Even Water Moccasins are Cute When They’re Babies

Even Water Moccasins are Cute When They’re Babies July 8, 2013

Even water moccasins are kind of cute when they’re babies.

Kind of.

However, it doesn’t take too long before they turn into fat, stinky, ugly poisonous death dealers that will come at you over the water like they were on patrol.

If they bite you, I guarantee that it will ruin your day, your week, possibly your life.

But they do look harmless when they’re babies. As, I would imagine, do Black Mambas and Gaboon Vipers.

Everything has its harmless-appearing phase. But some things are snakes right from the beginning, and if you take them in and try to cuddle up with them, it’s a matter of time before they teach you the reality of what they are and the damage they can do.

It’s much the same with blind hatred of groups of people. It can seem kinda cute at the beginning, when comedians and quipsters are making funny comments at their targets’ expense. It can even seem a good thing when social custom and the first few laws start the process of tamping down on what seems to the rest of the world as the excesses of behavior of the group in question.

After all, it’s reasonable. And besides, they’re bringing it on themselves.

But somewhere — and it’s not too far — along the line, the baby snake proves that even when it’s a baby it can kill you. Cuddle a baby rattler, and you’ll find out. It’s much the same with hatred of a group of people. Almost before you know it, you’ve tripped over into the dehumanizing concept of they-bring-it-on-themselves so saying-hateful-things-about-them and limiting-their-freedoms-is-reasonable-and-good.

The first serious victim of the poison of prejudice and discrimination is the purveyor of the prejudice, the practitioner of the discrimination. Once you believe it’s ok to hurt people just because, you’ve successfully chipped a bit of the gold-plate off your own goodness and let the cheap clay that’s inside come through.

You damage your own soul long before you begin to really damage the people you decide it’s ok to attack and hate.

I’ve said this a number of times, but the idea seems to float by some of the readers here without latching on and growing roots. Violent persecution is not the beginning of the process. It is the end result. It begins as the cute little snakey thingy of quips, mockery and derision that make up social practice.

I don’t know if it’s a refusal to see, or the concept really is difficult for some people. But life is not just a frozen section we call right now. It is a continuum. In fact, what we call right now is already past when we say the words.

Little hatreds grow into big prejudices, and big prejudices turn into discriminatory practices and laws, which turn into discrimination, which, over time, becomes persecution that leads to violence and ends, ultimately in genocide.

It really is almost like a row of dominoes falling over.

That’s why I find myself scratching my head and wondering “Are they for real?” every time I read a comment saying that, yes, there may be “some” violent persecution of Christians in “other places,” but in America, there is no such thing.

While it’s true enough that Christians are not jerked from their beds and drug into the streets to be beaten, raped and tortured here in America, it is also true that we are being subjected to overt pressure from our government and from social practice to restrict our beliefs to behind closed doors. It is true that what began just a few years ago as trendy criticism, some of which was even true, has, in some quarters, become nasty, Christian-baiting hatred that seeks to intimidate and isolate Christians.

We are faced with an increasing number of regulations and laws that seek to limit Christians in the free exercise of their Constitutional rights.

This is happening in America and in much of the rest of the Western world.

I am putting a brief video below about a street preacher in Britain who was arrested for saying that homosexuality is a sin. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with what he said or not, the question is, does he have the right to say it?  If the same restrictions had been placed on homosexuals a decade or so ago, they would not have been able to conduct their movement.

I would have been up in arms if anyone had arrested a gay activist for saying any of the many wacky things they’ve said down through the years, including when a queen in full drag sang “Your son will come out tomorrow” outside the National Democratic convention a few years ago. They’ve got a right to do this.

And so, if the West is going to continue to have free speech, does this preacher.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

58 responses to “Even Water Moccasins are Cute When They’re Babies”

  1. No freedom is absolute. The question for free speech is where to draw the line. In the US, yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater, when there is no fire, is not allowed. However, we do allow speech which denigrates other persons or groups, so long as it doesn’t foment violence towards them. There have been many federal court rulings supporting this.

    In the UK, Canada, and many European countries, the concept of “hate speech” is viewed more broadly. From this American’s point of view, that is a mistaken curb on individual liberty. But I don’t doubt that most citizens of those other countries disagree.

  2. IMO, the police did their job, and responded to a complaint. Before I watched & listened to the video, I thought that he was probably arrested on a “hate charge”. He was released—and no charges brought. England has different laws in some cases than we do, as well as cameras everywhere, as most folks know. I suspect if that fellow had been in any of our big cities (not so sure of some small ones) he would have been ignored. Last time I was in England (2006) the guide we had mentioned that a person can be arrested for carrying only a cricket bat, as it can be used as a weapon. If,however, you have the ball with it, it’s OK. That means you were probably headed to play a game or were coming back from one. Certain knives cannot be carried—and I’m sure guns are restricted more so than they are here. That’s England for you. As for here and the thoughts that Christianity is being attacked—-and my thoughts will be no surprise to you, I’m sure, Rebecca, but if one is attending a public meeting—why should a prayer invoking God be said? Pretty good chance that not everyone in that room is a Christian, or perhaps doesn’t even follow a faith. It doesn’t bother me to listen, but some are offended, as they don’t find it necessary to invoke a Deity before a public meeting. I think it is assumed in this country that everyone is, if not a Christian, belongs to a faith that does believe in a higher power—which isn’t true—one of the many wonderful freedoms in this country. We do not a government that forces us to be of a certain faith or belief, unlike many other countries. Having said that, our money leads folks to believe we are a nation united under a Deity, with the slogan on it, and having added, in the 1950’s, “under God” to our Pledge.

  3. While some of the comments here give me nightmares, I never expected you would write something that would. There is nothing cute about snakes!

    I see changes not persecution. The internet has made it so bad behavior by Christians isn’t forgotten or ignored. For Catholics, the priest scandal ruined a lot of credibility that the Church had. People whose faith isn’t important or isn’t in the forefront of their lives are less willing to go along with faith in the public square because of the bad behavior and scandals involving Christians.

    Some Christians say that the HHS Mandate is persecution. However, judging by what Catholics say and surveys, Catholics are using birth control. It’s hard to call it persecution when there are contradictions like this.

  4. Speaking as a native European, Dale, keep your ideas of what we think to yourself. Restrictions on free speech are widely resented, and episodes such as the above convince the majority of us that the police have too much power and don’t spend enough time doing the job they should.

  5. “But some might have been offended”
    Tell me, just how often do people have to be informed THAT THE RIGHT NOT TO BE OFFENDED DOES NOT EXIST, before you get it? Inspect the Declaration. Inspect the Bill of Rights. Inspect the Declaration of Rights of Men and Citizens (France). Inspect the European convention on Human Rights. You will not find it. So stop talking as thought someone’s subjective sense of irritation should act as an objective stop to free speech. Rebecca objects to speech that aggressively demeans specific groups; I am not entirely sure I would go even so far (you could condemn Chesterton from that criterion), but it is a sensible and clearly defined concept. Offence? Suppose I decided to find it offensive if you told me that cabbage is good for people?

  6. Sus, I can’t stand snakes either. I was actually trying to make a point, which I guess failed.

    The HHS Mandate is a direct violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. It interferes with the free exercise of religion. The issue has nothing to do with whether or not some Catholics use birth control. It’s about the government overstepping into the freedom of religious practice of American citizens. I may not want to want to fast on Fridays during Lent. But that does not give the government a free pass to fine and punish those who do want to fast on Fridays during Lent.

    However, I do not think the HHS Mandate is an example of religious persecution. I DO think it is an example of government violation of the free exercise of religion, which is an advance in the continuous attack on this right in many areas of our society.

    What the bishops are saying is that the HHS Mandate violates freedom of religion. Which it does.

    These “changes” you see are in fact an aggressive attack on the freedom of speech and expression by religious people. If you only decide that freedom matters when these limits finally take away something that hits you personally, there will be nothing left to defend.

  7. Let’s get back on the video. The officer said he was arresting the preacher because some people would be offended by what he said. Why do you think arresting someone for that is the police doing their job?

  8. I think a person standing is a public area with a miniamplifier disparaging people’s sexuality is a public nuisance and should be treated as such. I don’t care what his religious beliefs are. He should live by them himself and stop harassing those who don’t share his beliefs.

  9. I consider saying anything about homosexuality being sinful, about homosexuals going to hell, etc. to be a hate crime when it is proclaimed in the public square. Let them say it in their own churches so as to grant them their First Amendment rights.

  10. Before putting this guy down for possible sainthood as a martyr, we ought to look a bit closer at the facts in the case. The preacher, Tony Miano, wasn’t exercising his First Amendment rights as an American. He went there to try to provoke an incident which would feed this spun meta-narrative of widespread persecution of Christians in the West.

    His tactic worked, largely due to police confusion over a very confusing law. He was released without charges, and the government has since moved to amend the law which made “insulting” an arrestable offence. Free speech in “the West” is not some legal monolith. The United Kingdom does not have free speech codified into anything like a First Amendment.

    This incident falls far short of demonstrating any substantive systematic persecution of Christians in the West. I think Syrian and Egyptian Christians would have something to say about your yardstick for real persecution.

  11. These three comments help make my point.

    As I said, these things are on a continuum, and we are at the point on that continuum where GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS go into court (not just in this country, but in Europe, as well) and argue that the free exercise of religion does not apply outside the confines of the institutional church.

    Also, there are groups of people who are very vocal and have captured the public imagination who maintain quite seriously that if something offends them, then the free speech of the individual who said it should be curtailed. This happens, at least on this blog, mostly with homosexual people and atheists, who, ironically, have availed themselves of freedom of speech rather consistently.

    They consistently come on here every single time I write about another of these incidents (and there are a lot of them out there) and claim, essentially, that freedom of speech does not apply to Christians because they do not like Christian teaching. It is a bald-faced claim that freedom of speech should not be allowed for those who they disagree with.

    The irony is that these same people are arguing vociferously that the free speech of Christians in public places and public places should be curtailed or even terminated because they are offended by what the Christians say.

    This particular incident was police harassment and intimidation. Since he was released, it was not official police harassment, but what sounds like a rogue cop. I have no way of knowing the motives of the man who was arrested. I have read that Britain has a rather vigorous freedom of public speech and speechifying. I know very little about their laws, but this man’s actions would seem to fall within that policy. I think he was released because the police officer violated the law. I am glad to hear that Britain has broadened their laws in this regard.

    However, it does not change the fact that this incident could not have happened in the social climate of a few decades ago, which is the point I’m trying to make. We are moving on a continuum toward greater acceptance of harassment of Christians.

    If it was a single incident of attempting to stop a single Christian from exercising their free speech, I would not have bothered to put it here. I would have just chalked it up to a local British Barney Fife.

    It is not. What raises it to a higher level is that it falls within a larger picture of harassment and attacks on the free speech and free exercise of religion by Christians. It has largely come from non-governmental authorities until very recently. Now, it has moved into quasi governmental areas such as public universities. Again, one snowflake of harassment does not a snowstorm make. But when it happens over and over in many different places, it means something.

    What we see is that those who want to support this insist on arguing each case individually and ignoring the many others. One point or dot, is just one point or dot. It leads nowhere. Many points or dots form a line.

    That is what these incidents are doing. They are lining up and pointing in a very ugly direction.

    I find it incredible that there are so many commenters on this blog who are ok with that. It indicates how far down the road to acceptance of abridging Christians’ rights as citizens (which is discrimination, btw) we have come.

    To compare this with the overt violent persecution of Christians in other parts of the world and say that because it isn’t as bad as that, then it’s ok, is so intellectually flabby that it shouldn’t need answering. The fact that so many people are buying this facile reasoning also indicates how far we’ve gone down the continuum of christian bashing in the West.

  12. Ah….gotta love the semantics….now preaching Christian sexual morality is classed as “provoking an incident.” How narcissistic!

  13. I remember those prayers in public school too—Lord’s Prayer was the favorite. I didn’t understand then that everyone in my class may not have had the same beliefs that I did (at that time).

  14. If Christianity is, in your opinion, now unconstitutional, where does one put all the other faiths practiced in this country? (the USA)

  15. Trying not to be picky here—listening again to the video, I think the fellow said one woman(?) complained. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been arrested, perhaps just warned and sent on his way, but the officer obviously thought arresting him was the right move at that time. To me it was more important that the fellow was released with no charges. Also perhaps he should have been glad he wasn’t in an Islamic country—he would probably be dead!

  16. Fabio, a question—do public meetings in England (where you live) start with a prayer? Do public meetings in Italy start with a prayer? I’m curious.

  17. Perhaps he should have gone to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. From what I have read, there is much tolerance for what is said, UNLESS there is a complaint about it—–Next time, he can try that spot instead of whatever place he chose the last time.

  18. Why should he have been “warned and sent on his way?” If we need to be warned and sent on our way everytime someone complains to a cop, then none of us are free at all. Think about what you are saying pagansister.

  19. “There is much tolerance for what is said, UNLESS there is a complaint about it…”

    Can you clarify what you are saying here? It sounds nonsensical on the face of it. Tolerance unless there is a complaint sounds like no tolerance at all to me.

  20. Wouldn’t that have been preferable to being arrested, Rebecca? As for being warned and sent on our way every time someone complains to a police officer? Depends on what the complaint is about.

  21. I don’t see that he should have been “warned and sent on his way” OR arrested. Just let him speak his mind.

  22. “If you can silence us, then we may someday silence you”

    ‘May’? Arresting gays for being gay is a matter of recent history. The persecution of Christians by the occasional rogue cop is nothing compared to what gays have actively experienced. Cf. Alan Turing, war hero forced onto hormones by his own country.

  23. According to what I read, the police are very tolerant but the speakers are not immune from the law. I would assume some topics such as promoting the violent overthrow of the government etc. might not be considered a good topic. 🙂 Apparently profanity isn’t allowed or if indeed someone complains, the speaker can be stopped. This info from Wikipedia.

  24. OOOOK—-IOW if a faith doesn’t reject homosexuals who wish to not remain celibate, then they too are unconstitutional?

  25. In Italy, I don’t believe so, but most public halls and courts have a Crucifix displayed. In England, where Christianity is more or less driven underground (I will never forget a friend of mine, without a doubt the bravest woman I ever met, actually looking over her shoulder before she told me that she too was a Christian – and this was in 1988), certain groups, beginning with Parliament, have traditional times for prayers, but that is purely a part of that cultivation of fossils that does so much to hide the essential nihilism of British power structures.

  26. It’s about free speech in the public square. But that has been dead in Britain for some time.

  27. If you want to make a fool of yourself, go to Speaker’s Corner. And in case you hadn’t noticed it is one place – frequented mostly by tourists – in a country of sixty million people. The notion that there is anything especially meritorious in reserving one tiny tourist spot for kooks and aliens, while the rest of the country rations freedom of speech, does not strike me as greatly liberal.

  28. Why? To show that atheists are the superior class and everyone else must adapt to them? Let us get two points clear. First, atheism is a religion, same as every other set of views about the nature of existence. If you have a view about the nature of existence, you have a religion; and it so happens that anyone who is not a total mental wreck has one. Second, neutrality in this matter is not an option. Since everyone has a view of the nature of existence, to silence one or more under the guise of their being “religion” is, aside from an abuse of language, and aside from an act of tyranny, to privilege the religion left unsilenced. You want your state schools to teach and propagate atheism. If you did not, you would not forbid prayer there.

  29. “I have certainly read gay rights advocates question whether the First Amendment should be applied to same-sex issues, but that’s a sword that cuts both ways. If you can silence us, then we may someday silence you.”

    People abusing the First Amendment with hate speech should forfeit those rights. Provocative language aimed at gays easily qualifies as hate speech and should not be tolerated. This is regardless of whether it comes from the Bible, the Koran, the Catechism or any other religious source.

  30. Also, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_v._Texas
    arrests for gay sex in 1986 and 1998 at least. And not for being in a public place, but for a cop seeing them in their bedrooms. Rare, but happened. The big change was probably after the Stonewall Riots in 1969; before then raids and entrapment were common, per the other link.

    ‘I can look on the sex offender registry and find more men who abused
    boys in two or three zip codes. Now, you are already preparing the
    laughable claim that these men aren’t “really” gay.’

    No, I’d say that your statistic is completely irrelevant.

  31. Prayer by students is not prohibited. What is prohibited is teachers leading students in prayer, in their role as authority figures. It’s secularism, not atheism.

  32. It has nothing to do with atheism. My children get their religious education through the Catholic Church and at home. I don’t want a teacher teaching their interpretation. There are too many differences in the main religions as it is. The public schools have enough trouble getting the basics of reading and math through to the kids. Religion has no place in a public school.

    A moment of silence allows the kid to pray as they have been taught at home.

  33. Perhaps I haven’t made myself clear. If the teacher is a member of the species homo sapiens, having no religion is not an option. The only option is which one you will have and – inevitably – convey.

  34. It’s not the government’s job to provide religious education. People are free to send their kids to religious schools if that’s what they want for their children.

  35. So you will have them taught no religion at all rather than have it taught badly. First, this shows a very poor confidence in your ability to convey your own faith. Second, it is the same as demanding that they be taught grammar or maths or other equally essential subjects excellently or not at all. Third, Nature abhors a vacuum. Since religion is basically one’s view of the nature of reality, it affects everything we say and do. Your teacher will NOT fail to teach, by implication, “A” religion; it will be there in the history and in the science, on the sports field and in class activities. And guess what? If you refuse to let the school teach your religion, they will be teaching someone else’s.

  36. My kids are Catholic. They get plenty of religious education outside of school.

    Are you saying that teachers in a public school should teach whatever religion they belong to? Our high school has Christian, Jewish and Muslim teachers. Maybe in the middle of math class the students can pull out rugs and pray with Muslim teacher. There’s a branch of Baptists that do something with snakes. Would that be appropriate in math class?

    Who decides what is okay?

    For kids whose parents don’t provide religious education and training, there’s a prayer group that meets before and after school. That’s all the public school should do beyond having moments of silence.

  37. Hasn’t it been there since the late 1800’s Fabio? Was it a tourist attraction then?

  38. Thanks for answering my questions, Fabio. Having never attended public meetings in those 2 countries, I was wondering.

  39. I want the public schools to have nothing to do with attempting the teaching of any faith—not their job. If parents want their children brought up in a faith/religion, then IMO it is their job to attend to that by taking them to the church/mosque/temple etc. and continuing the teaching/example of that faith at home. In some cases, the kids attend schools that are run by that faith—Catholic, Christian, Jewish or those of other faiths.

  40. I don’t condone the use of hate speech. If a pro-LGBT person goes out on the street and starts preaching about how religious people are evil and that they should all die or something to that effect, I would condemn that person as well.

    Hate speech in private, I feel, should be a protected right, but not hate speech in public, where you’re forcing others to have to listen to you.

  41. You don’t get it. And that is because your categories are inadequate. Let’s see if I can say it clearly enough so that at least I will get an answer to what I say rather than a restatement of your personal tastes for the umpteenth time.

    Point one: Religion is the understanding of existence, the philosophy of existence. Everything normative about it comes FROM one’s fundamental views about existence.

    Point two: everyone has a religion. An atheist has a view of existence that is materialistic and monistic, but that is no less an overall view of existence than that of any theist or pantheist or dualist, and that does just as much to inform all his/her views and actions.

    Point three: that being the case, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS NOT TEACHING RELIGION. Your basic views comes out in everything you say and do; not even only in politics or aesthetics, but in every choice you make however minor.

    Point four: if you forbid the teaching of the majority religion in a school, you will not have an unreligious teaching, since that is absurd: you will have the teaching, implicit or explicit, of some other religion.

  42. Where I come from, religious schools are independent and therefore fee-paying. In Italy, to forbid at least some religious education would be to close off that particular teaching to the poorer classes. And I think that is apt to be the case pretty much everywhere, because one way or another it will be more difficult and demanding to find a specifically and openly Christian education if the public schools don’t offer at least some.

  43. In my opinion as a resident of the city of London and well acquainted with what OUGHT to be the law of Britain, the police VIOLATED their duty at every level. But we are used to such gross illegality from the Met. When people in London are robbed, they don’t bother reporting it, because the cops are no longer trusted. Just one of a dozen of links I could give; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2357977/A-vicious-crime-boss-corrupt-police-cronies-scandal-buried-ever.html

  44. Spoken like a true candidate for the secret police. You’ve got a brilliant career ahead of you, laddie.

  45. “The HHS Mandate is a direct violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. It interferes with the free exercise of religion.”

    That is an opinion that has not yet been accepted at face value. It is working its way through the lower courts and has been successfully argued to obtain injunctive relief but no settlements one way or the other. Whether you are right or wrong may eventually be decided by the Supreme Court. They have the final say.

  46. I’m not interested in a career with the secret police. What I am arguing is that we don’t need people preaching about sexual morality in public places. There is no need to offend gays by forcing your religion on them.

  47. Unfortunately I’m not surprised as there are cities, towns, and Federal agencies that have similar problems in this country. (and I”m sure you are aware of that, as you seem to know a lot about this country and it’s inner workings). Thanks for the link.

  48. With your definition of “religion” then perhaps everyone does have one–even if they claim they don’t. I’m not sure everyone has the same viewpoint that you do. I tend to agree with you that it is inevitable that a person’s viewpoint(s) are obvious (usually) with the things they say. With your viewpoint, yes, it seems that somewhere along the line, children in public schools get “religion” in their daily exposure to their teacher(s). My point is that a teacher(s) should not be teaching her/his faith on purpose—ie attempting to convert them if you will. Catholic schools, Christian schools, Jewish schools etc. as well as the home are the places for purposeful teaching of an established faith.

  49. Where did you discover the right not to be offended? I know that it’s not in the Declaration of Independence, not in the US Bill of Rights, not in the French Declaration of the Rights of Men and Citizens, not in the European Convention on Human Rights, not in my country’s constitution…. And there is a reason. I find you VERY offensive. If there was a right not to be offended, you’d have been silenced long since. So I suggest you never use that contemptible and cowardly notion that “there is no need to offend” people. It is one of the most offensive things I ever heard.

  50. “A teacher should not be teaching her/his faith on purpose”. Why in the name of everything that’s unholy NOT? If I regard certain ideas as true and certain values as the best I know, what kind of a favour do I do the children if I am silent or worse about them? Is that not the same as demanding hypocrisy and mealy-mouthedness from teachers? and what good is it going to do a future generation? And why not, may I ask? A teacher does not shape a pupil in his/her image; at the most, s/he gives a contribution. I have had teachers who were Catholic, atheist, Communist, Anglican and God knows what; in one memorable occasion, two of the best teachers I ever had, people both of whom I valued immensely (Prof. Richard Gombrich of Oxford and Prof. Alexander Piatigorsky of SOAS,, univ. of London), practically fell out during a seminar in the presence of dozens of colleagues, and it fell to me and a couple of other people to speak a few words to smooth the waters. THE BEST THING A TEACHER CAN DO FOR A STUDENT IS TO TEACH HIM OR HER THE BEST THINGS S/HE KNOWS. Period. CS Lewis’ favourite teacher was an atheist. (And Lewis, in turn, was Kenneth Tynan’s – look him up.) Cardinal Newman’s was a Calvinist, Solzhenitsin was brought up in Communist orthodoxy. No intelligent child imitates a teacher all their lives long; but if they have got a habit of lively inquiry, love for the subject, and mental honesty,they will keep a love for their master even as they find reason to contradict him.

  51. One doesn’t have to put a name—ie Protestant, Catholic,Jewish etc. to the things they are teaching—what they are teaching will be picked up by the students but not necessarily as a faith or religion (using my definition of religion, not yours). They will most certainly learn different opinions and outlooks from a teacher, as they should.

  52. So why forbid the teacher from teaching the thing that lies at the core of everything?

  53. I didn’t see this question until now.

    The answer is, I don’t know whether it was anything more than a tourist attraction, but I don’t remember any historical meeting or speech associated with it. I might be wrong, of course. But as for what it is now, I know it quite well, because it is very close to the stop for the Oxford coach (what you would call a Greyhound, I think) which I took regularly for decades; and I don’t remember a single time when a speaker there drew any more than one or two curious people and some tourists with cameras. Most of the time the place is deserted and unused.