash: Several News Flashes:
- When you ask someone an opinion, there is no right or wrong answer to the question. Unless you ask the question with pre-conditions on the answer then you risk receiving an answer that you might not like.
- Miss California did absolutely nothing wrong. She gave an honest answer to a straight-forward question. Whether her answer was popular or not is a different issue altogether.
- Hilton told Larry King how he would have answered the question. But Hilton wasn't a Miss USA contestant, so how he would have answered the question doesn't matter.
Again, this isn't about gay marriage rights. Beneath the hype the reaction to Prejean's answer by Hilton and the numbnuts in the audience who booed her is the latest example of dishonesty by some folks who say they want an open dialogue with people who are different than them.
Hilton's logic to Larry King was that Miss USA represents the whole USA and that Prejean's answer made it clear she wouldn't have represented gay people if she'd won. The Miss USA Pageant is a for profit business. So had she won, Prejean would have been representing the entity paying her bills: the pageant.
Hilton's logic in this case makes him no different from the yahoos who insist that Barack Obama isn't their president because they didn't vote for him. Al Gore supporters said the same about George Bush. But I digress.
One more time: this Miss USA mess is not about gay marriage.
It's about being able to swallow the fact that sometimes no matter how strongly you feel about something, some folks just are not going to agree with you.
But let's not think this sort of passive aggressiveness is limited to debates about sexual orientation. I've seen people on all sides of race relations debates say they want to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk...until the person they're listening to offers an opinion different than their own. Then they want to flip out.
Same goes for "national conversations" about religion, abortion, and capital punishment, to name a few topics.
After Hilton's harsh words for Miss California, who uttered not one negative word to or about him or gay people in general, he later apologized for calling her "a dumb bitch," explaining that he was so angry 'cause he felt she was so wrong...for having her opinion. He also invited her to coffee, presumably to explain to Prejean the error of her ways.
If you want something advocate for it. Make a case. You're either gonna convince the majority and/or the authorities, or you're not.
In the meantime, it's been my experience that the best way to convince someone that your opinion counts more than theirs is not to call them "a dumb bitch." If I ask a stranger if he approves of me being ebony and Mrs. B being ivory and he answers "no," I can't get mad at the answer. I can get angry over my belief that the stranger is closed-minded. But calling him a Nazi or something and berating him for being stupid pretty much guarantees that he will never hear me out and will never give consideration to my opinion.
So let this be a lesson: don't ask questions of strangers if you've already made up your mind what their answer should be.
That's not to say that you can't try to persuade those strangers that you're right and they're wrong. But that's another post on another day. For now, let's turn this "national conversation" into a real multi-directional chat, and not a pout fest.
Oh, and the real dumbest pageant answer ever? A tie between the following:
- Miss Arizona's response Sunday night to being asked if universal healthcare should be a right of citizenship in the U.S. - "I think this is an issue of integrity, regardless of which end of the political spectrum I stand on. I've been raised in a family to know right from wrong, and politics, whether or not you fall in the middle, the left, or the right, it's an issue of integrity - whatever your opinion is. And I say that with the utmost conviction."
- and Miss Teen South Carolina 2007's response to being asked why she thought a fifth of Americans couldn't locate the U.S. on a map - "I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so… because… uh…some … people out there in our nation don’t have maps and…. uh, I believe that our, ah, education like such as… in South Africa, and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like…such as… and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., or should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries… so we will be able to build up our future…for our children.”
BTW, follow me at http://twitter.com/jamesburnett.