I’m about to piss some people off, and I’m ok with that, because this is bigger than me, or you. It’s important, and I’m not about to stop talking about it because it makes you uncomfortable. And as JFK once reflected, it’s all too often that we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. So get ready for discomfort.
There is no good justification for opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage.
None. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch. I really don’t know how many ways I can say that. Actually, I’m sure I could figure it out if I took the time to compile a list, but that seems like an exhaustive waste of time- especially in a world where there are so many people who either can’t see or refuse to see why the statement is accurate.
I have searched, high and low, for a defensible opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage, and I haven’t found one. I’ve found unsubstantiated claims, poorly reasoned fear mongering, and hypocritical sermonizing. In keeping with my dedication to responsible use of the motherlode on significant issues, I find myself wanting, desperately, to explain why these arguments are rubbish, but I’m just too tired to do it on an individual basis anymore.
So, instead, I’ll break them down here. And I will whore the hell out of the link to this piece in response to anyone insisting on perpetuating terrible arguments in favor of a policy that does not have any place in a civilized society. There are no ads on my blog. I will never make a dime off of this, nor am I seeking one. I’m a 25 year old single mom without a vested interest in this fight, except for fighting for the world I want for my daughter.
So let’s do this, shall we?
Take One- Religion
Alright, I’m kicking a hornet’s nest, so let me make something clear. I call myself a Christian. I’m not going to sit here and justify why I believe what I do because it’s not of concern to the arguments made here (though, who knows, that may be another post for another day), and I’m not here to villainize Christians, Muslims or any other faith on the face of the planet. This is not an act of war against religions or religious freedom.
Don’t even go there.
What is this? It’s a closer look at the reasoning used by anti-LGBTQ Christians, in particular, for discrimination against the LGBTQ community. We’ll get to the legal/religious overlap in a little bit, but I’m not even going to venture into whether or not faith should dictate public policy just yet. Right now, I want to talk about the abuse of Christianity in this pursuit.
When people talk about the Bible explicitly condemning homosexuality, they’re typically referencing the Old Testament- particularly verses found in Leviticus. However, unless you’re an Orthodox Jew, the laws of the Old Testament, if you ask most Church leadership, are not intended to be followed in a modern setting. Even if you are an Orthodox Jew, or choose to believe those laws should be followed in Christianity, a closer read of the Bible indicates that there are a lot of laws both groups selectively ignore. I’d take the time to list them all out, but realistically, the following West Wing clip is a far more entertaining take on the matters:
But these are tame. There are other Old Testament passages that would preclude a testicular cancer patient who had undergone an orchiectomy from going to Church, put to death those who use that sacred pull and pray method, and force disobedient followers to eat the flesh of their own children (Deuteronomy 23:1, Genesis 38:9-10 and Leviticus 26:27-30, respectively).
Even the New Testament references, as Christian law, don’t hold water. Unless you believe that women should never be in a position of authority or teach (Timothy 2:11), or that admiring an individual’s physique is the same as adultery (Matthew 5:28), or that Christians SHOULD be forced to follow all of the laws laid out in the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17-18), we’ve got a problem with hypocrisy on our hands.
Yes, unless you have a fantastic justification for why you, as a mere human, are fit to determine what portions of the Bible are relevant and necessary and which portions are not, your argument that we should pay attention to the condemnation of homosexuality falls on deaf ears. Besides, as James 2:10 states:
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
So if you believe we should interpret the Bible literally, but wear polyester blends, I hate to break it to you, but you’re just as damned as those damn gays. Really, if you’re a Christian that prioritizes New Testament over Old Testament, you’re still in violation of this tenet (great explanation found here).
But let’s ignore all of that. At the end of the day, your interpretations are still based on someone else’s interpretation of a long dead language- an interpretation that is HOTLY contested in scholarly circles. I’d attempt to explain it myself, but this piece does it way better than I ever could (this is long, but I couldn’t truncate without losing the punch):
The next key phrase in this passage is rendered in the King James Version as “abusers of themselves with mankind.” A similar phrase appears in a list of sins in I Timothy 1:10. Both phrases are derived from a single Greek word, arsenokoitai, which is quite rare. In fact, these two biblical references may be the first examples we have of this word being used in the literature of the time. (See note 4.) Because the word is so rare, its exact meaning is probably lost forever. However, some scholars have worked hard to make an educated guess.
One translation technique is to look at the root words alone. Arsenokoitai is a combination of two existing words, one meaning “bed” and referring to sex, and another meaning “male.” (See note 5.) Thus, some scholars surmise the term has something to do with male sexual expression — perhaps exclusive male sexual expression, since no woman is mentioned…
A better way to understand what Paul may have meant by arsenokoitai is to look for other instances of the word in the subsequent writings of his time. This approach yields several telling facts. First, two early church writers who dealt with the subject of homosexual behavior extensively, Clement of Alexandria and John Chrysostom, never used the word in their discussions of same-sex behavior. The word shows up in their writing, but only in places where they appear to be quoting the list of sins found in 1 Corinthians 6, not in places where they discuss homosexuality. This suggests they did not believe Paul’s term referred to homosexual behavior. (See note 7.)
A similar pattern is found in other writings of the time. There are hundreds of Greek writings from this period that refer to homosexual activity using terms other than arsenokoitai. (See note 8.) If Paul had intended to refer generally to homosexual sex, or to one of the partners in gay-male sex, he had other commonly-used, well-known words at his disposal. He wouldn’t have had to resort to this ambiguous compound word, which future generations would find difficult to translate. Apparently Paul was trying to refer to some more obscure type of behavior.
This conclusion is reinforced by a survey of the actual uses of arsenokoitai in Greek literature. Scholars have identified only 73 times this term is used in the six centuries after Paul. (See note 9.) (There are no known instances before Paul.) In virtually every instance the term appears in a list of sins (like Paul’s) without any story line or other context to shed light on its meaning. There are, however, a few helpful exceptions. In one instance, a Greek author uses the term when cataloguing the sins of the Greek gods. (See note 10.) In this context, the term is probably intended to refer to the time Zeus abducted and raped a young boy, Ganymede. Arsenokoitai is also used in an ancient legend in which the snake in the Garden of Eden is said to have become a Satanic figure named Naas. Naas uses a variety of means (including sleeping with both Adam and Eve) to gain power over and destroy them. In this story, Naas is said to have gone to Adam and had him like a boy. Naas’ sin is called arsenokoitai. (See note 11.) These examples suggest that arsenokoitai refers to instances when one male uses his superior power or position to take sexual advantage of another.
This premise is reinforced by yet another translation technique. As noted above, most of the times when arsenokoitai is used in early Greek literature, it occurs in a list of sins (just like in 1 Corinthians 6). (See note 12.) Common experience tells us list-makers tend to group similar items together. (When Tyler makes a grocery list, he puts the vegetables at the top, the dairy at the bottom, and everything else in-between.) In these lists, arsenokoitai is often placed at the end of the list of sex sins and the beginning of the list of economic sins or vice versa. (See note 13.) For example, in 1 Corinthians 6, we find it between malakoi (which may refer to male prostitutes) and “thieves.” In I Timothy 1:10, the word appears between “fornication” and “slave traders.” This is consistent with the meaning suggested above — that arsenokoitai describes a male who aggressively takes sexual advantage of another male. Examples of this type of behavior would include a man who rapes another (as in the Sodom story or the story of Zeus and Ganymede) or a man who uses economic power to buy sex from a male prostitute who sells his body to survive. This latter example is an especially neat fit if malakoi is understood to be a reference to the prostitute, in which case Paul’s list would include a reference both to the male prostitute (malakoi) and the man who takes advantage of the prostitute (arsenokoitai). This type of person is a close kin to the thief and the greedy — the two Greek words that most often follow arsenokoitai in the lists of sins.
A thief, a greedy person, and one who uses power to obtain sex are all seizing something that does not rightfully belong to them.
Thus, we conclude that aresenokoitai is best understood as a reference to men who force themselves sexually on others. This conclusion is consistent with the New Revised Standard Version, the English translation of the Bible often regarded as most scholarly. The New Revised Standard Version translates arsenokoitai as “sodomite.” As we have already seen, the men of Sodom were the ultimate example of sexual aggression and oppression. Even the New International Version, a more conservative English translation, appears to have been uncomfortable translating aresenokotai as a general reference to homosexuality. Instead, in 1 Corinthians 6 they translate the term as “homosexual offender,” suggesting that to commit the sin referred to here one must use homosexuality in an aggressive or offensive way.
In short, though the Bible may be the word of God, his words can get lost in translation in a dozen different ways. We’re grasping at a dead version of Greek in our current translations. There cannot be perfection. We have to adjust our expectations to this reality.
But even if we give the multiple translations (see an example of how varied they are here) the benefit of the doubt and assume our readings of them to be generally accurate, many of the verses cited as a condemnation of homosexuality are taken wildly out of context. Take for instance, Romans 1:26-7:
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Ok, now look at it again, starting at Romans 1:18, emphasis mine:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
There are two things to note here. For starters, it does not say that God turned away from them because they were homosexual; it says he turned away from them because they failed to praise him. For two, it does not say homosexuality was the sexual impurity in question- it says degradation of their bodies was the sexual impurity. When you put this in the context of what was happening in history at the time this passage was written, that takes on an entirely different meaning. This article does a great job of breaking it down:
Remember this was Paul writing and it is his view as a Jewish convert as to what is unnatural or beyond the ordinary . It could have been sex with other women, sex during menstruation, oral sex or sex with an uncircumcised man. Any or all of those. All of these behaviors were “unnatural” to a Jewish Christian.
Oh, and further:
It is believed that both Jews and converted Jews were meeting in the same synagogues and competing for voice and space in the time following the death of Christ. They were arguing and fighting (just as they did back in Jerusalem.) Discussions and tensions over observances of the Law, what to eat, what not to eat and controversy over inclusion of Gentiles escalated to great disturbances amongst the Jews and Jewish Christians. The persistent fighting resulted in the issuance of the Claudian Edict of 49 AD. Jews, converted Jewish Christians and Gentiles “that lived as Jewish Christians ” were expelled from Rome. This left behind the Gentile converts that were meeting in house churches. The remnant was the weakest of the believers. These were the ones who remained in Rome. These were the ones spoken to and of in Romans 1:18-32. The target of the letter was widened to other believers in Rome as it continues.
So imagine, both your living family and the ancestors before you had participated in idolatry and god worship and you have now converted to this religion of one God with all new ways of approaching Him. Your spiritual mentors in the faith had been evicted from the city and you had been trying to live out this one-God faith in the midst of many-gods Rome. Can you see that it would be easy to slip back into the old ways? The line between idolatry and Jesus worship would become quite blurred. I believe this is the culture, time and situation into which Paul was writing . Until Nero ascended to power in 54 AD, the Edict stood and the Jews, Christians Jews and Gentile converts living as Jews remained banned from the city. Once the city reopened to them, the letter, carried by Priscilla, was delivered to the church in Rome sometime after 54 AD. It would be understandable that these weaker Gentile converts were struggling to follow Christ in the five year of absence of those stronger in the faith. They had slide back into old Roman ways of idolatry and living.
So what, exactly, is Roman idolatry? Historical texts indicate that it was heavily linked to the practice of shrine prostitution (referenced in many Biblical translations). However, the earliest and most explicit explanation of shrine prostitution comes from the ancient Greek historian Herodotus:
The foulest Babylonian custom is that which compels every woman of the land to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with some stranger once in her life. Many women who are rich and proud and disdain to mingle with the rest, drive to the temple in covered carriages drawn by teams, and stand there with a great retinue of attendants. But most sit down in the sacred plot of Aphrodite, with crowns of cord on their heads; there is a great multitude of women coming and going; passages marked by line run every way through the crowd, by which the men pass and make their choice. Once a woman has taken her place there, she does not go away to her home before some stranger has cast money into her lap, and had intercourse with her outside the temple; but while he casts the money, he must say, “I invite you in the name of Mylitta” (that is the Assyrian name for Aphrodite). It does not matter what sum the money is; the woman will never refuse, for that would be a sin, the money being by this act made sacred. So she follows the first man who casts it and rejects no one. After their intercourse, having discharged her sacred duty to the goddess, she goes away to her home; and thereafter there is no bribe however great that will get her. So then the women that are fair and tall are soon free to depart, but the uncomely have long to wait because they cannot fulfil the law; for some of them remain for three years, or four. There is a custom like this in some parts of Cyprus.
So, in context, one of the most cited Biblical passages against homosexuality, in fact, indicates condemnation of failing to praise God and returning to ancient pagan practices of prostitution. Adorable, right?
Not everyone takes the Bible literally, though. After all, even as the word of God, it passed through humans- consistently referred to as imperfect. It’s been translated several times over, and tampered with by political figures throughout the years (see: Council of Nicea). In a cultural context, much of the writing was a manifestation of the way these imperfect humans understood God’s message as it applied to the world they with which they were familiar. That makes sense.
These Christians will argue that it is the continued reference of marriage as a union between man and woman that justifies discrimination against same-sex couples. They cite the Church being described as the Lord’s bride as the ultimate manifestation of such a union. But even this justification is answered back by culture and the way the writers understood the world around them. Heterosexual marriage was a matter of tradition at that point, so of course they would view the holiest of unions through such a metaphor.
Some argue that it’s a matter of the natural world God created. They reference the ability of man and woman to procreate as the explicit reasoning for same-sex union discrimination. However, by that extension of logic, a woman who is infertile, has a hysterectomy following a hemorrhage in child birth, or has her ovaries removed due to cancer cannot be engaged in a union blessed by the Church. They can’t procreate, so they’re not legitimate? Give me a break.
You know what else the Bible says, though?
- Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)
- Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:13)
- There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-2)
While the passage from Luke is the most frequently referenced passage on this subject, it is the passage from James 4 that has the most weight. It explicitly states that the Lord alone will judge- so why should anyone else get to judge the love between two people under Christian pretense?
And what does the Bible say about love? Check out 1 Corinitians 13:1-3:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Not sayin, just sayin… No, actually, I’m saying it. God commands us to love, and declares himself the only judge of humanity. Follow whatever decrees about lifestyle you like in your own life, but if you’re a Christian, you have no grounds for telling someone else who they can and cannot care for.
Now, to be fair, this doesn’t mean I throw the Bible out. And again, that comes back to personal belief. How can one justify belief in a text so wrought with contradiction? Assuming belief in the fundamentals, if you view the text from a culturally considerate perspective, you can look for the most consistent message. Do that. You’ll quickly find that the most consistent message is one of love.
If God’s most resounding message is a call to live a life of love, that’s something I can get behind. But regardless of where you fall on the issue, it’s hard to deny that Christianity simply does not provide the support for discrimination that many claim it does.
Take Two- The Law
But let’s assume you don’t care about reason. You believe what you believe, and you believe it strongly. We clearly disagree when it comes to whether your beliefs are justified by Christianity, but luckily, the law allows us to disagree. The law does not, however, allow you to force everyone in this country to believe the same way you do.
The First Amendment explicitly states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
While critics of this argument routinely point out that the text does not read “freedom from religion,” these criticisms conveniently ignore the second part of the clause, which indicates that the government may not pass a law which prohibits the free exercise of religion. A law which banned same-sex marriage would explicitly prohibit the free exercise by faiths which already allow for same-sex marriage (see: Wicca, not to mention some Christian sects, just as examples).
Further, the Supreme Court has routinely held that separation of Church and State is the only way to ensure the protection of First Amendment rights in terms of religious freedom. So even in a world where you believe that such a ban would not necessarily impact the ability of these faiths to function with full protection of their first amendment rights, case law is against you.
But let’s pretend you don’t believe this to be true. You believe that it’s not an infringement of religious freedom to ban same-sex marriage. That might be true, but there are other portions of the Constitution which preclude your initiative.
To begin with, the Tenth Amendment explicitly states:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
This would indicate that no federal law banning same-sex marriage has standing (think: DOMA), and several recent federal court decisions on this subject have reinforced this argument. Proponents of a ban will argue that this only means state bans have standing, but again, they’re being selective in their reading of Constitutional text- the action also cannot be prohibited by the Constitution.
Enter the Fourteenth Amendment, Section One:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
This implies that a state is prohibited from passing a law that would limit the access of any citizen to the privileges afforded to other citizens. Marriage- and all the tax benefits and familial rights that come with it- is one such privilege.
The counter-argument at this point is that marriage has always been between a man and a woman. There are two justifications for this construction. The first is religious, and I’m pretty sure we’ve already adequately addressed why this isn’t a reason that the law can consider. The second is tradition, but given that all sorts of heinous behavior was considered traditional before it was deplorable (i.e. slavery, women being banned from the voting booth, separate but equal… the list goes on), I’m not biting. It’s also historically and biologically inaccurate. There are thousands of species that engage in homosexual acts around the world (take that “nature” proponents), and there is a long track record of homosexual relationships in every historical empire throughout the globe. Try again, folks.
Under the law, removing religion from the equation, marriage is simply a contract between two people. To say that the two person contract is dependent upon gender or sex without justification therein is a form of discrimination.
There are those that argue this should not be considered a form of discrimination, only because the “suspect class” (read: minority being discriminated against) does not pass previously identified considerations identified by the Supreme Court. A July court decision decimated these assumptions. There’s no way to cite a specific paragraph that covers it adequately, so your best bet, if you actually care, is to read the whole thing. My favorite part? They try to claim that because people identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trangendered, queer, etc., same-sex marriages shouldn’t be protected due to the fractured nature of the suspect class. Like, because I call myself a woman and my friend calls myself a girl (based on differences in age and experience), we don’t deserve protection from being discriminated against on the basis of our genitalia. Lovely.
Some attempt to argue that the legalization of same-sex marriages is a slippery slope that will lead to the legalization of polygamy, marriage between adults and children, and bestiality. Slippery slope was a bad argument in my debating days, and it’s equally bad here. A ban on polygamy isn’t discriminatory because it doesn’t exclude a group of individuals from entering into a contract between two individuals, and such a situation is open to far more abuse of the law (think healthcare fraud) than a marriage between two individuals. Legalizing same-sex marriage doesn’t change this. Nor does it change laws on bestiality and marriage with minors- that comes down to the ability to consent, which the law provides very clear guidance on, as supported by science and fact. Moreover, same-sex marriage doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights, whereas sexually abusing a minor who cannot fully make decisions yet does.
Others argue that legalization of same-sex marriage will destroy the idea of the family. They say children will be harmed, and that the family structure will be degraded. Here’s the problem- there is not a single reputable, recent study that supports this idea. Global crude divorce rates in nations where same-sex marriage is legal are lower than what we see in the U.S. Same-sex marriage being legal doesn’t mean you have to get one. So explain to me- how does the legality of the marriages impact yours?
Oh, I see. It might be uncomfortable to see same-sex couples in public. It might be uncomfortable to explain to your kids why Susy Q has two moms or Jonny B has two dads. How unfortunate. You know what? These are the same types of arguments that were used against ending segregation in the 60’s, and in opposition to interracial marriages. You know what? It makes me uncomfortable to have to explain to my kid why people could possibly hold such hate in their heart without reason.
There. We’re even.
Seriously, though- I want you to think about this.
Your position says that, because two people love each other, they are less than human, and therefore; do not deserve the same rights as you.
That position is indefensible. And now that you know that, failure to stand up for the right to marriage for all is also indefensible.
Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Apathy is not an option. Don’t tell me that this doesn’t impact you, because it reflects on who you are as a person, and there’s no more direct impact I can think of. You have a voice- so use it.
We’re living in highly polarized times. There’s no debating that. The past several years, however, have born witness to a new arena for the political debates that were once reserved for newspaper headlines and Congressional halls. Twitter fueled a revolution in the Middle East. Facebook sentiment is now an indicator considered by political campaigns. These are polarized times, saturated with issues of greater significance than can be adequately conveyed in 140 character snips, but it’s also the greatest opportunity we’ve ever had to spur discourse on these subjects.
Think about it this way- Facebook will hit 1 billion users in August. Twitter already surpassed 500 million registered users this year. Spare me the diatribe about who’s active, who’s real or who cares- that’s an audience. A massive audience. To quote Diana Christensen, “Son of a bitch. We’ve struck the motherlode.”
But can such dialogue be meaningful? Depends on how you define it. It’s common to hear people dismiss social media as a fad of little consequence. Little consequence? The Philippines in 2001. Tahir Square. Chinese censorship. Raising funds for victims in Haiti. The London Riots. The Obama 2008 victory. Twitter, Facebook, texting… kid stuff, right? No consequences there at all.
In all fairness, not every status or tweet is earth shattering (no, I don’t care how many blueberries McDonalds put in your oatmeal this morning). When we do see commentary on issues of merit, it’s usually a jab or barb, and the political drivel of memes and sarcastic criticism are rarely substantive.
I’ve been guilty of this in the past, and will probably lapse again. It’s fun- particularly when you’re surrounded by people who affirm your every thought. But preaching to the choir never made a bit of difference, and the inflammatory nature of our social political demagoguing is probably as likely to catch us converts as a bowl of vinegar is flies. How’s that for a Frankenstein of a metaphor?
When we do actually engage in a back and forth, it’s shallow, to say the least. To reveal my inner geek, the flow of logic is analogous to that found in the first round of the first collegiate parliamentary tournament of the year in the novice division… with true novices just trying to fulfill a Comm 101 requirement. If you’re a debater, you know how painful that is to witness. If you’re not, but you’re on Facebook, you get my gist. If you’re not on Facebook… where the $^@#$ have you been? Under a rock?
I’m kidding. Sort of.
But really, I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat or a Communist or an Anarchist. I don’t care if you’re Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, Agnostic, Athiest or a devout believer in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I don’t care if you’re Black, White, Brown or Green. I don’t care if you’re a man, woman or anyone else.
Social media is the motherlode.
But here’s another quote for you. You can attribute it to a skewing of Voltaire, Stan Lee or Uncle Ben, but it’s worthy of consideration: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
We’re living in highly polarized times, armed with the most powerful communicative toolset this world has ever seen, and we have a responsibility to rise to the occasion before us. It’s not a matter of policy. It’s a matter of the personal. It’s a matter of making a personal decision to be engaged in informed, reasonable, logical conversation. It’s a matter of adopting defensible positions, and being willing to defend them with great care, because these days are too important for apathy.
Do not take that as license to speak blindly- without support or consideration for your words. You have freedom of speech, but you do not have freedom of speech without criticism, and if there were ever a time for us to be critical of one another’s speech, it’s now.
Because today we face our greatest civil rights challenge since the 1960’s. Today we face a world where a population of people are classified as less than human- less deserving of rights, equal treatment under the law, or dignity. That deserves a lot more than a snarky message against a pastel backdrop with a crappy vintage ink sketch, dontyathink?
I’m going to go all communications geek on you now. Whether it’s social media or face-to-face communication, your language choices and your rhetoric will play a role in what comes next. In fulfillment of the ultimate speech cliché, I’ll tell you that your language shapes your reality. When you caustically use derisive, violent language toward a minority, you make manifest discrimination you might not feel comfortable executing yourself, because you give those around you permission to operate in a similar fashion. Discrimination is a function of cultural reality. When our language ratifies the rhetoric of leadership, there is no reason for leadership to alter their own rhetoric, and given that their rhetoric ultimately translates into policy via bill construction and deliberation, that’s a dangerous roll of the dice.
And thanks to Citizens United, we can now view money as speech. That’s crappy for campaign finance reform, but relevant in this conversation, particularly in light of the recent uproar over comments made by the founder of Chick-fil-a. I don’t know about you, but my Facebook stream was filled with comments that dismissed the outrage as overblown, and argued that any form of protest or boycott would do little to promote change.
In 2010, Target was called out for making political contributions to candidates with vehemently anti-gay rights positions. Similar outrage ensued. It was not an overnight turnaround, but Target today has ceased said contributions, and launched a series of initiatives aimed at promoting equality, be they fundraising projects or simple inclusion of the community in their service offerings- like wedding registries for same-sex couples.
Dollars can speak louder than words.
Are we going to change the mind of the founder of Chick-fil-a? Maybe not, but consider the following chart:
Consider the fact that, since the controversy broke, Chick-fil-a has been forced into a far more neutral position in terms of political advocacy. Consider the amount of brands (think Henson and the Muppets) that have since come out in support of equality.
Now consider the impact of financial contributions from corporations on election outcomes. In a world where supporting candidates using violent rhetoric toward the LGBTQ community presents substantial risk to a business’ viability- whether that perception is accurate or not- all of the sudden, such a discriminatory position is a less professionally tenable option for politicians.
That’s the hope. We’re seeing some slightly positive signs that the hope has merit. The only way we know for sure is if you use your Citizen’s United defined voice to compliment your audible cries.
One Final Note
But I meant what I said about the importance of discourse- informed discourse. If you disagree with me, comment here or on Facebook or via email, and feel free to express your disagreement, but know this:
- I won’t allow comments containing hate speech. The emphasis here is on informed discourse, and slurs have no place in that. You have freedom of speech, but this is my blog, and I have the freedom to stand up for the people I care about.
- If your response is non-responsive to the arguments, I’m going to point it out… along with a good amount of others who read. Be prepared to respond.
This is the Civil Rights issue of our generation. What side of history do you want to be on?