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Thursday, October 14, 2010  

We Have Met the Bigots, and...

I'm almost done with this topic, but I need to add a few words on the conflation of conservative Christianity with anti-gay bigotry and in turn with anti-gay school bullying. As I mentioned, I haven't seen the conflation between the first term and the third to be backed by any evidence. And let me stress, I haven't seen any evidence. Maybe it's out there and I have yet to be informed. That is entirely possible.

But in any case, stochastically variable events are not always liable to meaningful generalizations or policy responses. The bigger fish is the conflation of conservative views on homosexuality--specifically, gay marriage--with bigotry. Is this accurate? Most Christians in America are against gay marriage. Does this by itself qualify one as a bigot?

Again relying on my personal experience, I'd have to say no. I don't voluntarily associate with people I think are bigots, so I guess the reasoning here is somewhat circular. Are these conservative Christians not necessarily cognizant of the privilege that law and culture presently grant them, nor profoundly empathetic with the experiences of people they don't know or understand, nor quick enough to denounce extremism on their own side of the fence? Probably. But if that qualifies as bigotry, I think most of us would have to accept the label at some point or other. Maybe that means we should actually fling it around more often rather than less, that we all may be chastened by the sting. Or maybe it means we should be more nuanced in how we describe disagreement, even over fairly big-ticket items.

Perhaps more to the point, does even peaceful and non-bigoted opposition to gay marriage foster an environment conducive to anti-gay bullying? Savage himself sometimes skips over the very question, referring to "bullying at the ballot box" (someone should tell him that elections customarily have at least two alternatives; anyway he's right about the White House in that particular post). It's probably not a question that can be answered in any rigorous way. Does opposition to American foreign policy among American Muslims foster an environment conducive to acts of terror? Did the sexual revolution foster an environment conducive to priestly abuse of minors? Well, I don't know. It's easy to insinuate just about anything; associations will ring true to audiences disposed to dislike or distrust certain groups. But the conduciveness of environments to anything is not measurable as far as I know, and in any event people and not environments have to own actions. What we are left with, typically, is the difficult imperative to accept good faith where we find it, to argue against explicit statements and actions rather than hidden (and often fantasized) motives, and to refrain from attributing to an individual what we know (or think we know) about a group, and vice versa.

Nobody I read on a regular basis is all that good at this. But the more someone is capable of doing it--especially someone I disagree with--the more skeptical people are likely to listen.

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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 10:29 PM
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