Sunday, 13 May 2012

A Bigot By Any Other Name...

... would be just as cruel.  Yet that word, that charge, is something that many to which the label could be liberally (see what I did there?) applied strenuously deny, even as they fight tooth and nail to be allowed to act according to it. 

bigot (plural bigots)
  1. One who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.
  2. One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

Telegraph blogger and professional contrarian Brendan O'Neill is one of many people I have heard lately who is aghast at the use of the word bigot to describe people who are actively trying to make life difficult for others based on an innate quality they happen to posses.  He decries the vocal public and media reaction to North Carolina exerting enormous time, energy and expense in publicly reminding homosexuals that they are inferior persons by passing Amendment One, the second amendment to the North Carolina state constitution, which reaffirms that marriage in the state is between one man and one woman.  The original first amendment to the NC constitution was repealed in the mid 1970s, having previously declared that marriage was between one man and one woman of the same race, but for some reason O'Neill does not seem in such a rush to defend that one.

Apparently to describe anyone as a bigot for holding bigoted views is snobbery, a condescending elitism that holds its nose high in the air while looking with disdain upon people who are simply making a 'considered moral opinion' that happens to be contrary to what the intellectual mafioso believe to be objectively correct.  And it might well be true that many intellectuals are looking at North Carolina with disdain right now, but it is not as if they are doing it for no reason.  The fact is, this vote and all efforts to curb same-sex marriage is born out of bigotry.  No amount of parsing of terms will get away with that.  The considered moral opinion of these bigots is brought to them by reading a text they consider a source of morality, but it is a text they readily, every single one of them, pick and choose from.  That's not an exaggeration - it is literally impossible to be a biblical literalist, and the vast, vast majority don't even try.  Even the Westboro Baptist Church does not picket seafood restaurants or cheeseburger joints.

Bigotry stems from prejudice, and it is abundantly clear that those who stand against same-sex marriage are prejudiced against homosexuals.  What other reason could they have for choosing to adhere to that particular passage of Leviticus and ignoring countless others?  Even the few non-religious persons who are determined to block their fellow humans from being treated as such are finding their distaste for same-sex relationships comes from their biblically-informed culture.  Or are they going to claim they were born that way?

What bothers me about the word itself is that I see how much distraction and consternation it causes whenever it is used.  No matter how accurately it might be applied, it immediately raises hackles and draws defensive denials from people who in the same breath rush to explain exactly how bigoted against homosexuals they truly are.  Rand Paul, while calling Obama's stance on same-sex marriage 'gay', says that adherence to biblical tradition when it comes to marriage (the tradition being to ignore biblical tradition since modern Christianity frowns upon polygamy, unlike their holy book) does not "mean we have to be harsh and mean and hate people".  Sounds nice, yet the place he got his traditional view of same-sex couples says that they should be simply executed.  That seems, dare I say it, harsh and mean and hateful.  He's terrified of being thought a bigot, so he protests that there's no need to be mean and hateful, yet he refuses to acknowledge that his stance and its consequences are mean and hateful acts.

Of course, the classic defence is to turn the word around and use it against those who charge Christians, Muslims and so on with the term.  It is bigotry, surely, to be so intolerant of their deeply-held-beliefs™ that homosexuals should not be allowed to marry.  This is simply a canard, designed to put the genuinely tolerant person on the defensive because everybody wants to be seen as tolerant and nobody wants to be seen as a bigot.  Yet tolerance is not really relevant to the more liberal position on gay marriage - most people in favour of same-sex marriages are just fine tolerating religions not liking them.  Religions are free to not recognise same-sex marriages all they like, and to cry and moan about how they will be the downfall of society if that really is so important to them (and, presumably, more important than any other social ill, since neither war nor famine nor any other seem to get a tenth of the attention gay people signing a piece of paper appears to get).  The difference is that when these people use their 'considered moral opinion' to decide the rules that should apply to the rest of us, that includes people who have a radically different considered moral opinion.  Why, exactly, should a homosexual not be allowed to marry because the Christians in their community believe homosexuality is a sin?  What if he doesn't think so?  Should stores in the US not be allowed to open on a Saturday if the Jews vote for it, no matter what the rest of the country wants?  Democracy is not a synonym for mob rule, nor is it meant to be a tyranny of the majority.  Minorities count, and in fact a slim majority (in the US at least) are in favour of same-sex marriages anyway.  There is simply no defence for imposing one view of 'morality' on the rest of the country.  It may sound trite, but it truly is this simple: if one is against gay marriage, don't get gay married.  There's no need to take action to hurt people who happen to be gay, and when you expend so much time and energy in trying to take those actions and then justify them, to cry foul at being called a bigot is utterly ridiculous.

It is interesting that the term bigot puts people so out of sorts.  So many to whom the label fits will scramble to get away from it, even while acknowledging that they are actively trying to discriminate against homosexuals and should be allowed to do so.  They are terrified of the label, yet they are not remotely concerned about the act itself.  They revel in their targeting of the 'other' for lesser treatment, not at all ashamed to demonstrate that this is how they feel, but they refuse to own the logical conclusion of their behaviour.  They want it both ways.  They want to their intolerance to be tolerated.  I, for one, won't give them that privilege.  As long as marriage inequality exists, they have enough of those already.

Now here it is, your moment of zen:

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