Lately, there’s been a lot of press about potential employers demanding Facebook passwords from job applicants. That, of course, is foul, freedom-foiling flimflam suggesting that somebody’s off-hours, filled with personal opinions, photos and occasionally salty lingo, is within the same realm of scrutiny as their salaried, nine-to-five occupation. Hence, it’s a trending trousseau of troubles that we must take arms against.
Dan Tudor may be the poster-child for the reasons why.
According to his bio, Dan Tudor, a winemaker from Santa Barbara, considers his own accomplishments to be ‘impressive’ and so they are. His pinot noirs have scored consistently in the 90 + point range, and in between impressing himself, he’s worked diligently and successfully to maximize the potential of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. His wines are really that good.
And there’s the rub. Suppose you were scrolling through the Facebook posts of a winemaker/wine hawker ‘friend’ (someone who had either requested or allowed you to status-surf; I can’t remember which) and tripped over statements made by said individual—not one, but many—that you found to be inconceivably offensive. Would you recommend his wine? Pick one up at the neighborhood Bottle ‘N’ Basket?
Let me rephrase: Would you, as an equal-opportunity crusader, buy a product from man who was unabashedly anti-woman? Or, say you’re a Caucasian fan of MLK Jr. and Civil Rights: Would you shop at a store that proudly discriminated against black people? What about one whose owner suddenly started posting blatant, anti-gay social media messages? Would you continue to rave about his/her wares, no matter how good they were?
Perhaps this is viewed as a loaded and complicated question bound with strings of context. Fair enough. Not by me, though.
I would not.
Now, I’m sure that Dan Tudor is none of the above nasties—at least, he’s never posted anything to suggest it. But when he loosed a series of Easter Week comments referring to folks who identify with a specific religious denomination (83% of Americans, according to Wiki) as ‘dangerous’, ‘scary’, and ‘willfully ignorant’ simply because he disagrees with their world-view, he crossed the line (for me) from being a private dude airing dirty mental laundry to being the public face of a hitherto (again, for me) well-respected business concern.
In fairness, at least Tudor is non-denominational in his approach to mocking folks who go to Mass, hold Seders or bow to Mecca: He’s equal-opportunity, unabashedly labeling anyone who believes in God ‘pathetic’ and the quest for holiness as ‘crap’.
Over and over and over again.
Now, lest you misinterpret, I’ll establish here, beyond question, that I’ve had no official affiliation with any church, mosque, temple, synagogue or Satanic cult since I was a teenager. In fact, I’m an immutable atheist—neither proud nor ashamed of the fact, just honest with myself and the way I’ve come to understand the universe. That said, I maintain great respect for anyone—strangers, casual acquaintances, old people and young people and especially, family members (including my uncle—a parish priest in Switzerland) who have cultivated their faith like a Kinabalu orchid, and who, as adults, are still able to bask in the glow of the profound mysteries that have sustained them since childhood.
Combined, my father (who taught at St. Cyril and Methodius Seminary for thirty years) and my uncle have published more than twenty scholarly and well-received books, many with religious themes. The idea that some grape-grinder in California is nonchalant about referring to them as pathetic and willfully ignorant is really sort of unacceptable.
In fact, for my part, I’m jealous of them—I’d love to have their foundation of spiritual conviction and a stronger grasp of eternal hope.
I just don’t.
But in the long run, it’s no matter. What I drew (and continue to draw) from parochial school and the steady input of Catholic rhetoric snaking through my upbringing has nothing to do with Holy Trinities, bodies of Christ, omnipotent overseers, be-absolved-or-burn-forever dogma or a need to slaughter Muslims and reclaim the Holy Land—none of which I swallow. But this: Respect your parents, don’t kill, steal, bullshit your way through the important stuff or screw around on your wife—remains golden.
Be good people, people. How pathetic, scary and willfully ignorant is that?
As grownups, we can discuss slavery, Wounded Knee, Mai Lai, Guantanamo Bay and Mississippi fire hoses in 1963 without winding up bitter, petulant, insulting and anti-American, can’t we? When you look at Sicily’s soaring Mt. Etna, do you see it through Mafia-colored sunglasses? Likewise, the evil Crusades, the shameful clerical sex scandals, the political machinations seeking to control birth-control, even 9/11 Islamist loony-tunes fanaticism all seem to come down to a basic question:
Are you or are you not able to abhor the innocent blood that religions have shed over the centuries and still cling dearly to your faith? After reading about suicide bombers in Kandahar and innocent black boys being shot to death in Florida, are you still able to love your neighbor as yourself?
That’s down to you, but my assumption is that most people can do it, because most people do.
Tudor vociferously maintains that no systematic moral direction is required for human beings; that morality is hard-wired into our DNA. That makes Idi Amin, Bernie Madoff, Pol Pot, Josef Mengele and John Wayne Gacy—I know, Gacy came from Christian parents, but regardless, where were his cerebral circuits, Danny Boy?—a bit hard to decipher.
More likely, the school of thought that keeps the vast majority of humans on paths of straight and narrow is a core certainty that there are bigger purposes, bigger themes, bigger enigmas and greater rewards than are dreamed of in Dan Tudor’s lonely philosophy.
Even as an atheist I find I can genuflect at Hagia Sophia’s altar, marvel at the sacred K’abba, bow my head before the Wailing Wall and hold the hands of monks inside the Towers of Hanoi.
Likewise, can I respect Dan Tudor’s right to have anti-religion-follower opinions and admire his skill in producing extraordinary wines.
I just don’t have to buy either one.