Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Long Way To Go, Part I

In perusing some anti-gay blogs recently, I was reminded as to why I so often find the marriage equality debate to be tiresome. Namely, I have encountered so many people who hold very strong negative opinions about LGBT people and who also demonstrate an utter ignorance of the other side's arguments, an inability to concede that the other side has good reasons of its own for believing what it believes, an unwillingness to engage in dialogue, an inability to engage in dialogue without acting like a petty paranoid psychopath, and the failure to condemn or even acknowledge the overt anti-gay animus of those on their own side.

This is the theme of my next two posts. (Part II can be found here). It's just my analysis and people are, of course, free to chime in, agree, disagree, or respond however they see fit.

1) Ignorance Is Bliss

Anti-gay group blog Opine Editorials seems to have found a new contributor. As with the rest of the "marriage defense" fellas over there, who tend to bloviate more from their guts than from expertise in any field relevant to the debate, I am less than impressed with the reasoning of new dude "Roberto."

It's not so much that I think one has to be an "expert" (whatever that even means) to write logically and well about this issue. It's more that I think a person, on any side of any debate, should not be overly infatuated with his or her own quotidian "common sense." Mistaking their own self-evident truths opinions, prejudices, and biases for Universal Truth, many people authoritatively and confidently reject the testimony of experts and the weight of scientific evidence that goes against their worldview. Using confirmation bias, many "marriage defenders" believe that studies always show that they are pretty much right about everything. Or else the study is biased and probably forged by a homosexualist.

With respect to facts in the reality-based world, ignorance is bliss for many people. Ignorance allows people to have certainty in their own worldview. It means never having to re-think things because everything is already figured out. Most of all, the Bliss of Ignorance means not having to understand why issues are important to people who hold other opinions about things.

Roberto, blissfully begins:

"Those defending the traditional and historic understanding of marriage have often been asked by same-sex marriage advocates to provide one good reason why marriage should not include same-sex couples. There are more than just one good reason, some being that:"

After this awkward construction, he cites (without attribution?) one of these reasons. Namely, "[t]here is NO good reason to include same-sex couples. No one has ever provided a good reason why these should be included." That is, one good reason that marriage should not include same-sex couples is because there is no good reason to include same-sex couples.

Setting aside the amusing circularity of this "argument," it is worth noting that many of the more mainstream and well-known "marriage defenders" are willing to at least concede that marriage equality advocates have presented a good reason or two for marriage equality. One can, after all, acknowledge that same-sex couples present good reasons for inclusion while simultaneously believing that these good reasons are outweighed by other, "more important" good reasons for exclusion, such as the maintenance of the "traditional definition" of marriage.

When someone's vantage point in this debate is the complete failure to see any "good reasons" for what the other side is advocating (and includes the spattering of paranoid phrases like "homosexual lobby") it is a pretty good sign of one of two characteristics.

One, it could demonstrate a scarcity of oppositional dialogue with respect to this issue and, perhaps, that a person has not even sought to understand why same-sex couples believe marriage to be important to them. Given that many people can live their lives without knowing (or thinking they know) any LGBT people, the anti-gay mentality can become cult-like and warped in its isolation and repetition. Without outside views, the anti-gay individual often becomes stagnant and, worse, increasingly paranoid of this thing that is called the Homosexual Agenda.

When they try to present the "other side's" arguments, the presented arguments come off as ridiculous caricatures of what marriage equality advocates actually believe. When they post their "rebuttals" of these straw arguments, they believe themselves to be demolishing actual arguments when in reality they are only blowing down feeble scarecrows of their own construction. (Anti-feminists do this too. It's quite common).

Two, ignorance of any "good reason" for the other side's position can be a sign that someone is a newcomer to the conversation. Sometimes, strong convictions precede knowledge of the myriad arguments for and against whatever a person has these strong convictions about. In this case, the individual should actively seek out why the issue is important to these "Others." Merely listing what one believes to be the reasons the other side believes what it does, or parroting what those on one's own side have said, rarely suffices.

I know that not every LGBT rights advocate is completely versed in the argumentation of anti-gay advocates. And, I'm not saying that I am perfect or that LGBT advocates are perfect. When I entered this debate some years ago, I certainly could not understand why people would oppose something that seemed "self-evidently" unfair to same-sex couples. I quickly learned that "truths" that were self-evident to me, were not self-evident to all people. After having conversations with "marriage defenders" and reading the books, articles, and blogs of obscure and well-known "marriage defenders" I believe I now have a good grasp of most of the non-hate-based arguments against marriage equality.

Yet, it has been my experience that there is a scary insularity within the anti-gay blogging community. As opposed to many LGBT bloggers and allies, who tend to actively seek out, post about, and critique anti-gay writings and arguments, I mostly see anti-gay bloggers repeating and echoing articles from other anti-gay bloggers and from notoriously iffy "news" sources such as OneNewsNow and WorldNetDaily. As such, I find it unfortunate that so many anti-gay conservatives convince each other "through tears and spittle that vague unnamed enemies have failed them and that it's time to take angry action." Remaining mired in insularity feels safe because it feels certain. Yet, the reason I find this insularity to be disconcerting is because I see an obsession with an Oppose-Everything-Gay agenda among "marriage defenders" no matter what the specific issue is and no matter what the nuances are. It's always: Action Alert!: Every Pro-Gay Measure Must Be Opposed or else or else OR ELSE!!

It's my opinion that "Traditional Values" media sources have created a sort of group psychosis, if you will, that essentially tells Americans that Homosexuals Are Violent Sociopaths Who Want to Destroy the Family and Possibly Eat the Baby Jesus and that many "marriage defense" bloggers, through their own ignorance, are now maintaining this unfortunate state. Whether it's the obscure James Tanner prattling on about the "gay rights- a cascading tyranny of nihilistic hedonism" or Sally Kern informing us all that homosexuality is the biggest threat to this nation, it will always be peculiar to me- knowing how benign my life and the lives of so many of my friends are- that so many people devote so much of their own lives to writing about and opposing people who share my sexual identity.

I think, when it comes down to it, they have let themselves become convinced that we are Very Different kinds of humans than they themselves are.

When the other side's loss of contact with reality seems so profound, I question whether it's possible to even have a real meeting of the minds with some of them. I know there is shared humanity in there somewhere, but I wonder if all of the pain, projection, and paranoia will always obscure that reality.

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