Thursday, March 6, 2008

Political Statements in a Tragedy

Over on Stephen’s blog, after two days, we finally have people weighing in, turning someone’s personal tragedy into something bigger. Of the two videos he posted, the first one about a 15 year old gay boy being killed for giving a guy a Valentine has stirred the most response. It’s sad, but sorry…I can’t generate any “extra” emotion over it. I don’t see it as any sadder than some kid being shot for wearing the wrong color baseball cap in the wrong neighborhood. I don’t see it as any sadder than some black kid being beaten and dragged behind a truck with a chain around his neck for whistling at a white girl “in the wrong town”. I don’t see it as any sadder than any number of bad things that happen to good people anywhere in the world on any given day. It was a vicious murder and that’s all it was…as if that isn’t enough?

The first few comments to the post are what one would expect. After all, there is no justification for murder – murder being, by definition, the willful taking of an innocent life. But then, we turn the tragedy to political statement and it all starts with a twisting of my words from a discussion of gay rights in an earlier discussion on Stephen’s blog.

SmartLikeStreetcar says: “A few people on here have argued that since the majority doesn't support gay marriage, and since the majority doesn't want gay bashing to be labeled a hate crime, then the US shouldn't enact such policies.”

Could someone explain to me how, in a democracy (where presumably majority rules), one enacts legislation without the majority voting for it? We are not talking about a topic where the polity is evenly divided, or ambiguously close. We are probably talking a polity that is, at best, split 80/20. And somehow, we think the twenty percent should ram their morals down the throats of the other eighty percent? It does not matter that the twenty percent might be right. It ain’t happenin’ folks! It will not happen until you convince more of the majority of the rightness of your position and bring them over to your side. That’s how democracy works, but apparently Stephen and some of his friends missed that part of Civics 101.

Streetcar goes on to say: “But to be a leader means that you have to lead, that you can move the country in a direction of tolerance and understanding, and if your words are passionate and heartfelt, you can change minds. You can do what is right. Just as Abraham Lincoln did 150 years ago.”

Except that Abraham Lincoln himself said that he’d be willing to keep slavery, if the Union could be held together. So much for passionate heartfelt mind changing. We also seem to forget that over half a million people died to bring about that particular change (some revisionist historians put the number closer to a million). If you can’t get elected to the leadership position, then the road you travel is longer, more difficult, and you are doing so without the power of the political office to affect meaningful change. If the mood of the polity is against your position and you are not smart enough to figure that out, then you don’t get elected. That’s how it works. Civics 101 again.

Where we have agreement is in the insane comments by people like Falwell, Robertson and Franklin Graham – comments stating that all our problems are some curse from God. Hooey! I don’t believe that either and I also despise that fact that these individuals wrap themselves in the mantel of Jesus and twist his message into their message of hate.

Writerkat then asks Streetcar: “How do people get away with that??”

Demographics. The people who harbor such feelings or who are sympathetic to such feelings are in the vast majority. That does not make them right, but that is the mountain you are attempting to move.

Then Stephen chimes in agreeing with Streetcar on the gay rights litmus test: “Equal rights is a different matter. If you think some people should have more rights than others, something's wrong with you.”

And what power grants “rights?” Only the power that one has to take and hold those “rights.” You can sit and pontificate about ideals and what should be, but if you don’t change hearts and minds, it’s all theory. That is the reality you are facing. With all the other issues on the table, it is insane to expect a politician to fall on his or her sword in the name of gay rights at this time.

Spare me your hypocrisy and prattle about equal rights! You seem to have no problem condemning tens of thousands of innocent lives to death in your support for “abortion rights!” Your stance on the two topics is not logically consistent.

Stephen concludes with: “Equal rights don't spring from a spreadsheet; they're an a priori premise of modern society, one that has, incidentally, enormous survival benefit.”

No, equal rights are an invention of Western society. How is this enormous survival benefit accrued? Less than 1/5 of the world’s population live within political systems that even espouse the concept of rights as defined by Western culture. So how is it a priori? It seems to me that the other four fifths of humanity are surviving quite well without necessarily sharing the Western view on rights. There seems to be a contradiction, therefore, check your premise.

Erica added: “People on this blog call for "patience," and they are entitled to that opinion, but then again . . . when it is your rights, as a "Lesser Than" or "Other" it is different. It is easy for the majority to be both SILENT and for them to urge patience.”

The majority are hardly silent on the issue of “gay rights”. In fact, they are shouting you down. Those on your side who urge patience are urging patience in the tactical sense, not “turn the other cheek” sense. You should know me well enough by now to know that I’m not a “turn the other cheek” type. Such person like me, being a soldier, looks at “battles” figurative or literal in such terms. Tactical patience allows you to shape the battlefield to your advantage so that when you attack, you are successful. A frontal assault at 1 to 4 odds is not wise. Timing is everything, therefore patience is a requirement for success.

Speak out that something like killing someone for being gay is wrong…absolutely! No justification in the world will suffice for murder…any murder. If you think you are going to change the visceral reaction of the majority about gay rights with “in-your-face” militant advocacy, think again.

Finally, it is not just the Falwell’s, the Hitler’s, the Robertson’s and others of that twisted ilk who are to blame for crimes like the murder of Larry. It also falls on those who fail to warn such children that there are evil people out there who will harm you for being what you are. You can do such a good job teaching your kid that it is “ok to be gay” that you send them unarmed and unprepared into a lion’s den. It should not be so, but it is.