Rod Dreher, who is not quite as red a Tory as I would like him to be, has posted some interesting material on politically committed people who ask how dare you disagree with whatever the speaker is passionate about. The question happened to come up with regard to gay and transgender issues, but no political clan has a monopoly on priggish self-righteousness. Newt Gingrich, Nancy Pelosi, Karl Rove, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and a host of others have been known to puff themselves up over the audacity of anyone who offers a contrary opinion, or lives their life in a manner that disproves a cherished assumption. Generally, people do this by analogy. Everyone’s favorite analogy is the civil rights movement, or slavery, or both. These analogies are generally self-serving, misleading, and unworthy of any cause capable of standing on its own two feet.
Contrary to popular delusion, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1930s to the 1970s was not about everyone’s right to do their own thing. Nor was it about demanding that everyone notice that some of our fellow citizens were black, or colored, or Afro-American, or whatever the term du jour was. That is a basic difference between African Americans and gay Americans: we could all see at a glance who was African American. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans with a congenital melanin deficiency thought that was a significant distinction. Equally unfortunately, a lot of darker-skinned Americans came to believe them, lending skin color some added significance. Not so for gays. Gay Americans had to jump up and down and scream “look at me look at me look at me.” They wanted us to take notice of their hormonal state as a significant distinction. (Oh, are you gay? Do I care? Is there any reason I should?) OK, if they all got together at a gay bar, the NYC cops knew where to find them. But they had to congregate to even be noticed. African Americans had the opposite problem.
Nobody wrote laws saying “gay men and women may not marry.” Many states wrote laws saying “men of one color or national origin may not marry women of another color or national origin.” Is the difference clear? Someone had to go out of their way to make race a criterion. It’s called “positive law,” not meaning good, but that the law made a distinction that does not exist naturally. (Come to think of it, nobody ever required separate bathrooms for gay men and women, although that would make a lot more sense than separate bathrooms for “colored” and “white.”) Nobody writing marriage laws was even thinking about gay men and women, much less discriminating against them. There was this biological function which pre-dated human history, which involved a man and a woman, and it needed a social context. Every gay man IS a man, and every gay woman IS a woman. If it were not so, the notion of “gay,” or the more technical term “homosexual,” would have no meaning at all. How can you be a same-sex couple if you don’t have a sexual identity? Marriage was something a man entered into with a woman. Men, married or not, also did various other things in their lives, but they were not relevant to marriage. Ditto for women.
Even in the many human cultures where homosexual acts were accepted and respected, such as ancient Greece, Persia, medieval Japan, nobody thought it had anything to do with marriage. Greek men married the women who bore their legitimate heirs, played around with prostitutes for pleasure, and had satisfying liaisons with fellow warriors when away from home for several years, sacking Troy or conquering Babylon or whatever. Remember Achilles love for Patroclus? Alexander the Great was famous for the passionate kiss he gave the late Persian Shahanshah’s favorite boy. But nobody called it a marriage. Everyone knew that homosexuality, however acceptable, was statistically a deviation from the biological norm for the human species, or any other species more complex than a sponge or a hydra.
Now personally, I have nothing against the state issuing licenses to two men, or two women, who think they can have a life-long committed monogamous relationship, and want to share property, hospital visitation rights, etc. I don’t much care whether it is called a marriage or not. But it is a new innovation, it is not “equal rights” to something “everyone else has.” Rights are vested in individuals, not demographic groups. Every individual man has the right to marry any individual woman who will have him. Some men, and some women, don’t want to exercise that right.
Animal rights activists are even more ridiculous trying to draw analogies to the Civil Rights and abolitionist movements. I am just old enough to have lived, as a small child, at a time when a man with dark skin walking into a bar would be charged a dollar more than a customer classified as “white.” Why? Because when he finished drinking, the glass he used would be smashed to the bottom of the trash can, so that no “white” customer ever had to use it. I wasn’t old enough to hang out in bars then, I read about it later, described by people who were. Essentially, the bartenders were responding the same way I responded when I saw a bowl, that I might have eaten cereal out of, used to provide water for a dog. I marked that bowl carefully, and made sure never to eat out of it. What has that to do with animal rights? Simply this: when animal rights activists compare themselves to the Civil Rights movement, they are implicitly saying “The problem wasn’t that our nation used to treat Negroes like dogs, the problem is that we still treat dogs the way we used to treat Negroes.”
Now if you really love animals, you might claim that there is no difference between the rights due to a dog and the rights due to a human being. But most African Americans would strenuously object to the comparison, as would most other human beings. Homo sapiens sapiens are not canines, just as being gay is not “the new black.” IF there is a case to be made for equality of humans with other mammals, it must be made on its own merits, not by analogy to how humans treat other humans. I, for one, do not buy it. I don’t allow cute little furry animals in my house, whether domesticated or not. I wonder how devoted cat lovers would respond to a “mouse liberation movement”? Would they teach their little darlings to be vegetarian? (OK, I’m sure somewhere there IS a Vegan who has gotten their cat to embrace such dietary principles, but it is pretty darn rare.)
That is the next problem with analogies from one liberation movement to the next. There has never in human history been a newly liberated bunch of people who didn’t turn around and clobber some other oppressed people. Americans fought England, among other things, for the right to exterminate and dispossess Shawnee, Cherokee, Iroquois, Creek, Choctaw, Fox, Sauk, Ottowa, and many others. Whatever the merits of Israel’s war for independence, it has ended up a wealthy and militarily powerful force lording it over a subject population which accordingly hates it. When the Dutch threw off Spanish rule, they proceeded to take over the slave trade from Portugal and establish some of the most brutal plantation economies the world had ever seen. Etc. Etc. Etc. When people who associate with each other as “gay” get a steady run of good press, they demand that everyone else rearrange their religious principles to accommodate the new dominant cultural czars.
What are the rights and reasonable expectations of Gay men and gay women, who are offended by a church teaching that homosexual conduct is a sin? About the same right as a social drinker and wine connoisseur, on the one hand, or an alcoholic, on the other, who is offended by a church teaching that drinking alcohol is a sin. Give it up, or don’t join that church. Join a church that is prepared, socially and theologically, to accept what you are not willing to give up. Is that all right with God? I don’t know, I’m not God. There are no guarantees. You will have to work around, or reject, certain rather pointed verses in the Torah and in Paul’s epistles, to justify yourself. Don’t go crying to me, make up your own mind. As long as I am not put at risk by your behavior, I won’t try to stop you. Leviticus also prohibits eating crabs, lobster and scallops. Millions of Christians have rationalized their way around it.
Animal rights activists have the nerve to demand that I must LOVE their dirty, disease-ridden, over-pampered little parasites. I don’t. I also am not “in solidarity with” gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or transgenders. I think its all kind of disgusting. There are people who have been friends of mine who defined themselves as gay. I have never had any problem hugging them, in the same spirit I could hug a married man (or woman) after church. They knew the difference, I knew they knew. I am not really interested in what it is they do that defines them as “gay.” That is their own private business. It has nothing to do with why we were friends. It was no obstacle to being friends. As for those devoted to animals, I refrain from exterminating domestic pets, the way I feel free to exterminate other mammals, such as rats. But I don’t love the little critters.
It is in the nature of constitutional government that we ARE going to offend each other. If we all appreciated every word of each other’s speech, we wouldn’t need guarantees of free speech in the first place. If my speech offends you, be an adult about it. If your speech offends me, I will carefully parse it, analyze it, tell you why you are wrong, and not really expect you to agree with me. Grow up everyone. And let your own beliefs, ideas, goals and causes speak for themselves. Don’t borrow someone else’s cause as a cloak to wrap up your own.