Tuesday, November 18, 2008


In the wake of California’s Proposition 8 vote, the rhetoric against its supporters has grown increasingly strident. In the name of freedom of speech, I presume, letters have been published on the page opposite that blatantly accuse those who oppose same-sex marriage of bigotry.

I doubt that messages exhibiting the same degree of animus toward “No on 8” activists would make it to print (nor should they) given the epithets they might contain. On this issue, and many others, tolerance is a one-way street.

No matter who’s tossing around the slurs, such tactics undermine the essential attitude of respectful disagreement that makes democracy possible. It’s one thing to insult marginal groups whose publications make clear their hostility toward Catholics, Jews, and blacks. It’s something else to employ similar terms to describe people whose views are embraced by a large majority of human beings of earth—views that have been accepted for millennia for reasons as obvious as the complementary biological structure of males and females.

If Prop 8 supporters are bigots, then most Americans and most of the people in the world are bigots. Included in this burgeoning sphere of bigotry are major world religions that have long served to undermine ethnic and racial prejudices and to shape the consciences of men like Martin Luther King Jr. and the great anti-slavery advocate William Wilberforce.

Given the scope of this presumed bigotry, it must also be the case that these same-sex marriage advocates are among the few enlightened individuals who’ve ever lived on the face of the earth—persons whose Hollywood-based insights could only be questioned by rubes whose arguments and votes need not be taken seriously.

Indeed, not only can these adversaries be ignored and vilified, they can also be economically decimated. Developer Doug Manchester was targeted by “No on 8” activists prior to the election. Now like-minded forces have assembled “black-lists” of individuals (several from North County) who contributed sums as little as a thousand dollars to the “Yes on 8” cause.

A Hillcrest businessman whose establishment wrongly appears on one list reported a plethora of hate-messages from individuals who confidently ascribe that trait to their opponents.

In Sacramento the artistic director for the California Musical Theater resigned after his support for Prop 8 was disclosed—a grim but unsurprising reminder of what the term “diversity” really means in the arts community.

Since election day the most convenient target for abuse has been the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But given the number of “bigots” available, Mormons seem to be receiving an inordinate share of opprobrium.

African-Americans constitute an as-yet unchastised class of bigots—a group whose support of Prop 8 (70 to 30% in one poll) clearly showed what they thought about the “homosexuality equals race” argument.

It’s time for reasonable “No on 8” supporters to reject the heavy-handed tactics being employed by its frenzied partisans before these zealots start aiming fire at blacks and that 64% class of bigots known as parents with kids.


Anonymous said...

1) Religion has long been used as a defense of racism. You need look no further than slavery in the US and then into Jim Crow. If Christianity has played a large role in Civil Rights, so it did with maintaining slavery. Does that mean slavery and racism is OK?

2) Racism too has a long history. In fact, in many moments in European history (for most modern European history?), racism, to say nothing of sexism/patriarchy, has been very widespread. That it was ubiquitous does not mean it wasn’t/isn’t wrong.

3) Could you clarify for us what is wrong with disseminating lists of donors and boycotting businesses? Isn’t the latter something the religious right, for instance, has done frequently?

RKirk said...

1. The cavalier dismissal of traditional religious beliefs (by linking them with racism and sexism) is typical nowadays--especially on the part of non-religious folks who would be insulted if their non-belief were constantly linked to atrocities committed in the name of atheism (USSR, China).

I am noting for the benefit of those whose automatic and unbalanced word association responses to the word "religion" are "Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, and Salem Witch Trials," that the religious traditions they quickly label as "bigoted" have been the primary historical forces for overcoming racism (which these advocates link to marital discrimination against gays).

By contrast, the ideas these passionate advocates embrace as "self-evidently" true have their genesis in ideas that have arisen in the last few decades and have been promulagated most fervently by those who work in the moral sewer of Hollywood.

It is perhaps too much to expect that in the age of narcissism some degree of respect might be accorded to moral traditions that go back thousands of years--but I wished to provide at least a brief reference to two huge moral advances (among many others) that have recently been accomplished under the auspicies of traditional religion. A "decent respect" for these long-standing traditions and for the generations of individuals that have embraced them might produce among reasonable individuals a degree of reticence when it comes to labelling these people and traditions as bigoted.

2. The protest against racism has roots that go back thousands of years--to the aforementioned religious traditions that are, by many, cavalierly denounced as racist. It would be prudent to ask oneself whether these religious traditions that have long touted the idea of a single "human" race (e.g. that "all are one in Christ," that God recognizes no ethnic or social distinctions between individuals on the hajj to Mecca, that all humans bear the divine image) might also have respectable reasons for approaching questions about marriage and sexuality quite differently than race. If they have long been sources of insight on the question of race, one might grant them a presumption of respectability (even if one disagrees) on questions related to marriage and sexuality.

3. Boycotts are perfectly legal. Extending boycotts to individuals who donate at little as $1000 and combining boycotts with hate messages, however, illustrates the point of my article. No boycotts of this "individualized blacklist" variety were organized by "Yes on 8" forces. And to my knowledge no one was forced out of a job because of his or her political support of "No on 8." Such was the case, however, with the Sacramento arts director who supported Prop 8. If someone did lose a job opposing Prop 8, you can be sure that the ACLU would be all over it.

By contrast, boycotts by organizations that support traditional marriage, inasmuch as they exist at all, are focused on major corporations (McDonald's, Ford, Target). One group whose email occasionally comes my way goes out of its way to compose polite and respectful protest messages--nothing like the hate messages received by the Hillcrest merchant whose establishment was incorrectly put on the "blacklist."