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    Ev’rything’s coming up Dusty!

    Posted by Sean at 12:36, July 6th, 2009

    Chris Geidner at Law Dork: Many people would say that we shouldn’t need to “wait” for equality, and they would be right.  But let’s be clear that having the patience to take careful, intentional steps that will best accomplish our goals, which is Andrew’s point,  is not the same thing as being told that our issues don’t matter and that we’ll just need to wait on our changes.  This isn’t waiting for waiting’s sake; this is waiting so that solutions are real and permanent.

    People want change and we want it now, but that’s not going to make it reality.  Maybe, just maybe, if we give this President a chance, he could actually come through for us — with real, lasting equality advancements.

    When my friends told me you had someone new
    I didn’t believe a single word was true
    I showed them all I had faith in you
    I just kept on sayin’,

    “Oh, no—not my baby!
    Oh, no—not my sweet baby!”
    You’re not like those other guys
    Who lead you on and tell you lies

    Andrew Sullivan: The more you observe, the clearer it is that Obama is working on an eight-year time cycle. He wants deep structural change, not swift superficial grandstanding and conflict. He is taking his time and keeping his cool. The question is whether a volatile electorate in a terrible economic time will be patient enough to wait.

    My mama told me when rumors spread
    There’s truth somewhere, and I should use my head
    But I didn’t listen to what she said
    I kept right on sayin’,

    “Oh, no—not my baby!
    Oh, no—not my sweet baby!”
    You’re not like those other boys
    Who play with hearts like they were toys

    Andrew Sullivan: Obama is also, at his core, a community organiser. Community organisers do not jump into a situation and start bossing people around. They begin by listening, debating, cajoling, inspiring and delegating. Less deciders than ralliers, community organisers explain the options, inspire self-confidence and try to empower others, not themselves. If you think of Obama even on a global stage, this is his mojo. And those community organisers do not tell you to expect instant results. It takes time when you try to build real change from below. But the change is stronger, deeper and more real when it comes.

    Well, you might have had a last-minute fling
    But I am sure it didn’t mean a thing
    ‘Cause yesterday you gave me your ring
    And I’m so glad that I kept on sayin’,

    “Oh, no—not my baby!
    Oh, no—not my sweet baby!”
    You’re not like those other boys
    Who play with hearts like they were toys

    Oh, no—not my baby!
    Oh, no—not my sweet baby!
    Oh, no—not my baby!
    No, no, no, no—not my sweet baby!
    Oh, no—not my baby!
    Oh, no—not my sweet baby!

    dustyultimate

    Soundtrack available here.

    Via Instapundit.


    Free xone

    Posted by Sean at 19:58, June 30th, 2009

    A dear blog friend asked whether I’d seen this and implied that I might want to comment on it. I’m not sure what good that will do—the post is so incoherent that there’s no point to a line-by-line, Fisking-style approach, and I can’t really pick out a well-developed central argument to discuss more generally. So let me split the difference and make a few passing observations:

    •   To the extent that McCain has a point, his point is that Palin-hatred on the part of leftist gays is especially vitriolic in the way it’s targeted toward her identity as a wife and mother. But the example he chooses is this:

         A hetero swine like Letterman makes “slutty flight attendant” jokes about Palin’s looks. Gay men make tasteless jokes about Palin as a mother. This is a blog, not a textbook, but if you’ve read this far, you can generalize from that observation to consider why Andrew Sullivan has spent months mucking around the fever swamps of Trig-trutherism.

         Huh? The joke Letterman actually took the most heat for was the one about Palin’s daughter’s being impregnated by A-Rod, which is not only targeted at Palin as a mother but also targeted at her daughter as a mother. (Letterman insisted that he was talking about Bristol rather than Willow.) Perhaps McCain has confirmation that that particular one-liner was devised by one of Letterman’s gay writers, but I haven’t heard tell of any such thing. And I haven’t heard any allegations that Letterman himself is gay. (Aside to the heavens: Please, no.) The writer of that recent PlayboyOnline article about conservative women as objects of what we will delicately call adversarial lust was, to my knowledge, straight, too.

         As for Sullivan’s obsession with the provenance of Trig Palin, yeah, it’s embarrassing; and the part about Sullivan’s being a gay guy who’s obsessed with the traffic through Palin’s cervix is one of the media’s more amusing ironies. But I’m not sure it’s any more telling about Sullivan’s gay mind than, say, the loopy obsession with President Obama’s birth certificate implies racism on the part of the fringe-right wackos who keep fulminating about it. Sullivan thought there was a weakness to exploit in someone he was trying to take down politically, and he went for it. He ran it into the ground, but lately he runs everything into the ground, cervix-related or not. If this were some sort of intrinsically gay male thing, we might expect Jonathan Rauch, Bruce Bawer, Deroy Murdock, Walter Olson, or Dale Carpenter to be routinely going bananas over women they oppose politically. But they don’t.

    •   McCain has anticipated such objections by saying that of course there are exceptions; he’s just stating the general rule. I don’t know what kinds of persons McCain hangs out with, but I’ve been a gay guy in Philadelphia, New York, and Tokyo for a decade and a half, and I’ve found it pretty easy to avoid neurotics. Yes, you basically have to give up on organized gay activism, which is dominated by one-note obsessives; and if your political positions skew what’s seen as right, you deal with a lot of spluttering at dinner parties. But that’s life in the big city, and it’s no better among leftist straight people.
    •   The fashion industry, or the section of it that McCain is talking about, is also part of the big city. Lots of small towns out in the provinces have gay dressmakers who make the local society ladies look like local society ladies, which normally doesn’t mean streetwalkers. Hell, even the gay guys in New York who contribute to the production and distribution of lines of tarty clothes will, when a living, breathing female friend asks them to help her get ready for a date, counsel her in the direction of feminine and romantic and away from anything that looks too slutty. The sort of high-end fashion design that you see in Vogue is generated by people who prize the unfettered imagination over everyday wearability for everyday people. (You can see the same phenomenon in architecture and interior design.) They like their models tall and slim, even when they’ve got curves like Gisele, because clothes in general hang better and show their construction better on tall, slim bodies. Miuccia Prada, Donatella Versace, Behnaz Sarafpour, and thousands of less famous women are just as numerous in that world as gay guys are. And it’s bizarre that McCain can actually mention ultra-hetero hip-hop without noticing that that‘s where a lot of the flesh-displaying shapes that fashion has absorbed over the last two decades have come from.
    •   I’ve never heard another gay guy use the word fish to refer to anything but his order of trout amandine, except on episodes of Queer as Folk. That’s not to say it doesn’t ever happen, only that it doesn’t necessarily characterize gay life in general. And while fag hag can certainly be used negatively, in my experience, it tends to describe a very particular kind of straight woman: one who latches on to gay-guy friends because she can’t handle straight men who might want to have a lasting, mature relationship with her. The exploitation goes both directions, and it can be depressingly difficult for bystanders to determine who’s making the bigger sucker out of whom. But to the extent that dysfunctionality and derogation are involved, they aren’t just homosexual dysfunctionality and derogation.
    •   The idea that gay men are more hostile to women than the lesbian sisterhood is to men, which is implicit in the statement that lesbians are “riding in the back of the Equality Bus” while we male homos steer it, is pretty hard to believe on the face of it. I don’t know about Cynthia Yockey, but I do know that Camille Paglia and Tammy Bruce, while they’re critical of gay men’s excesses, have reserved their most astringent comments for the self-defeating practices of fellow lesbians.
    •   One final thing that’s applicable to McCain but hardly, more’s the pity, exclusive to him: can we please knock it off with the bratty, self-satisifed, look-how-daringly-un-PC-I-am tone? If you’re calling them as you see them, alert readers will be able to tell that you’re not cowed by PC pieties without your having to ham and mug about what a roguish taboo-trampler you are. It’s no less obnoxious coming from the right than it used to be coming from Karen Finley.

    Added on 2 July: Thanks to Eric for the link in his own post on the topic:

    The only message I can see that will be remembered from this is that a lot of right wingers think that those who hate Sarah Palin are gay (as if there is no greater insult) and should be called names. A new meme for the left to proudly wave.

    I fail to see how this will resonate in Sarah Palin’s favor.

    I realize that many people are saying that Stacy McCain is only doing this for the traffic. I can’t blame any blogger for wanting traffic, but I do think that if he likes Sarah Palin as much as he claims does, McCain might think twice about whether getting more hits is worth the damage he does to his cause.

    When the dust settles, no one will remember the traffic he got. What they will remember is the shining new conservative principle he established.

    If you hate Sarah Palin, you must be gay!

    Well, plenty of people already believed that kind of thing without McCain’s having to post about it; when I posted this, not a single one of his approving commenters seemed to have suffered any cognitive dissonance over the way he’d characterized Letterman’s Palin jokes–an elementary factual error. Social cons are to be applauded when they take a critical look at politically biased research that uses shoddy methods to generate figures that conveniently shore up preexisting liberal wish lists. It’s just a shame that their disinterested pursuit of the truth rarely extends to their discussions of gay issues, where many of them have a history of being all too willing to let questions about sampling, survey-instrument construction, generalizations drawn from anecdotes, and other basics recede from view as long as there’s a juicy opportunity to paint homosexuals as pathological.


    Mary, Mary—flat tire!

    Posted by Sean at 06:44, June 19th, 2009

    Andrew Sullivan is urging gays who are in the pocket of the Democratic National Committee to start trying to hit it where it hurts:

    One way to get the Obama administration’s attention on civil rights is for gay people to stop funding the Democrats. That’s all these people care about anyway when it comes to gays: our money. If the Democrats refuse to support us, refuse to support them. This is a start. But we need to get more creative. We need actions to highlight the administration’s betrayals, postponements and boilerplate. We need to start confronting the president at his events. We need civil disobedience. We need to tell him we do not want another fricking speech where he tells us he is a fierce advocate for our rights, when that is quite plainly at this point not true. We will not tolerate another Clinton. No invites to these people for dinners or fundraisers. No cheering him at events while he does nothing to follow up on his explicit promises. Of course these things can be done. If anyone high up in the Obama administration or the Pelosi-Reid Congress gave a damn, much would have been done.

    “That’s all these people care about anyway when it comes to gays: our money.” Well, yes, some of us have thought that for quite some time. Or maybe not quite that coarsely—I’m sure plenty of DNC higher-ups genuinely care about gay people, but when it’s time to make political calculations, we have little power unless we’re part of a larger bloc. I don’t say that out of self-pity; it’s just cold, hard political reality. The incentive to give gay activists what they want just because they’re being loud about wanting it is pretty low, though I certainly agree that gay people who feel betrayed should feel free to exercise their First Amendment right to petition the government.

    Allow me to observe, however, that it would be nice if they hadn’t set a track record of making it so easy to walk all over them. Sullivan talks about not tolerating another Clinton, but liberal gay politicos have already made the same mistake they did with Bill: showering a charismatic politician with such adoration that they can hardly blame him for presuming on their unconditional love. And then looking whiny when they start bellowing about how betrayed they feel. Nick Gillespie posted this yesterday at Reason.com:

    I can appreciate the anger and disappointment among gay and lesbian supporters of Obama, but in their frustration may well be the seed of a deeper understanding that politics and politicians are disappointing at best and malevolent at worst. Which is precisely the reason to squeeze their power and influence over citizens and human activity to the bare minimum, whether we’re talking about the bedroom or the boardroom.

    We can dream. If this does get gay activists and voters to rethink their knee-jerk allegiance to the DNC, then the tactics Sullivan is calling for will serve a good purpose. But unless they recognize Gillespie’s libertarian point, it’ll be hard to shake the feeling that they’ve learned the tune but are pointlessly rewriting already adequate lyrics:





    Added later: Also, there’s this from Matt Welch:

    For journo-pundits especially, but I think all of us too: Life really is better lived when you reserve your love for the deserving people you know, rather than the undeserving politicians you think you understand.


    A night to remember

    Posted by Sean at 13:27, June 13th, 2009

    Andrew Sullivan links to a post by Lars Thorwald at Kos, which defends the DOJ’s brief defending DOMA. Sullivan says:

    Lars Thorwald has a strong post on why Obama’s DOJ brief in defense of DOMA is in fact a keeping of a promise: to restore the rule of law after eight years of abuse. I take every point he makes. Read the whole thing.

    And Thorwald (I hope that’s his real name, because it would be a rather creepy Hitchcock reference to take as a pop-culture pseudonym—not that that vitiates his arguments…I’m just saying) states:

    Because what happened the last 8 years was this: We were a nation of men, or, more precisely, a handful of men. If Cheney, Yoo, Addington, Feith, Bush, and the rest didn’t like a law on policy grounds…well, we can just ignore it.

    I don’t care if it is DOMA, or FISA, or whatever. The law is the law, and the executive must apply it and defend challenges to it, if it is legally defensible. (The Americablog assertion that Presidents routinely and frequently simply decline to defend enacted laws in Court is wrong for reasons far too numerous to entertain here, and on the occasions it has happened without good justification, I submit those Presidents were wrong, too).

    The point is: The man I voted for told me he would return us to a nation of laws, not of men. That means we follow (and apply, and defend–or else it means nothing) the law. Regardless of the whims or policy desires of the man in the chair. Because he is bound by the law, too.

    Have you all forgotten this so soon?

    My understanding from posts by other attorneys is that, in fact, the brief filed yesterday is not really different from those of the Bush administration DOJ in substantive legal terms. So…this represents Obama’s commitment to the rule of law, but those represented Bush’s cavalier attitude toward laws he didn’t like? It’s possible that I really am missing something, but Thorwald is explicitly and mindedly pitching his post at the educated non-lawyer reader, and I don’t think there’s anything in it I just didn’t understand.

    If we’re talking about the rule of law outside the realm of DOJ briefs—well, Obama’s done plenty of talking about changing how we prosecute the WOT, but the actual shifts he’s made, even by the standards of the things leftists have been complaining about for years, are very meager. And looking at the administration from 35,000 feet, we have the tax-evading Secretary of the Treasury [!], the plans to interfere with the contracted-for bonus structure at AIG, and the strongarming of Chrysler creditors to facilitate a sop to the union$. I have a great deal of difficulty seeing these things, either collectively or separately, as representing anything but a system in which some rules apply to super-cool people and others apply to everyone else. People are welcome to cheerlead for Obama’s policy prescriptions, but they’re going to have to do better than this if they want to argue persuasively that his administration is setting about enacting them through the renewed application of the rule of law.

    I used to admire Sullivan very much, but for the last several years, reading him has made me feel a lot like Robert Christgau when he reviewed Cyndi Lauper’s third solo album, which cemented her metamorphosis from genuine free-thinker to bland market-segment opportunist: “How embarrassing to have placed hope in this woman.” I agree with Eric that it’s odd for Sullivan to keep labeling himself a conservative, fiscal or otherwise, and of course in terms of policy I wish he still were. But what’s really depressing is that he can’t even seem to do new-convert liberalism with consistency or conviction.


    We’re all following a strange melody / We’re all summoned by a tune

    Posted by Sean at 11:58, June 12th, 2009

    Now do you see why some of us were cautious about Obama, guys (via Instapundit)?* John Aravosis at AMERICAblog is livid:

    And before Obama claims he didn’t have a choice, he had a choice. Bush, Reagan and Clinton all filed briefs in court opposing current federal law as being unconstitutional (we’ll be posting more about that later). Obama could have done the same. But instead he chose to defend DOMA, denigrate our civil rights, go back on his promises, and contradict his own statements that DOMA was “abhorrent.” Folks, Obama’s lawyers are even trying to diminish the impact of Roemer and Lawrence, our only two big Supreme Court victories. Obama is quite literally destroying our civil rights gains with this brief. He’s taking us down for his own benefit.

    Anyone who knows me well or reads me often is aware that I think the way activists have pursued SSM is self-defeating and naive, but it requires a particularly egregious level of naivete to be blindsided by this development at this point. Thus far, the Obama administration has manifested a preference for big donors with lots of people and power to leverage. Gay activism doesn’t fit those criteria. It’s loyally Democratic and has plenty of donors who (for individuals) give a lot, but its aggregate power isn’t major. And that’s leaving aside the possibility that Obama may be perfectly fine with gay people’s living our lives but just seriously believe that DOMA isn’t unconstitutional. I will say I find it droll to read that the Obama administration has suddenly taken it into its head to worry about how “scarce” government resources are and thus to be all parsimonious and judicious and stuff in allocating them to people who really, really deserve them. Where was that attitude during Bailout Fest a few months ago?

    Actually, this episode leads me back to a question that’s nagged at me ever since the Obama candidacy started taking over the airwaves: Liberal friends, doesn’t all this uncritical adulation for a politician worry you? I mean, I know you like the guy. I know you were sick of Bush and the GOP and were excited for a change. My libertarian heart and brain suspected that I wasn’t going to like Obama’s policy directions, but I understood why other people were willing to take a risk on him.

    But a lot of other people were True Believers, a type I recognize from my extreme-right/fundie upbringing. It’s that part that I think is insalubrious. Their faith in Obama is nonfalsifiable—he’s going to do the right thing, and if he doesn’t do the right thing, that just proves that he’s a pragmatist who’s willing to make the hard compromises that are sometimes necessary, so he really is basically doing the right thing—until they get a kick in the teeth that’s too powerful to spin away. Then they freak. And you can expect it to happen more and more often, because Obama’s been idolized by so many people with so many (ahem) diverse ideologies that, even if he were a paragon of principle, he’d inevitably end up screwing over large numbers of them.

    This is why I’m unmoved when friends complain that I’m too cynical about politics. Being suspicious of the motives of those who hold state power may make you gretzier after watching the news, but it at least ensures that you don’t make the mistake of equating politicians with rock stars. Celebrities can be Guardians of our Collective Dreams, but politicians set policy backed by the coercive power of the state. That means we should be searching out all available information about them and evaluating it unsparingly, so that we can make the most educated possible prediction of what they’re going to do once we give them the keys to the office. Swooning unreservedly over an untested politician may give you a nice glow now, but it’s a recipe for heartache later. You have no one to blame but yourselves when your misapplied religious impulse comes back and bites you.

    * I mean, of course, cautious in general, not cautious in the sense that I share Aravosis’s beliefs about SSM.

    Added later: Dale Carpenter has a post up at The Volokh Conspiracy:

    Historically federal marriage benefits have been available to anyone married under state law. The federal definition was parasitic on the state definition. If a state chose to allow 14-year-olds to marry, but most states did not allow that, nobody thought federal recognition of such marriages functioned as a subsidy forced on the taxpayers of other states. DOMA changed that, but only for gay marriages. “Neutrality,” as the Obama administration understands it, does not mean federal recognition of state choices in this matter. It means denying federal recognition of state choices.

    My point here is not to claim that the DOJ’s arguments are anti-gay, homophobic, or even wrong. Much of the brief seems right to me, or at least entirely defensible, as a matter of constitutional law. My point is only to note how much continuity there is in this instance, as in others, between the Bush and Obama administrations. In short, there’s little in this brief that could not have been endorsed by the Bush DOJ. A couple of rhetorical flourishes here and there might have been different. Perhaps a turn of phrase. But, minus some references to procreation and slippery slopes, the substance is there.

    Obama says he opposes DOMA as a policy matter and wants to repeal it. Nothing in the DOJ brief prevents him from acting on that belief. He is, he says, a “fierce advocate” for gay and lesbian Americans. When does that part start?


    Fags, fiestas, fish

    Posted by Sean at 01:23, June 8th, 2009

    There are several websites devoted to people who have been members of the cult-ish Christian sect in which I was, I believe I’ve mentioned several times, brought up.  The editor of one of them offered to create a page about what it was like for gay kids, and it’s up here.  Yes, I’m linking to a page that mostly consists of my nattering, but the interesting parts to me were the questions he came up with.  There was nothing I hadn’t been called upon to think about before, but it never hurts to cast an unsparing eye over these things again.  Thanks to James, the editor in question, for making such an effort to turn out a page that looks great.  I hope its target audience finds it of use.

    My friend Sarah also posted about upbringings in a slightly less self-aggrandizing context this weekend.  She was responding to this post by Ilya Somin, and she said in part:

     

    If I need to explain how this leads to racism — my sons, both US born, with a US father, routinely get asked why they’re not preserving their Portuguese culture and I routinely get taken to task for not teaching them “their language.”

    And that brings us to the next point — tourism culture — culture is NOT the food or the clothing or — at least not in the US — the religion. This is how cultures are taught in US schools, and it is wrong. These are trappings and the sort of thing a tourist might think is “neat.” Teaching it this way is poisonous because kids get this “foreign cultures are just like us, except for neato traditions we don’t have” view at the same time they get the MOST jaundiced, sin-oriented view of American history and culture possible. They have no idea that if they actually studied other cultures in depth, their historical “sins” and their modern ones too would FAR outweigh those of the US. (No, I’m not going to apologize for that qualitative judgement. I voted with feet, remember?)

    I have to say the whole down-on-the-West thing is something I’ve never understood. One of the very most dominant strains in the development of Western thought has been self-examination, and through it self-awareness and self-correction. You acknowledge that colonization (or slavery, or treating women as chattel) is bad, and then you stop doing it. Social injustices on those vast scales take a while to be worked out, of course; but the idea is always to be working toward improving our institutions so that they serve the liberty of their individual members better. That doesn’t make us a flawless society, but it’s hard to see how it makes us worse than everyone else. Even among those who keep insisting we have a litany of transgressions to apologize for, most Americans wouldn’t want to make the trade-offs required to live in Canada, much less elsewhere.

    And on a somewhat lighter note, while keeping with the errant-elders theme, Eric encountered one of those classic product warning labels that leave you wondering whether you or the attorneys who drafted it are crazier:

    It doesn’t look too bad, and it seems solid enough. The only complaint I have is with the lawyers, who put a ridiculous disclaimer on the front page of the instructions:

    WARNING
    Unit can tip over causing severe injury or death.

    And underneath that there are more warnings, but here’s the part that killed me:

    Put heavy items on lower shelves or drawers.

    Who are they kidding? This is an aquarium stand, for God’s sake. The aquarium goes on top!

    A filled 55 gallon aquarium weighs 625 pounds.

    Sure, there are some little shelves you could put things on, but there is no place to put the aquarium except on the top. That’s what it was designed for.

    Or are the lawyers warning me that it was not designed for what it was designed for?

    Well, they fulfilled the form of a warning, if not the function; and form is often what counts.


    When you’re seen anywhere with your hat off…

    Posted by Sean at 14:06, November 14th, 2008

    My blog friend Sarah Hoyt is a sci-fi author, so she does a lot of thinking about social issues and the evolution of institutions. She has a post up about her support for gay marriage that takes what is, I think, the best tack possible: arguing that institutions such as marriage exist at least partially to push people toward beneficial behavior and away from destructive behavior that other around them may end up picking up after. I don’t know that I’m entirely convinced, but she goes far beyond the soundbites along the lines of “But my partner and I love each other just as much as straight couples do” or “Well, gee, why shouldn’t our gay friends have the same rights as my wife and I do?”

    Sarah also brings the perspective of someone reared in a country that was not the States:

    A law might be able to institute a system like the one in Portugal – and please, those of you who know me, engrave this in stone, because it’s the one time in my life where I’ll say something is better in Portugal – where you have to get a “legal” marriage before the religious one. The legal one is a right, (though I don’t think they have gay marriage, before anyone jumps on me) the religious one isn’t. In fact, the religious one isn’t needed. It is between you and your G-d. The legal is usually done quietly and not celebrated by those people who intend to have a religious ceremony later. (In Dan’s and my case we had our civil ceremony in South Carolina in July, then went to Portugal for the religious wedding in December after I got my green card. It gives us two anniversaries.) At any rate a law could spell out that no religion will be forced to perform unions that offend its tenets or beliefs.

    I know at this point my gay friends – or their sympathizers – reading this are groaning and saying that the law will never come because look at all the defense of marriage stuff going on. Well… a properly written law might have a better chance. It might calm a lot of the fears.

    She may be right about that, though one of the problems is that so many of the most voluble proponents of gay marriage are too wrapped up in using it to get approval from all quarters. I’m not so sure they could be trusted to lay off the churches in exchange for marriage performed by a justice of the peace.

    *******

    Speaking of fabulously opinionated pro-SSM blog friends, Virginia Postrel appeared on PJTV to discuss the problems that Obama’s glamour might pose when he actually tries to carry out his duties as president. It turns out that her chemotherapy, in addition to helping beat her cancer into remission, has given her a Marcel wave. Do we live in an age of wonders, or what?


    Love on your side

    Posted by Sean at 12:37, November 13th, 2008

    Thanks to those who e-mailed to ask what I thought about California’s Proposition 8 and its aftermath. I didn’t post anything largely because I thought I’d said what I had to say about the gay marriage debate many times over.

    I still do. But Caltechgirl, whose blog I haven’t visited nearly often enough in the last several months, hit many of the important points:

    For the record, I voted NO on Prop 8, folks.

    Now that THAT’s out of the way, let me get to my point.  Last night’s protest rallies in West Hollywood and elsewhere did NOTHING to help the No on 8 cause.

    The election is OVER.  The ballots have been counted.  The “No on 8″ side lost.

    Sitting in a busy intersection, holding up traffic and waving signs from an election that’s past now doesn’t make people want to support you.  It makes people think you are a bunch of whiny crybabies with nothing better to do than to hold them up in traffic.  Which, as we LA folks ALL know, is sh***y without protesters blocking up the main intersections.

    So get over it.  Wipe your tears.  Get up and fight back. The RIGHT way.  The SMART way.  Don’t make your opponents so upset that they resent you.  That’s no way to “win friends and influence people.”

    You looked like a bunch of sissies in front of a big bully last night.  Seriously.  Do you WANT to play to stereotypes?  Do you think that’s anyway to bring people to your cause?  Sure it rallies people who agree with you, but the majority of Californians (at least according to the vote) probably thought it was pathetic and predictable from a “bunch of whiny sissies”…

    Last night’s protest here in New York appears to have been more dignified, but several essential problems remain:

    Mitchell Stout, 41, an actor from the Upper West Side, said, “We want to have the freedom and liberty to express our love for our partners the same way any American has.”

    One of the most pervasive beliefs about gays and lesbians is that we all suffer from arrested development and are driven by unexamined and unchecked emotions–we can’t deal with being told no by Daddy (either literally or as embodied by the state), and we deal with everything based on what feels good. When our most politically active men and women appear in public this way, all they do is reinforce that crap.

    Increased gay visibility was accomplished in the context of the late ’60s and early ’70s, when reflexive posturing against The Man was the order of the day among trendy liberals. Unfortunately, like other leftists–gay, straight, male, female, white, black, yellow, other–the loudest gay activists seem to be stuck in that mindset.

    Gays did not invent the entitlement mentality, we didn’t set it loose in the land, and given how many people just voted in Obama under the apparent assumption that he would make their kitchen-table problems disappear, we can hardly be considered its most egregious proponents. It may not be fair that we should have to work extra hard to combat that image, but it is a fact that any sensible, even-keeled person with a modicum of political savvy is aware of, even in California.

    Along the same lines, I have my doubts about targeting religious organizations in these contexts. Yes, the Mormons contributed a lot of money to supporting Proposition 8, and they probably seem like a good target for gay opprobrium because a lot of Americans regard them as a bit weird. And not nice to women. Still, such demonstrations have a way of looking like protests against the moral and spiritual ordering power of religion in the abstract, an effect that’s hardly counteracted by appeals to the Mormon history of polygamy (where are people’s heads?) and soppy invocations of a government-sanctioned contract as an “expres[sion of] love.”

    Once, convincing people that gay men and lesbians really did fall in love and form life-long partnerships was a real victory in and of itself, but the argument over marriage has evolved far beyond that point by now. As long as those against gay marriage are advancing sophisticated arguments about child-rearing and community building, its proponents are going to keep getting trounced when all they do is come back with effusions about love, prejudice, and ever-expanding rights.

    Of course, it’s possible that I should be grateful that the pro-SSM activists at least seem to inhabit Planet Earth, Year 2008. Eric posts about a group of gay anarchists who are operating in such a fantasy land it’s almost touching. Almost. Eric realizes that Bash Back is not representative of the gay mainstream, but his point–that tactics that alienate Middle Americans are a great way to foment a backlash–is well taken.

    Added later: I hadn’t noticed that Dale Carpenter had, naturally, posted about the first protests almost a week ago, too:

    Here’s my advice to righteously furious gay-marriage supporters: Stop the focus on the Mormon Church. Stop it now. We just lost a ballot fight in which we were falsely but effectively portrayed as attacking religion. So now some of us attack a religion? People were warned that churches would lose their tax-exempt status, which was untrue. So now we have (frivolous) calls for the Mormon Church to lose its tax-exempt status? It’s rather selective indignation, anyway, since lots of demographic groups gave us Prop 8 in different ways — some with money and others with votes. I understand the frustration, but this particular expression of it is wrong and counter-productive.

    Public protest against a constitutional ban on marriage for gay families is entirely justified. More than a mere vote, protests communicate intensity of feelings. They’re valuable in a democracy. Something incredibly precious was lost on Tuesday. Those who lost it should not be expected to go back quietly to producing great art and show tunes for everybody’s amusement.

    That via Jonathan Rauch at IGF, who wonders whether the protests aren’t nevertheless an encouraging sign.

    Added on 14 November while dressing for dinner: Have I linked enough people yet? Of course not! Robbie at The Malcontent weighed in several days ago:

    What is required in these protests is a target. But the very nature of identity politics precludes the two most obvious demographics who voted for the initiative – Hispanics and African-Americans. Could anyone imagine a parade of mostly white gays and lesbians descending on black communities and churches in protest? No, and those pushing the protests know that tactic would never fly in America.

    Why not go after Catholics, a demographic that supported the proposition with both cash and votes? First, because Catholics comprise roughly 25% of the American population. In addition, California is a heavily hispanic state, and hispanics are overwhelming Catholic. Would any smart GLBT organizer have their activists and supporters declare war on the Catholic Church and expect support from hispanics and a large portion of white voters? No, not even in that liberal state.

    This leaves us with the Mormons, the red-headed stepchild of American religion. Secularists think they’re crazy, and other Christian denominations believe they’re a strange, deviant cult. We need look no further than the Republican primary to see that liberals and conservatives strangely converge when it comes to a low opinion of the Mormon religion. Right out of the gate, the protesters have a target that will be left wanting of defenders. Furthermore, the actual numbers of Mormons in this country is rather low.

    They’re the safe target. The only target. The one target that invites almost no recrimination among a large swath of conservatives, liberals, the religiously devout, and atheists.

    What these protesters should be asking is how a small, out-of-state religious denomination blew them out of the water when the media, history, every celebrity living and dead, and the demographic majority was soundly on their side. What these protesters should be asking is what went so wrong with their campaign and message that they could barely corral even their fellow gays into the voting booths.

    I don’t know that I entirely agree about the Catholic part; anti-RC animus hardly goes unexpressed in gay circles, though it hasn’t really flared up since the AIDS protests a few decades ago. OTOH, this was a special case, given the California demographics Robbie cites. Happily, the demonstrations planned for tomorrow target political institutions.


    Interesting times

    Posted by Sean at 00:01, November 5th, 2008

    I’m a libertarian; I’m used to being unsatisfied with election results, even when the candidates I voted for win.

    I did not vote for Obama. I don’t agree with his policies, and I don’t sympathize with his view of the world. But most politicians, no matter what you think of them while they’re campaigning, have a way of turning into windsocks once elected. Time will tell what he does with the office. In a few months, he’ll be our president, and I wish him the best.

    Added on 5 November: I’m glad to see Connie and Dean posting them, but do people really need to be told these things? Reading the comments here, I guess so.

    A related point: I’m disturbed at the complaints that seem to imply that Obama was elected because of the media or his cult-creating mind rays. Yes, the media were shilling for him shamelessly. Yes, a lot of his most fervent admirers seemed to be working themselves into the sort of ecstasies that have no business surfacing anywhere outside church or a performance at the opera.

    But it’s our job as citizens to seek out information. Ours. Those who wanted to read his memoirs critically were able to do so. Those who wanted to find information about Bill Ayers and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge were able to do so. Those who wanted to know what the historical record says about social-democratic policy were able to do so. I’m not absolving CNN of its transgressions, only saying that it demeans our fellow citizens to imply that they needed to be spoonfed the truth. Some people are fully aware that Obama’s longer on charisma than on policy, and they hope that’s enough because they recognize that a lot of the most pressing issues of the day are going to have to go through congress anyway. Others decided that he would be the less deleterious choice in the long run despite disliking quite a bit of what he stands for. And finally, some people persist in believing that the Third Way will somehow work if we get it right this (twelve millionth) try.

    I don’t agree, but that doesn’t mean that large segments of the electorate were brainwashed by Wolf Blitzer and Andrea Mitchell. If we’re going to argue that people should be expected to earn their own way in society, surely we can expect them to use Google, on a terminal at the public library if necessary.

    Having now criticized my own side a bit, let me get back to the more fun project of criticizing the opposition. I agree that the election of a black president is a moving, historic moment. It was one thing to know that it was theoretically possible, because we all said that we were worried about policy and character and not skin tone. It’s another thing entirely to see America actually show that someone’s non-whiteness would not prevent his being voted in. It’s the difference between the hopeful belief that you’re good enough for your beloved and actually having your marriage proposal accepted. I get it. In and of itself, that’s a good thing. And this is an American election. so of course it’s American racial history that we’re using as context to judge it.

    At the same time, could we just every once in a while show some knowledge of the wider world here? Racism and ethnocentrism are the norm in human history, not some rebarbative Yankee aberration. The United States did not invent ethnic tensions, and it was not even the last country to outlaw slavery. To outsiders from nations that have traditionally been more ethnically homogeneous, our noisy, front-and-center conversation on race looks like unrest and a chronic inability to get along, but that’s exactly backwards. In America, arguing is what we do. Our periods of glazed-over gentility such as the 1950s tend to arise from external circumstances and be short-lived. American mouthiness and rough-and-tumble debate cause more immediate bruising, but they’ve helped us to advance organically through our racial and ethnic problems much better than the Europeans, Asians, and Africans that so many left-of-center people think we should be genuflecting to.


    Mental gymnastics

    Posted by Sean at 23:26, November 12th, 2007

    Rondi links to this piece by Bruce Bawer on “Norway’s answer to Ayaan Hirsi Ali”:

    Fortuyn’s murder should have put an end to the character assassinations of the advocates of freedom. Nope. Instead they’ve only grown more sophisticated. Nowadays when someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali assails Islamic fundamentalism, the clever thing to do is call her a fundamentalist–because she’s so uncompromising in her insistence on liberty, get it? In this spirit, a hijab-clad Dagbladet staffer compared Storhaug’s call for Muslim women to “take the hijab off and embrace freedom” to “the rhetoric of the bearded fundamentalists” – thus equating an advocate for the victims of forced marriage and honor killing with the perpetrators of these barbarities.

    As Dagbladet reader Hans-Christian Holm cogently put it, Norway’s media are engaged in “a sick tolerance competition, in which whoever tolerates the most intolerance wins, and the one who suggests that we perhaps should not tolerate so much intolerance is automatically branded as the most intolerant of all.” Storhaug’s own concern, as expressed in an email the other day, is that the relentless demonizing of persons like herself by those who are determined to suppress open liberal debate about these vital issues can only strengthen the hands of both right-wing nativists and Islamists.

    How difficult should it be to recognize that tolerance has to be reciprocal if a free society is to function? You can recognize people’s right to beliefs you find repugnant without recognizing their ability to force other people to bend to them. Or at least you should be able to.