Monday, June 27, 2011

Born This Way?

Two weeks ago I received my first copy of my six-month subscription to Rolling Stone that I paid a dollar for on Amazon. Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga to the lay folk, graced the cover.

This brings up a whole host of issues that I'm not interested in dealing with at this time. I very much dislike Lady Gaga, but it's hard for me to say why. In a nutshell I must say this: I'm not some typical Christian who hates most of what our culture manufactures. I like Ke$hsa, Eminem, Beyonce, Katy Perry to a small extent. But there is just something about L.G. that drives me to crazy town.

Very recently she released her latest album entitled "Born This Way." Now obviously at least some part of that is meant to deal with the Christian-right notion that being gay is a choice. I find the whole choice/genetics debate boring and missing the mark and I'm not interested in talking about it. I don't care if Lady Gaga believes that people are born gay or if they become gay. Repeat: I don't care. I haven't even made my own mind up about it, but I suspect it isn't as simple as a one or the other and that it is a misleading dichotomy—but for the purposes of this blog that's neither here nor there.

So leaving behind the gay debate we consider the phrase: Born This Way. Immediately I hated it and I wasn't sure why. My wife and I discussed it and she was basically cool with it. And I agree with her reasoning: a lot of who we are can be chalked up to the fact that this is simply who we are, who we were born as, and who we were meant to be by that impersonal force or god that created us. Yeah, I'm cool with that—AS FAR AS IT GOES. And to me, it doesn't go that far.

But I was trying to explain that to Jess, and it turned out to be deceptively hard to explain. I kept coming back to the reasoning that it is just too simple to say "Well, I was born this way." It seemed anti-intellectual, that it was too much of a catch-all. But I didn't have a good reason for why it was bad in the face of the fact that it does serve as a decent argument to explain why we are the way that we are.

So I stewed on it, not satisfied with the argument I was pushing—until tonite. Tonite I flipped on the last 15 minutes of Project Glee. I've never seen the show before, but Jess is a fan of Glee, so I thought it made sense to tune in. This girl was singing her heart out, and seemed to be doing a good job. She finished, and at first the judges were complementary. They said good things about her voice and her style, but then one judge told her that she got kind of got cutsie at the end when she really didn't need to, and he told her that she was over-compensating for something.

In that moment it occured to me that she could go with the Lady Gaga defense: "I wasn't compensating for anything, this is who I am—I was born this way."

I had finally put my thumb on the problem: Born this way—as if that's an answer to a question or a problem, is, in the end, an argument against change, against development, against evolution and improvement. Born this way is a ready made, applicable in any scenario excuse to not challenge yourself, to not deal with your strengths and weaknesses honestly, and to not progress and change because you have already been predetermined to be exactly where you are. Imagine the teacher trying to deal with the struggling high school student: "No, I can't do this school thing, I was born this way." Or the cruel, bastard husband to his wife, "What, this is who I am, I was born this way."

There is some truth to the phrase, but it is so woefully devoid of nuance and perspective and ultimately is an incomplete and extremely qualified thought that has no business masquerading as a mantra and complete philosophy.

I mean Mother Monster no ill will and I hope that she and I can still be friends, but dammit, you've got to call a spade a spade.