Thursday, January 13, 2011

NOM Plays the Victim - Its Response to Tuscon

      It its latest email - which I will paste selections of here - Brian Brown from the National Organization of Marriage in his attempt to ask for civility in the marriage equality debate, takes instead the position of a victim. Accusing the pro-marriage equality side of rhetoric similar to the eliminationist rhetoric that Paul Krugman asserts that the Tea Party uses. Brown states,

By "eliminationist rhetoric," Paul Krugman means rhetoric, which suggests that one's opponents are not just wrong, they are illegitimate—that in a better world they would not exist. 

Well, you and I know a little about rhetoric that sounds like that don’t we?

(He may only be speaking of rhetoric inciting to violence, and I want to be clear that I don't consider gay-marriage advocates on their worst day to be doing that.)

But for me the worst part of the gay marriage debate is this eliminationist quality coming (in my experience, and of course I'm speaking only about public and visible organizations and spokespeople) almost exclusively from one side: activists who support gay marriage.

They've said over and over again, until they've totally convinced themselves, that there really is "no legitimate argument" against gay marriage, no reason why marriage in virtually every known society is a union of husband and wife. 

They do not see themselves as behaving aggressively when they insist that all good people now support the redefinition of marriage, so the public and political resistance of others to their new views on marriage strikes them as incredibly aggressive.
 Having already redefined marriage in their heads, living in progressive bubbles and talking mostly with folks who agree with them, too many have concluded that our words must simply be cover for some dark desire to make other people's lives miserable. 
I've come to believe that this is not merely tactical on their part; they really experience the world in this way, which makes me sad.
       I find this very disturbing on so many fronts. To call the group that is being oppressed by a purely religious ideology as being the ones who are eliminationists, Brown is once again attempting to put those who favor "traditional marriage" into the victim category. It is eliminationist, infers Brown, if gay marriage advocates address the root of the anti-marriage equality side: That they view our relationships as illegitimate and not as valuable to society as heterosexual ones. He goes on to say,

Gay-marriage advocates and I have deep, real and important moral disagreements about the nature, meaning and purpose of marriage (and sex and gender, most likely!). If the expression of these views makes anyone feel personally attacked, I will say: that saddens me, it's not my intention, I wish I could make it otherwise. 

No American should be afraid to exercise our core civil rights, to speak, to donate, to organize, or to vote on behalf of deeply cherished moral beliefs, to fight for what we think is right. 

But together, can we reach across our deep differences to agree at least on that?
Let me first, before I go onto the next points, paraphrase the first paragraph in a different light.

"Anti-Slavery advocates and I have deep, real and important moral disagreements about the nature, meaning and purpose of slavery. If the expression of these views makes anyone feel personally attacked, I will say: that saddens me, its not my intention, I wish I could make it otherwise."
     You see, Brian Brown does not realize that he is attacking an integral part of peoples lives, something that is just as important and immutable to people as race or gender.  Thus, though he may claim that he believes gay people are "beloved by their Creator, who sent his only Son to die for them", his own rhetoric does not have the same tone. Instead, he "attacks" the very relationships of gay people, thus attacking the people themselves. For in their "ideal" world, as the email states in another section, the family is a mother and a father raising children. Thus, it is inferred that it is not ideal to have two men or women who love each other in a relationship. Though he might not out and say it, this delegitimization of the LGBT community is the bedrock of his ideology.

      He then states that it is "fundamental that Americans be able to vote on their deep seated moral beliefs." To this, I would invoke the great political philosopher John Stuart Mill, whose famous work "On Liberty" makes it clear that your freedoms and rights end when they interfere with another persons rights. One persons right to enjoy their lives and not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation far outweighs your right to vote on the morality of their relationship.

   This claim of "victim of eliminationist rhetoric" that Brown attempts to put on may work to make his base feel sorry for themselves. But is it really being a victim when they are trying to force other people to not live their lives the way they see fit? Are they really victims when they are attempting to insert their private moral and religious beliefs into the public sphere. I would say not. Instead it is marriage equality supporters who are the real ones who are being "victimized" by eliminatinonist rhetoric. For all we want to do is live in peace as equal members of the United States and other countries around the world. Only once you stop inserting your private beliefs into our lives Mr. Brown, can the debate be rid of any of the "poison" that you claim exists in the debate over marriage equality.

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