Tuesday, December 22, 2015

So, Rod Dreher Seems Nice

Here, Dreher, the Christian conservative writes:
"The 'Status Update' episode of of This American Life was one I almost didn’t listen to. Why? Because the first segment is a discussion of among the most annoying people on the planet — young teenage girls — talking about the most boring subject on the planet: their social media habits."
Oy. Adults bullying teen girls as a class is not a good look on anyone, least of all a middle-aged male blogger with a relatively large following. Petty.

Image result for mean girls gifs

Then here, Dreher has a bee in his bonnet about the TV show Transparent (a) existing at all, and (b) being featured in The New York Times. He hyperventilates:
"A political response is necessary, but a political response alone is radically insufficient, in part because it’s nothing but a delaying action. This Weimar America madness has to run its course. We religious conservatives had all better do everything we can to protect our institutions and our families from it. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not going to get any easier as the years go by, no matter who sits in the White House, and we had better prepare ourselves."
In comments, Dreher explains his Nazi allusion "Weimar America": it's "shorthand for an unstable and decadent state and culture marked by left and right extremism, in which the center could not and did not hold."

The suggestion seems to be that Transparent is a herald of the US turning into a Nazi-like state in which the rounding up and murdering of conservative Christians like him is imminent.

I chose both quotes to highlight here because, to me, they demonstrate the Christian Persecution Complex well in its current post-marriage-equality incarnation.

Out of one side of his mouth, Dreher and his people are victims, he claims. Yet, out of the other side of his mouth, he uses his voice to belittle teenage girls. "Transgenders." College kids. Black Lives Matters activists. Take your pick at the Dreher blog. When people such as these advocate for themselves, it is "decadence." They are being whiny "titty-babies."  Yet, take away a religious school's "right" to discriminate against gays, let a show featuring trans people be featured in a major newspaper, and watch out everyone it's a human rights violation of the first order.

The problem with Christians such as this is not that they are being persecuted in any meaningful sense of the word. It's both that previously-excluded groups are gaining platforms and visibility while conservative Christians are losing their previously-privileged standing and disproportionate power in US society, law, and culture.  It is akin to Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) who interpret gains for women as the sexism/oppression of men.

There is literally no threat to anti-LGBT Christians in the US right now that merits comparisons to either Nazi Germany or its precursor conditions.

As I noted back in June, when Dreher was given space in Time (because.... ummm?) to share his histrionics about the SCOTUS ruling, "The chief harm to opponents of equality is not that it impacts their own rights or liberty, but that the state no longer officially agrees with their moral and/or religious views about the matter. The state not being a Christian one is framed, not as neutrality, but as aggression and unfairness."

Yet, unfortunately, to paraphrase a quote, when God is a man, some men see themselves as God.

Many white Christian men are used to being authoritative overlords - indeed grow up with their scriptures affirming that status for them. They have it ingrained in them that their - our - voices don't matter, that our voices are, say, "the most annoying on the planet," unworthy of listening to, dangerous, a beginning to the end times.

In a recent essay, Rebecca Solnit makes an observation about that peculiar group of white guys who, because of the way society has long centered them and their voices, now demand constant coddling (while of course claiming it's others who need to be coddled):
"A group of black college students doesn’t like something and they ask for something different in a fairly civil way and they’re accused of needing coddling as though it’s needing nuclear arms. A group of white male gamers doesn’t like what a woman cultural critic says about misogyny in gaming and they spend a year or so persecuting her with an unending torrent of rape threats, death threats, bomb threats, doxxing, and eventually a threat of a massacre that cites Marc LePine, the Montreal misogynist who murdered 14 women in 1989, as a role model. I’m speaking, of course, about the case of Anita Sarkeesian and Gamergate. You could call those guys coddled. We should. And seriously, did they feel they were owed a world in which everyone thought everything they did and liked and made was awesome or just remained silent? Maybe, because they had it for a long time.
And so it goes. When men like Dreher are offended by, say, Transparent, we are to take it as a valid, serious, important concern. His delicate sensibilities - the priggish way he talks about trans people and "SJWs" -  demand coddling. Other people's sensibilities are seen as political correctness gone too far.

In all, it's a profound failure of empathy.

In her essay, Solnit goes on to note that, indeed, art can be dangerous. It can change the world. It can make us or break us.  It can elevate other voices. And, in the case of something like Transparent, can shift the female gaze from the margin to the center, and tell the previously-untold stories of people who have previously been marginal to the white male protagonist's story.

Only under the mindset that one particular group's story is the only one worth centering can the telling of other people's stories be framed as "decadent."  I mean, let's really take a step back and examine the self-absorption inherent in that claim: telling stories that center trans and female individuals is a sign of decadence, it is a luxury and sign of decline; unlike say the telling of cisgender white male stories, which is a social necessity, and a social good.

Perhaps to a conservative white Christian man with such a mindset, the celebration of other stories, perspectives, lifestyles feels akin to - for him - genocide.  If in metaphor only.

Make no mistake, though, it's not.

What a world.

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