The post-election Democratic flurry of blame assignment has concentrated on today's most convenient minority group, the gay-lesbian community. The consensus is that they went "too far, too fast, too soon." A number of pundits have also suggested that gay activists were wrong to call opponents of gay marriage "homophobic." Spokespersons for some of the most vitriolic opponents of same-sex marriage are now calling for "alternatives" and "common ground."
I miss Phil Ochs more each day:
In every political community there are varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals: An outspoken group on many subjects. Ten degrees to the left of center in good times: Ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally. Here then is a lesson in safe logic.That surely applies to the Democrats who backed Kerry's non-stance on the principal civil liberties issue of our day and then blamed the people Kerry didn't support for his defeat. If you're a conservative, don't preen yet, for it applies just as well to those who told themselves they were "defending marriage" by voting to keep life partners out of each others' arms when one of them is dying,
Gee, where have I heard "too far, too fast, too soon" before? I think I hear an echo from my adolescence, when the same sort of liberal applied exactly the same safe logic to racial desegregation. Seeing the phenomenon twice in a lifetime reminds me that advances in human freedom never happen on a convenient timetable. Nor do they happen by the will of the majority. Instead, the majority must be dragged to the point of accepting the inevitable, rather like dragging a large dog to the vet for shots.
"Homophobic" is a slur? Funny, it's in this list of phobias. As someone who has spent a good deal of adulthood working beyond homophobia, I recognise it when I see it. From the start of this debate, I've been waiting for one — just one — person to offer a rational explanation of why the marriage of my friends Elaine and Margie threatens my 30-plus year marriage, or anyone's, or the fabric of society. Wherever it has taken place, the world hasn't ended. No institutions have been overthrown, except another blind prejudice.
No one whines louder about the injustice of name-calling than a supporter of a majority culture who suddenly finds out a minority group is calling them names. I remember the uproar when white America discovered the expression "honky." The premise seems to be that it is OK, or at least understandable, for the majority culture to speak of (to name a few) niggers, greasers, fags, dykes and pervs. It is an intolerable outrage against decency for the minority people to speak of honkies, anglos, straights, breeders, and vanillas. The majority culture can actively harm the minority culture with its labels and their enforcement. The latter can only use labels as a defensive subcultural code, since they have no real power to harm the people who make the rules. That strikes me as a huge difference in application, if not in intent.
Let's be honest. This is about fear, as is the greater part of the reactionary agenda world-wide, as has been every period of reaction in history. One of the specifics is fear of this great unknown, homosexuals and their orientation. One can't dodge reality by complaining that gay rights activists use an all-too-precise term.
If you still object to "homophobia," my list contains two other possibilities :
The fear of change
Fear of making changes
This source calls phobias a " persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear ... despite the understanding by the phobic individual and reassurance by others that there is no danger. " Phobia strikes me as a perfectly sound description of what the broadcast media call backlash.
It's clear that people who stampeded out against gay civil rights were having some reservations even as they voted. Perhaps they looked to their right and realised they were keeping company with some very troubled people. A look to their left, at least for those who actually know gay and lesbian people, may have brought up the disturbing idea that "they" are just like "us." A moment of reflection might have led to the more unsettling thought that "they" and "we" have more in common than "we" have with extremists whose homophobia is beyond all doubt.
Well, now it's too late to reflect. I don't think I'm the only person who doesn't buy the blame-the-victim riff, and who feels scant sympathy for those who deluded themselves that they were only "defending marriage" and can present "alternatives." The stampeding backlashers brought extraordinarily severe amendments into several states, far in excess of anything warranted even by reasonable concern.
I think [Robert E.] Lee should have been hanged. It was all the worse that he was a good man, had a good character, and acted conscientiously. It's always the good men who do the most harm.
My wife had an aunt and uncle, brother and sister. They were devout Catholics who lived together all their lives (both lived past 95) and held a good deal of property in common that passed to the surviving aunt when the uncle died. In at least four of the 11 states, the amendments just passed would make those arrangements illegal.
If we took literally the arguments in "defense of marriage," my wife's late relations should have been prosecuted for failing to marry and procreate, and perhaps for presumptive incest. The idea that two related people might live together without having sex seems oddly alien to evangelicals.
My wife's younger sister should also be imprisoned. At an early age, she had a uterine tumour that guaranteed her infertility. According to the arguments advanced, she was wrong to marry simply because she loved a man, since she couldn't possibly bear children. I haven't had the opportunity, but I long to present both these arguments to opponents of gay marriage, simply to watch the intellectual Immelmann loops they perform to dodge the logical consequences of their positions.
I'm not just for "gay marriage." I'm for a sensible understanding that the state's interest in any domestic partnership begins and ends with its civil dimensions: the fiscal contracts and material obligations of the parties to each other and to third parties. Lawrence v. Texas says that clearly: the consensual private relations of domestic partners are not the state's concern.
We are now offered a choice more revolting than anything since the end of Reconstruction. In that case, southern blacks had to accept Jim Crow as an alternative to gradual extermination.
Despite the belated qualms of the Phil Ochs liberals, gay and lesbian Americans appear to face the same option: accept second-class citizenship, or face the consequences. I'm so sorry that this grim choice is disturbing the moral certitude of more than half those who voted to ban same-sex marriage in their states: too bad. It's better to have your remorse beforehand and avoid error than to live with the consequences of your actions afterward. That, by the way, is a specimen of gender-neutral Catholic moral theology that pre-dates the church's current obsessions.
I can absolve neither the antis who are now queasy about the injustice they've supported, nor the blame-casting Democrats, our two current flavours of Phil Ochs liberal. It is true enough that hypocrisy drives both American politics and religion, but I don't have to like it.