Saturday, April 4, 2009

Liberty, Equality, Society: The Moral Failure of the Religious Right

The culture wars are raging. That is, of course, no secret to anyone. It is no secret to my tiny handful of readers here that I have tended to avoid the grimy distractions of same in an attempt to write about public policy, both to criticize that with which I find fault and to suggest what I believe wise. Recently, however, I began to just get too pissed to ignore the issue. Proposition 8 may have started the process, though my original reaction to it was disgust with all the allies of civil rights who were turning on each other both during the ballot initiative's campaign and in its aftermath. Fortunately, religious reactionaries have been busily showing me just where I should really be focusing my anger.

I had never read the Anonymous Liberal before today, but to say that I read Ron Chusid's Liberal Values every day might actually be an understatement. Ron wrote a post making reference to the Anonymous Liberal that I noticed because it touched upon a theme which I just wrote about not too long ago.

A conservative blogger, Robert Stacy McCain, made an aggressive attack on fellow conservative (but gay) Andrew Sullivan over Sullivan's very apt comparison of the culture warriors to the Western anti-Semitic movements of recent history. Now, I am no great fan of Sullivan's and I certainly do not agree with the bulk of his political ideology. However, I agree entirely with his thesis that the attitudes expressed by the virulent homophobes of the religious right are not at all Christian in any sense of the word I was ever taught by my MDiv mother. I am also forced to agree with his characterization of the religious right at this point in time. McCain, however, felt very differently:

"This is what is so absurd about Sully likening "homophobia" to anti-Semitism. It is he who has succumbed to the paranoid tendency, suspecting that "homophobes," like the Jews of anti-Semitic imagination, are conspiring to deprive him of happiness. Here he is, a successful and famous journalist, with lucrative book contracts and nearly carte blanche to publish in prestigious publications, yet he sits around fretting and fuming over the pathological suspicion that other people don't like him because he's gay."

I will try not to dally here too long, because I have already slammed McCain over this particular statement. I will simply say that you read that right, the bigot is indeed accusing the object of his bigotry of seeking to repress his rights, as a bigot, out of paranoid prejudice and that this passage cannot be quoted enough on liberal blogs to truly illustrate the mindset we are dealing with. Which brings me to the Anonymous Liberal.

Quoting Rod Dreher,

"This morning, I had breakfast with some guys, including a lawyer. We weren't aware of this decision, but we talked about this issue. The lawyer said that as soon as homosexuality receives constitutionally protected status equivalent to race, then "it will be very hard to be a public Christian." By which he meant to voice support, no matter how muted, for traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality and marriage. To do so would be to set yourself up for hostile work environment challenges, including dismissal from your job, and generally all the legal sanctions that now apply to people who openly express racist views.
That world got a little bit closer this morning. And most people don't even see it."

and then responds, quite aptly in my view,

"Yeah, it's pretty rough being a Christian in America. Maybe Dreher should try being a "public homosexual" for a while and compare the experience. If I had a Quantum Leap machine, I'd be tempted to zap Dreher into the life of a gay high school student or maybe a gay man in a small Southern town and see how easy he finds it to publicly be himself. I wonder if Dreyer has any clue how much harder that would be than anything he's ever had to deal with as a straight white christian male."

There is certainly an element of tit for tat in this response, but the point is valid and very clear: It is ridiculous for the bigot to decry bigotry. Many religious conservatives of the stripe of Dreher and McCain will claim boldly that they are not bigots, that they are defending tradition and morality against a dangerous threat. That is exactly what the anti-Semites McCain rejects as a model, and attempts to ascribe as a model to the gay rights movement, said. The very suggestion that a conspiracy exists to destroy Christian values and suborn the church and its believers to secondary status is straight from The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. The tactics of homophobia are the tactics of anti-Semitism. In fact, the tactics that the religious right uses against the left (and center) wholesale are nearly all the same tactics used by the anti-Semites. Their goal is the same as well, and the same as the goal of the Ku Klux Klan in its intimidation of black Americans in its own heyday: the denial of a full share in civil society to a portion of the population deemed dangerously 'other' from the mainstream by political manipulation and intimidation. Looking at the very tactics used by the bloggers in question, it is impossible to accept the thesis McCain advances: that somehow homophobia is a paranoid fantasy of the gay activist that does not exist outside the mind of the gay American.

This is reprehensible enough. However, this is not enough for McCain. He must respond to the Anonymous Liberal as he attacked Andrew Sullivan:

"What is asserted here is that homosexuals are so inherently weak that they cannot survive mere disapproval of their preferences. Anonymous Liberal has witlessly dispelled all the legalistic nonsense about "equal protection" and confessed the real purpose of the crusade for same-sex marriage, which might fairly be summarized thus:
We will compel you hateful small-town troglodytes to approve of homosexuality, and will punish those who persist in displaying an anti-social attitude of disapproval.

Anonymous Liberal is not only contemptuous of the ability of homosexuals to withstand public disapproval, but seems to assume that opponents of same-sex marriage are either too stupid to see through his charade or too cowardly to denounce it as the dishonest humbug it is. And why should he think otherwise, when so many conservatives have been so silent about liberal humbug for years?

The differences between men and women, according to the egalitarian view, are so trivial that the law must forbid any recognition of such differences, so that the sexes are treated as interchangeable. As I argued in January, it is from a careless acquiescence to this egalitarian falsehood that Americans have been steadily -- one might well say "progressively" -- marched to the point where the Iowa Supreme Court mandates gay marriage and anyone who questions that ruling is dismissed as an ignorant, hateful bigot suffering from the mental disorder of "homophobia."

That's from my column that won't be officially published until Monday, but you can go ahead and read the whole thing now. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm tired of having my intelligence insulted by these arrogant bullies. Therefore, thanks to Rod Dreher for smoking them out of their rathole."

The complete article to which this links entirely undermines McCain's claim that he is somehow not a hateful, ignorant bigot. The irony that he can deny his bigotry while spewing forth more bigotry is really quite amazing. Of course, to those who think as he does, he makes perfect sense. To the majority of Americans, even moderates opposed to full marriage equality but inclined toward civil unions, McCain's diatribe is hateful bigotry. I'm sorry if he doesn't like that, but his words, thoughts, and actions are his responsibility and his choice. He is free to be a bigot if he so wishes, he will never lose that freedom... and we are free to call him a bigot, and think less of him for being one, if we so wish.

That is beauty of a free society.

To the Anonymous Liberal, I offer a strong second.


cognitive dissident said...

You write, “The irony that he can deny his bigotry while spewing forth more bigotry is really quite amazing,” and that is indeed true. It’s just one part of a much larger pattern, though.

The amount of projection—is there a better word for it?—spouted by the conservative punditry over the past few years (everything from Ann Coulter's “Slander” and Bernard Goldberg's “Bias” to David Limbaugh's “Persecution” and Jonah Goldberg's “Liberal Fascism”) astounds me. Their black-is-white/up-is-down way of viewing the world (and their posing as a besieged minority while they controlled most of the government and the media) makes me wonder sometimes if their shtick is some type of elaborate performance art, or a monumental April Fools’ joke.

Do they have an infinite capacity for self-delusion?

Chris Richards said...

I agree entirely. Living in the South, I even have something of an understanding of how this mentality works. And it really isn't something I like understanding. An infinite capacity for self-delusion is definitely part of it, combined with a genuine belief that their way of thinking is 'American' and any other way of thinking is dangerous and alien.

The much larger pattern is something that I normally allow others to address, while I try to focus on economic and policy issues. In this particular instance, I just could not let the comments being made pass without challenge.