Friday, September 12, 2008

The Politics of Gay Indignation

The, the premier national gay and lesbian news magazine, hosted a lead article by Kerry Eleveld entitled "McCain's" Top Strategist Addresses Log Cabin Republicans," that has stimulated over forty comments. I take note that not one makes any reasoned arguments for its opposition to McCain-Palin. Together, these comments merely make stereotypical assumptions and call names.

I think the gays writing these comments make the error of misunderstanding opposition to "gay rights." If one is a Christian, it is simply difficult, if not impossible, to accept the notion that homosexuals and their sexual expression can be embraced as normal or life-affirming.

As a gay man I can argue all I want to, and disparage all Christians as well as the views of traditional relgious people, but beyond making myself feel self-righteously justified and morally superior, what is the point?

I have wallowed myself in a certain amount of intellectual and moral indignation over the religious influence in the Republican Party. It feels good to protest what one conceives as the moral imbecility of religious people, but the expression of such feeling smacks of personal indulgence, and quite frankly, gays need less drama and more hardheadedness in their politics. Indignation doesn't work.

Hostility to homosexuality is found in both parties, for it is a cultural expression of Judeo-Christian teachings. The best way to promote change is to get off our high-horses and our easy moral indignation and actually work within the parties on those issues, such as economics, foreign policy, etc., where we have opportunity to exert some measure of influence with those who may oppose "gay rights."

As a libertarian, I will be voting for McCain-Palin, first because I believe in limited government, reduced taxation, greater general liberty for people, and second, because Obama does NOT favor "gay rights" either--specifically gay marriage. Neither does McCain, Hillary or Bill, although McCain and Obama both say they support other reforms that advance equal rights before the law.

Notwithstanding, you can be sure that there will never be pro-gay rights legislation until the members of Congress can be elected who favor such legislation, and that will not happen until ordinary religiously-oriented Americans FEEL comfortable around gays and realize that recognizing gay rights does not diminish the rights of other people. How else do we raise this comfort level if we refuse to make coalitions on other issues with which we may agree?

If gays wish to have their rights and interests acknowledged, respected, and supported politically, they simply must begin to advance the case for gay rights on the basis of reason and fundamental fairness. Straight people must come to the realization that gays are, in all respects other than sexual orientation, exactly like themselves, with the same concerns about national defense, taxation, energy policy and every other public issue other than such gay "hot-button" causes as marriage.

It is not likely gay marriage will be accepted by religious Americans as normal or acceptable, at least within the lifetimes of those reading this post. However, progress can be made on other issues, such as employment discrimination, in which straight Americans have had some personal experience and may therefore have the capacity to understand the concerns of gay Americans in not having their livelihoods arbitrarily taken from them.

I suggest there are a number of issues in which gays might ally with members of either of the major parties. Permitting gays in the military does not pose the threat to religious Americans that gay marriage does. The insipidity of cashiering gay linguists in the military, for example, might very well be an issue gays can urge with success upon a new administration, whether Republican or Democratic. But if members or major coalitions in either party feel insulted by self-righteous gays, why would such members offer their support to gays on such issues?

Outlawing anti-gay employment discrimination can be advanced on the principle of equality of rights before the law. At the very least, this is an issue in which no obvious objection can be advanced on religious grounds, as there is with marriage.

So long as the very definition of marriage remains a culturally disputed notion, gays will lose, and even their "victories" will become Pyrrhic, as the opposition uses such apparent advances to prey upon the ordinary fears of Americans.

Americans want to have their voices heard on the issue of marriage rather than have basic changes forced upon them through the actions of the courts. So long as such basic change comes "top-down" upon the people, Americans will be vulnerable to those religious folks who do bear a grudge against gays. But not all religious folks agree with the Don Wildmons and the Fred Phelps of this world and gays only hurt their prospects by talking and acting as if they do.

I have always argued that the subject of gay marriage was the worst possible linchpin for a political strategy to advance the equal rights of gay Americans. The reason is simple. When has any group been successful in advancing its cause politically by attacking one of the opposition's central tenets of belief?

Satan doesn't attack Christianity by attacking a belief in the existence of God. Rather he undermines the world view by attacking its vulnerabilities, at the margins. He works his will with subtlety. To fundamentalist Christians, gays are in league with Satan to destroy civilization as we know it. We can deny we are in league with the devil all we want to. Instead of fighting Christian paranoid fantasies, why not use them to our benefit? At minimum, this means we don't stand the on the rooftops shouting down Christians as idiotic moral cretins, which many gays do, if the comments section referenced at the beginning of this post are an indication.

To put this insight into another context, why do you suppose Christians still bristle when philosophers and scientists put forth Darwinian evolution as an explanation for the origin of species? They do because evolution substitutes a mechanical principle for the action of a divine creator, leaving the Creator with nothing much to do. In short, evolution trivializes God and makes the entire religious enterprise seem merely jejune, nothing more than bedtime stories and intellectual comfort food for people too weak-minded to accept the harsh facts of scientific realism.

These are just the facts of the case. Let's discuss strategies for reaching our goals as gays rather than attack people whose support we will ultimately need to pass any meaningful legislation.

Tom Anderson
September 2008

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