Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sally Kern Really Has to Ask "What's Wrong" With Hate Speech?

Shoutout to Vieve for passing along news of Oklahoma state rep Sally Kern's recent YouTube-sensational anti-gay monologue. Some of Kern's ignorant gems include:

"The homosexual agenda is destroying this nation.... Not everybody's lifestyle is equal, just like not everybody's religion is equal and according to God's word, it is not the right lifestyle. The very fact that I'm talking to you here today puts me in jeopardy. I'm not anti, I'm not gay-bashing... It's not a lifestyle that's good for this nation. In fact, studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than a few decades. It's the death knell to this country. I honestly think it's the biggest threat, even more so than terrorism or Islam. Because what's happening now is that they're going into schools, after two-year-olds. ... They're going after young children as young as two years old to try to teach them that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle.... They are winning elections.... This stuff is deadly and it's spreading and it will destroy this nation." [emphasis added]

For starters, let's be fair. She did say she wasn't gay-bashing. So that's all settled then.

But back to reality, how could her misinformed and dishonest words be construed as anything other than hate speech? In short, while she is one of many who proclaim with no evidence whatsoever that gay people are grave threats/enemies to our country, this public servant has just drawled some very un-American, hateful, and threatening words herself.

1. Let's first quickly note her argument here: "Not everybody's lifestyle is equal, just like not everybody's religion is equal and according to God's word, it is not the right lifestyle." [emphasis added]. Ah. And here we have the root of her bigotry: she believes in a hateful, intolerant religion. When she declares that not all people's religion is "equal," I can take a gander as to which religion she believes is "more equal" than everyone else's.

Note the certainty, the utter certainty, with which this Baptist preacher's wife declares that not all religion's are equal, that she happens to know what God's ultimate word is on the matter of "lifestyles," and that He (God is a "He" after all) says that homosexuality is wrong. There is no room in Sally Kern's world for other religions, other interpretations of God's word, other forms of families, or religious tolerance.

Those dangerously intolerant ideas are everything America does not stand for but is beginning to look more and more like thanks to people like Sally Kern. Her thinking embodies the very traits that those of us in a democratic, pluralistic society should be leery of in our leaders.

2. Sally Kern is an un-American threat to the nation because, during a time of war, while holding a position of leadership and power she is yet one more example of a politician who seeks to divide Americans, rather than unite us. We, gay men and lesbians, are Americans too. We serve our country too. We are law-abiding too. We have families too. Yet, in her speech, she has created a good camp and and an evil camp. Heterosexuals are American and good, regardless of the content of their character. Gays and lesbians are evil and threats to America (ie- un-American), regardless of the content of their character.

And yes, before someone comes here saying that by calling Ms. Kern un-American I am doing the same thing to Sally Kern that she is doing to gay people, let me say this: Sally Kern's argument that gays are a more serious threat to the nation than are "terrorism" and "Islam" is hyperbole based solely in ignorant stereotypes and lies about gay people. My claim is that Kern's words are a threat to the unity of our nation and to the ideals of religious tolerance, individual freedom, and equal rights on which our country was founded. In short, my claims are substantiated and based directly on what she said. Her claims are unsubstantiated and based in bigotry. For one example, I would really like to read all of these studies she references regarding how homosexuality has caused the downfall of civilization after civilization. Perhaps someone can direct me to them?

3. I don't know if she's intentionally ignorant of homosexuality, if she doesn't know any real life gay people, or if she's actively dishonest about us, but she basically just re-iterated all the old hat, outdated arguments against gay people that bigots have been using forever. Oh, except she's doing so with a much larger bullhorn than most bigots are lucky enough to have.

"It's against Christianity" *Yawn*. That's not a valid argument in a society that allows other religions to flourish in addition to her narrow-minded fundamentalism. "Shortened life spans, suicides, and disease?" *Snooze* Mis-used data much? Oh, and what's her "disease" beef with lesbians? "The gay agenda" *Yawn* Since when is the quest for equal rights an agenda to be ashamed of?

In other words, she's relying on erroneous biblical thinking and stereotypes to justify her bigotry. That's nothing new. What is threatening about her words is that they breed violence and hatred towards gay people, even if she does not want to personally commit a violent act against a gay person.

Put those words in the head of a violent person or mentally unstable person and you get someone who thinks it's acceptable to kill gay people because they heard from someone important that gay is wrong.

Here, in response to the outrage her words have sparked, Kern asks, "What is wrong with me exercising my right to free speech?"

Variations on that "this is a free country" theme are popular in this country. No one wants to be the person who tells someone they shouldn't say something.

But at the same time, Ellen DeGeneres recently articulately spoke out against hateful speech saying that when a kid is killed for being gay by someone who learned from someone that being gay is an awful thing, "it's time to change the message."

What's wrong with Kern's speech is that it is exactly her type of speech, sanctioned by her position of leadership and bolstered by un-Christian thinking in the name of Christ, that fosters hatred and ultimately violence against a group of people. Why else do people kill on the basis of personal characteristics other than if they think those characteristics are evil, awful, or bad?

Yeah, this is America. We can say a lot of things here, and for that I am grateful.

But just because we can, it doesn't mean we should.

Congratulations, Ms. Kern. In honor of hatemonger Fred Phelps, you are hereby granted a Freddy Award.

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