Saturday, July 28, 2012

The H8 Lie

I've been quietly disturbed at something I've seen for some time, and it's time to talk about it.  It's the H8 lie.  California's proposition 8 has become emblematic of the Same Sex Marriage, or SSM debate.  Celebrities took pictures with duct tape over their mouths (though nobody was silenced) and "No H8" painted on their faces.  Others commented on how only haters and bigots would vote for such a law.  Smug and self-satisfied in their one-dimensional portrayal of those who oppose SSM, they have blithely ignored the truth.

Opponents of SSM aren't one-dimensional.  If there are some who are bigots or "haters," I have yet to meet them, and I've spoken with many people on both sides of the issue.  When it comes to the large scale, some 70% of black voters in California voted for proposition 8.  Will the Left label all these people bigots with no closer examination of the matter?  How about the majority of voters in the 32 states1 who have put the matter to a vote and voted SSM down?  All haters and bigots?

That's not to say the majority of voters can't be wrong.  In fact, a major reason we have a constitutional republic instead of a democracy is to prevent the tyranny of the majority and preserve minority rights.  Nevertheless, this isn't the world prior to the 1960's.  Bigotry isn't tolerated, let alone popular, anywhere I'm aware of in the U.S.2

For those baffled by what other reasons there might be to oppose SSM, I'll present a few.  David Blankenhorn, a liberal Democrat and president of the New York-based Institute for American Values argued against redefining marriage to protect children.  No doubt under extreme pressure, he's since changed his views, but may opponents of SSM still hold them.  Others have seen what SSM, legalized through court cases, has done in other states, and they don't want to see those changes to society in their own states.  The extremists in support of SSM are not looking for revenge.  They want to use legalized SSM as a legal cudgel against those they see as haters and bigots.  Never mind that if they consider opposing SSM wrong, a second wrong of vindictively doing harm to opponents won't make a right.  Still others oppose a redefinition of marriage, since as reported by the New York Times, SSM appears to be fundamentally different from what most of us consider marriage.  The fact that so called "open marriages" have a distinct designation indicates they're not what most people think of when they think of marriage.  None of these reasons have anything to do with hating gays and lesbians.  In fact, some gay and lesbian couples hold one or more of the above opinions.

Creating a one-dimensional caricature isn't helpful in understanding or changing the minds of one's opposition.  All it does is allow one group to dehumanize another, permitting real, indisputable hatred.  We certainly saw that by those upset by the passage of proposition 8.  We've been seeing it again this past week.

What finally prompted me to take the time to get these thoughts out was a facebook post by a friend.  He approvingly posted this:


For those unfamiliar with the story, the President of Chic-fil-A made a comment on marriage that has been unfairly represented.  Even CNN reported it incorrectly:
“Guilty as charged,” Cathy said when asked about his company’s support of the traditional family unit as opposed to gay marriage.

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,” Cathy is quoted as saying.
I've used strikethrough text on the misrepresentation by CNN.  Actually, in the interview, gay marriage wasn't brought up at all.  It wasn't mentioned, it wasn't discussed and Dan Cathy never said a word for or against or about SSM.  He only said "guilty as charged" to being strongly in support of the traditional family.  More details here.  I can honestly say I like pineapple and think it's the best fruit on earth3 and mean just that, without condemning, denigrating or hating plums.  I have never assumed anyone ardently supporting SSM was opposed to or looked down on traditional marriage based on their advocacy.

Any further reading into Dan Cathy's statements is assumption and editorial, not fact.  

Further, Dan Cathy's statements are far less strong than President Obama's past statements.  In 2008 he stated, ""I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. For me, as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. You know, God's in the mix."  That's not just, "I really support traditional marriage."  President Obama actually defined marriage as one man and one woman.  It hasn't even been three months since President Obama changed his position.     You'd be far more justified in believing President Obama is a hater and a bigot based on his past statements than you would believing it of Dan Cathy based on his.

Are there haters out there?  Sure.  When Don Perry, the vice president of public relations for Chick-fil-A died this week, the supporters of SSM gleefully celebrated.  I won't engage in euphemism here, that's just sick.4  Celebrating a man's death because of the expressed viewpoints of his boss is disgusting and hateful.  For all we knew at the time of his passing, Don Perry was an ardent supporter of SSM.

I'd also consider people who dehumanize their ideological opponents by making them one-dimensional monsters bigots.  I recognize supporters of SSM do so for various reasons.

I personally oppose SSM not because I care who marries whom, nor because I hate anyone, but because I don't think government should be involved in marriage at all.

1  The number of states which have voted on the issue is per a recent NPR report, available here.
2  This excludes bigotry against Christians, which is not only tolerated, but encouraged by much of the Left.
3  Note:  I'm talking fresh, ripe pineapple here.  Try to tell me it's not glorious.
4  Think it was a fluke?  Lefties did the same thing in the wake of the death of Andrew Breitbart, father of 4.  Disagreeing with a person's opinions is one thing.  Glee at his or her passing because you're hateful is another.


Donald Douglas said...

You're very respectful of the other side, a courtesy these freaks won't extend to you.

Andrew said...

Thanks, Donald. I think it's important to be civil even when others aren't. I hope in the end it will help highlight the difference between the two sides of the discussion, but even if it doesn't, I won't descend to their level.

tom said...

Civility needs to be based on real respect, and I get a real sense of the respect you two hold for the freaks with opinions different from your own. But anyway, around here I tend to comment on topics about which I'm genuinely undecided, and this isn't one of those topics (though if state involvement in marriage is what you're really concerned about, many, many more straight couples get marriage licenses than same-sex couples).

What I am interested in here is the idea that bigotry isn't tolerated anywhere(!) in the U.S., except against Christians. Now, if you see the great persecution of Christians all around you, that's a fundamental dispute about reality that we should just let lie. Still, it's odd that you see only anti-Christian bigotry coming from the left. Certainly, there are people who dislike Christians. A Church I attended in Minnesota was once given the gift of a decapitated dog's head from an anonymous donor who left it in front of the door. I don't know if it was from a leftist, but I guess it was from someone who doesn't like Christians much. Still, I'd have a hard time seeing that sort of random harassment as anything like real persecution or evidence of wide-spread bigotry.

But in my experience, if you scratch a conservative, you're quite likely to find something else: anti-Mormon bigotry. While it's true that there aren't many conservatives in academia in general, in my own fields of Classical and Medieval Studies there's a pretty sizable contingent.

One fellow, an extremely conservative evangelical protestant, once displayed a shocking level of self-defeating bigotry when he refused to apply for one of the few open positions in his specialty because it was in Logan, Utah (at a state institution no less! - we're not talking BYU here). We never got along much anyway, so we're not in contact, but last I heard he never landed a real job, which serves him right as far as I'm concerned.

More recently I've found that you can't bring Mitt Romney up around conservatives without immediately hearing something about "magic underwear." Over the past months, I've had three conversations with conservatives (who didn't know that I grew up LDS). Each one, without hesitation or embarrassment, brought up "magic underwear" and lamented that the election comes down to Barack Obama or "magic underwear man" (as one right-winger put it).

So clearly, bigotry is tolerated nowhere in the U.S. You live out west, where there are more Mormons, and probably everyone you know is aware of your background. Apparently you'd be surprised how quickly anti-Mormon bigotry gets thrown around elsewhere, though you shouldn't be.

Andrew said...

Tom, I'm really trying to find a point to your comment. I think you're saying first that I don't respect the opinions of those who disagree with me. I'll certainly use humor and sarcasm as devices when I write, but I'm still civil about it.

As for anti-Mormonism, yes, I've seen Lefty organizations churning out a lot of it. Since they don't do it to Harry Reid, I'm forced to surmise one's faith is only a problem if one is opposing Obama.

Since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church, you'd seem to be backing my point that bigotry against Christianity is tolerated.

As for where I live, I'm not sure that matters, but you do know I lived in New York for 2 years, don't you?

tom said...

Quite right, there was no real point other than that I thought the contrast between "those freaks" and "let's embrace civility" was humorous.

As to bigotry, your initial statement that "Bigotry isn't tolerated, let alone popular, anywhere I'm aware of in the U.S." is, on narrow grounds, defensible. Institutions (government agencies, employers, civic organizations, political organizations, churches, etc.) don't want the bad PR that goes with being associated with racial bigotry, so that indicates that racial bigotry generally is unpopular... or at least not worth the trouble. Still, I think that formulation downplays the significance of racial bigotry in U.S. society so, if that is indeed the spirit of the comment, I nevertheless disagree.

Be that as it may, you followed that up with: "This excludes bigotry against Christians, which is not only tolerated, but encouraged by much of the Left." I have no doubt that there are anti-Christian/anti-Mormon bigots among those left of center. But the thrust of my initial comment was intended to refute that this belongs exclusively to the left, because clearly there is plenty of anti-Mormon bigotry on the right.

I didn't mean this as a "you're rubber, I'm glue" kind of statement. I think the values of (big L) Liberal society are undermined when individuals are reduced to a sexual identity, a particular religious practice, a gender, skin color, etc. It does nobody any favors to deny the existence of bigotry in one sector of society in order to lob bombs at the other.