Friday, April 3, 2015

Fuck Them: A Balanced And Considered Approach To Social Conservatism

I grew up among social and religious conservatives - the kind of people who like Duck Dynasty and Chick-fil-A. Many of them might have been supporters of Santorum or Huckabee, and the older ones might have grown up with Pat Robertson. As we discuss cultural conflicts in America today, I really feel like I can give many of my readers some insight into who they are, and how best to approach the delicate task of negotiating the parameters of our civic and economic engagement.

My position, in short, is this: Fuck them. Fuck them all. Those people are assholes.

Allow me to elaborate. And when I say "elaborate" I mean "repeat myself." Fuck them. Fuck them all. Those people are assholes.

Seriously. They are awful. They are the worst. Being fair to them isn't something you need to worry about.

I can guess your objections. Don't people have a right to be terrible to others? Absolutely and truly terrible? What about that Voltaire quote about defending to the death and somesuch? That's a good point, and I could understand how that might give you pause. So let me address it by saying you should almost never hunt these people for sport. I think that's going too far. You shouldn't hunt them for sport or lock them in a warehouse and force them to struggle with a series of lethal traps while being menaced by a clown puppet.

Yes, of course they do have the right to believe gay people are inferior. Everyone has that right. Just like everyone has the right to believe people of other races and religions are inferior. And you could argue about this in a theoretical way, which conservatives like to do, because a theoretical discussion distracts us all from the facts of our shared history in this country.

But the facts are clear. Social and religious conservatives have a well-documented record of denying rights to people. Of throwing people out of communities, refusing them service at lunch counters, and bullying them everywhere. Homophobia, like racism, and like sexism, has a death toll associated with it. It also has centuries of oppression and misery associated with it. These aren't theoretical considerations. This isn't a free speech issue. At stake is whether we give social and religious conservatives the power to continue marginalizing everyone who doesn't agree with them. Because yes, they will absolutely do anything and everything they can get away with to make life miserable for people who don't make their list. They have, they do, and they will. So it was in the beginning shall it be in the end.

I've worked with these people, I've gone to school with them, and I've lived in their neighborhoods, and they are more psychotic than a Scientology video. They believe in a God who will spend eternity torturing the majority of human beings - the majority - in the worst ways you can think of, and that this God will do that hideous thing as an expression of His perfect love. They believe this nation belongs only to them, and that they have a duty to bring it to obedience. They don't respect the rights of women, because they really don't think women are equal, or that their bodies belong to them. When the cameras are videoing, they might slip and say they might feel uncomfortable with gay marriage - but when the cameras are off, they will say that being gay really should be a crime, and that God uses disease and natural disasters to punish this country for our tolerance. Hell, many of them have said such things publicly.

No, they don't want equal rights. That's a stupid thing to believe. Every election we have one or two candidates who represent those people, and they make it quite clear what they want.

I want a country where they have exactly the same level of respect as racist skinheads. Exactly that. No one gets to throw a rock through their shop windows, but everyone agrees that they're pretty vile. Gay kids are killing themselves because of the crap these people believe. They are pretty vile.

Will they look like the underdogs in my liberal dystopia? Will they whine about their mistreatment? Will they complain that it isn't fair?

Yes. Of course. Good.

Because fuck them.

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  1. See, I would like to applaud you for taking a fearless stand for Good against Evil, but there's a problem:

    If it ever became socially acceptable to hate - fully and truly and unapologetically HATE - people who are insufficiently liberal, then I am absolutely certain that I would end up being on the list of public enemies. Just as absolutely certain as I am that I'd end up on that list if the social conservatives ever managed to create a Republic of Gilead. It's just how my life works, you know? No one wants me on THEIR team. And in fact, I'm too ornery to be on anyone's team, anyway. I've tried any number of times, but sooner or later I always manage to piss everyone off by saying things like, "hey, isn't this part of our party line really kind of dumb, when you think about it?" and "shouldn't this part of our philosophy also apply to this other situation?"

    So I'm afraid I can't agree with you here. Not because I have any particular love for social conservatives, but because I think that if people start looking for social conservatives to hate, it would take them all of five seconds to decide that anyone who wasn't 100% socially progressive was per definition a hateful social conservative. And I've never in my life been 100% anything.

    1. That's a good point. Slippery slopes and all that. But slippery slope arguments have their limitations.

    2. I think we can handle this by defining our terms exactly. The people we are talking about will treat other people badly on the basis of a pragmatically irrelevant accident of birth: Gender, gender orientation, skin color, country of origin, or culture of origin. To a certain extent this includes religion, because people tend to get that locked in before they have full urinary continence and object permanence. We're not talking about nuanced opinions on the role of the federal reserve or even fervent opinions on electoral reform.

      Discriminate on the basis of of arbitrary conditions at birth and it's "Fuck you, asshole!"
      Have contrary opinions about politics or economics and we can talk.

    3. > Discriminate on the basis of of arbitrary conditions at birth and it's
      > "Fuck you, asshole!"

      In which case it's completely fine to, for instance, discriminate on a basis of religion, since you can in theory choose your religion. And if the less-favoured religions just happens to be dominated by people with the wrong skin colour, then you can't prove that that's not a sheer accident.

      This is not conjecture. This is what racists ALREADY DO, in response to the fact that it's already considered to be Not Cool to be a racist. You know this.

      So what are you going to do about that? The only thing you can do, if you're dead set on a zero-tolerance policy - decide that you are not going to be fooled by such a transparent ruse, that anytime someone talks about, for instance, "inner-city crime" they are clearly using a racist dog-whistle and that they therefore just surrendered any right to be treated like a reasonable human being.

      This also is not conjecture. This is what Internet liberals are already doing.

      Short version? Set up rigid definition for who doesn't deserve to be listened to, and social conservatives will immediately find ways around it. Set up a loose definition for who doesn't deserve to be listened to, and it will end up encompassing everyone who doesn't completely agree with you. This is why writing off large swaths of people, no matter how tempting it is, is not in fact a good idea.

    4. I think possibly writing off large swaths of people is a good idea. There are many people and not very much time. We need to be selective about whose ideas we are going to hear.

    5. I'm with Barbara. I think social cons have spent a couple decades defining what a social con is, and we all sort of know enough to know we're not going to be able to hug this one out.

    6. Note this: "To a certain extent this includes religion, because people tend to get that locked in before they have full urinary continence and object permanence." In other words, do not discriminate on the basis of religion, except to the extent that the religion promotes bigotry itself. Act on the basis of its adherents' real world behavior, not the simple fact of their label.

  2. But slippery slope arguments have their limitations.

    True, but you seem to be skiing rather quickly.

    I grew up in Indiana. I know a bunch of social conservatives. I've had complicated romantic relationships with social conservatives. They aren't bad people, or not worse than the rest, but they're scared. Their little island of control is gradually washing away, and sooner or later they're going to be in the water with the gay Mexican sharks, and they don't know how to deal with that. And religion is what they do when they don't know what to do.

    I keep trying to point out to them that the Bible condemns usury far more clearly and often than homosexuality, and that they should be organizing against bankers, but they're not *that* stupid.

    1. Have you ever actually convinced a religious or social conservative that gay people really do deserve full equality under the law? Including marriage rights?

      How often have you heard a social conservative say something to the effect that gay people kind of deserve to get HIV, because what they're doing isn't natural? How often have you heard them express some kind of dark and violent idea about the death or eternal torture of gay people?

      Have you ever convinced a religious conservative that the idea that non-Christians being tortured for all eternity is a messed up and creepy idea? That it's wrong -- that a God of love just couldn't do that and be a God of love?

      I've got my answers. And not just from private conversations. They say this publicly. I still remember hearing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson GLOATING about 9/11.

      No. Sorry. I'm sure you see the good in them, and I'm sure there is some good in them. But Ted Bundy volunteered at a suicide hotline, back in earlier times.

      I'm going to stick with "Fuck those people" as my answer.

    2. I'm not trying to be caustic toward you. I respect someone who wants to reach people. If you end up building a coalition of pro-gay-rights-social cons -- even a tiny one -- I will be very impressed indeed, and I will admit I'm wrong.

    3. I feel the old familiar rage flowing through so many of these comments, and it fills me with -- sorry no, that's bloating again.

      Look, you're talking about raging against what are now effectively a segment of Emo's in our midst -- not going to be very productive. It plays right into their opinion makers hands. Hey, I get the hatred, and you SHOULD work through it. But you're going to wind up overestimating their numbers and their influence again JUST like everybody did with the once-vaunted Tea Party (remember how many months it took before it became PC to call them all conservatives?). Unfortunately, this serves not just their masters, but it really DOES fluff their own egos.

      And then you'll overuse the accusations of racism so many parts where they won't be listening. Who WILL hear them are tons of fools who fancy themselves "moderates" or conservative-leaning "independents." Yeah, douchey quotes around "independents" because the second you start taking a logic hammer to the label "conservatives" they tense up, walkout, or start arguing with you.

      Anyways, the point is that these moderate poseurs really should not be called racists. There are relatively very few people who lead the charge of racism, so too many absolve themselves of responsibility for that, and they do not deserve such an easy copout.

      The reality is, the vast majority of conservatives are guilty of CONDONING racism. That is what you have to nail them with over and over again. It's why they get so defensive, indignant and angry at the charges of racism. They have a guilty conscience. And they damn sure should. The way to use that against them is to remind these wouldbe moderates who fancy themselves free from the shitstorm that is Fox News and Right-Wing radio that they never speak up.

      Remind them that no moderates pushed back against Trump's comments. Or the birther charges. Or against the class warfare that left banks bigger than ever & the weakest insider trading laws in the developed world (wonder how the economic growth keeps going to the same small group?), or when cowardly conservatives panicked and surrendered the civil liberties protected by the 4th, 6th, and 8th Amendments...all while calling anyone who opposed Guantanamo and Patriot Act anti-American. You get the point.

      Use that anger to cut away their many layers of denial and faux outrage and watch as they choke on their own anger. Remind them that conservative PC culture conservative PC culture marginalized and demonized anyone who dared question the rising health care costs while insurance, medical equipment, and pharmaceuticals raked in record profits. Conservative PC tries to shut down anyone who asks if evangelicals murdering medical providers and professionals is due to an inherent violence in Christianity? Why can't they just say we have a domestic Christian terrorist problem that we need to defend the U.S. against? Would these moderates have the guts to ask this question at a conservative rally or on the floor of Congress or, heaven forbid, on television? Hmm?

      You're just directing your anger at people who will feed on it. There are other places to direct it.

  3. "They aren't bad people, or not worse than the rest, but they're scared."

    They may well be scared. But in their fear they have chosen to attack what they fear, to deal with the world around them with hatred and anger rather than try and figure out how to live with this strange new world. They have chosen this path, they have not been forced upon it. They will settle for nothing less than that their standards are imposed on veryone else.

    And that choice, in turn, forces everyone else into a choice; submit to them, or destroy them. Since they won't consider the alternative.

    I would feel sorry for them, in their fear. Or condemn them for their stupidity and shortsightedness and anger. But I don't. They are like a disease; deadly and unthinking.

    And like a disease, they simply need to be treated as such.

    1. If you genuinely believe that what you are dealing with is one great big hive mind motivated purely by hate of all that is good and pure, which will never stop unless you smash it to pieces, then yes, that is a very reasonable attitude to take. If there can be no peace, then let there be war to the end!

      And I can't prove to you that that belief is false. I think it is probably an exaggeration of reality, but certainly I can't deny that there is SOME truth to it. I mean, I read the news.

      Still, if your plan for winning is to be every bit as horrible as you think the other side is, then you'll have to excuse me if I'm not holding my breath for who wins - because whoever does will be someone who isn't inclined to treat me particularly well. Oh, the victorious liberals will make things better for women, gays and people of colour, I have no doubt, but the handicapped? The mentally ill? The poor? Those will be every bit as screwed as they always were, because people who want to cleanse the world always eventually begin to target the unattractively weak.

    2. I think liberals have an okay record on the handicapped, mentally ill, and poor. It's not stellar. But those are kind of our issues. Your general point, that extremism is ultimately bad, and it turns you into a mirror of your enemy, is something I generally agree with. But we are dealing with people who really start out by thinking that everyone but them is going to hell, that the goal of US foreign policy is to create a bloody war in the Middle East so Jesus can zap them to heaven, and that God wants gay people to live tortured lives. You're arguing a theoretical against a proven fact.

    3. It's true that life would be pretty awful if religious conservatives had everything their own way, which they do in some awful areas of the world. In Indiana, IIRC the homosexuals pretty much graduated high school and went off to college or Chicago, as their finances permitted. There was a little extra drama, but it all worked out in the end, more or less.

      I was an atheist/agnostic type. It was much the same for us, except we went to colleges with more math and/or different parts of Chicago.

    4. Yeah, it happened like that for many of my friends too.

    5. Jay: I meant what I said about your desire to treat these people with equanimity and hope some of them change. That might work. Let's call my scheme to burn everything they have to ash and salt the earth so nothing will grow there, "Plan B."

    6. "burn everything they have to ash and salt the earth so nothing will grow there" has been plan A for Christians (against other religions and other branches of their own) for centuries. Karma.

  4. I come back and read this again every time a person I used to respect posts a "thoughtful" article that "just asks questions" about whatever the latest Gay Menace talk point is (right now it's the Safe Schools Coalition and their little book). You've been saving my sanity a little, sir, and since I have precious little to go around, I thank you.

    1. Thank you! Yeah, it's hard to keep the ol' nogging running on all four cylinders lately.


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