Sunday, November 16, 2008

'Don't start me talking . . .

". . . I could talk all night.
My mind was sleepwalking
While I didn't know what to write."
-- Elvis Costello, "Oliver's Army"

Some subjects inevitably provoke me to rant, for example public education. (Please, don't ever get me arguing about public education. Life is too short.) And while I am often guilty of employing a bit of ad hominem in debate, I get aggravated by the way liberals habitually attribute bad faith to conservatives -- and are never called to account for it. We saw this throughout the recent campaign, when every criticism of Barack Obama was attributed to "racism," so that the uninformed might be forgiven for believing that America was divided into two camps (a) Obama supporters and (b) racists. (Don't blame me, I voted for Bob Barr.)

Now, I have said before that I am an ex-Democrat and many of my family and friends are still loyal yellow-dog Democrats like I used to be. So it happened that a couple of my cousins saw my rant against the fascist tactics of gay-marriage supporters in California, and one of them remarked that "hatred is a sin." True enough, but disagreement is not hatred. And so I sent my cousins this rant:

I resent like hell the tendency to frame policy disagreements as accusations of bad faith, and I'm sure my dear Democratic cousins didn't like it when they were told that it was un-American to oppose the invasion of Iraq.
It is a lowdown trick of sophistry to argue that (a) Policy X is good for Purple People and therefore (b) any opponent of Policy X is purplephobic and beyond the pale of civilized society. This is politics as Rorschach Test, where everything is an expression of psychological symbolism, and it inevitably leads to bad outcomes.
LBJ's "Great Society" programs (which sabotaged the urban poor and have quite nearly bankrupted us with entitlement commitments) were sold with similar arguments: To oppose the policies was tantamount to hating the people the policies were supposed to help. But beyond its invaldity as logic, that argument rests on two false assumptions: (a) that the policies proposed would actually help the intended beneficiaries, and (b) that no alternative policies could provide equivalent benefits.
If I am critical of No Child Left Behind, does this make me "anti-education"? Meaningful debate becomes impossible when arguments are cast in such terms.
The emotional appeal of being "tolerant" toward homosexuals -- identifying oneself as an opponent of bigotry -- ought not prevent us from questioning the necessity, utility and efficacy of specific policy proposals. And if my opposition to same-sex marriage calls into question my motives and subjects me to accusations of bad faith, why is the same not true of proponents of same-sex marriage? And the issue of bad faith on the part of gay radicals is far more relevant when they are engaging in blatantly fascistic intimidation tactics, spray-painting slogans on churches and making death threats to their opponents.
The politicization of sexuality is enough to inspire nostalgia for the Good Old Days of the '70s, when being gay was about disco and sex. But mostly sex.
I disagree with my cousins, but I also love my cousins. Disagreement is not hate, and we ought to be able to discuss policy without such accusations.


  1. Daaaarling,
    I never accused you of hatred, but rather those who back away, gasping and making the sign of the cross when they encounter someone who is gay. I realize that you are not guilty of such idiocy.
    Regarding the recent election, I firmly agree with you on at least one point. Obama supporters were far to fast to see Jim Crow whenever a Republican dared to raise his head out of the long grass and declare for John McCain. Such bullying tactics tainted what wuould've been a winning campaign on its own.
    Gay marraige, on the other hand, I guess we do not agree on. I say, there's not enough love in the world as it is, and who are we as a people to tell a couple who are willing to change thier tax bracket and go through blood-testing, not to mention the hassle and financial horror of possible divorce that they cannot become one.
    You know, marraige started as a civic union rather than a religious one, and I find it very telling that a gay or lesbian couple looking to marry today has less trouble finding a church to sanctfy thier union than a municipality.
    Love you!

  2. Gay marriage changes the issue from a question of tolerance to one of official sanction and approval.

    Denying approval is not intolerance. There's a difference here and it should be honestly recognized.

  3. I agree with you right up until it comes to whether or not the "state" has the right to approve or disapprove of who marries whom. We allow an eighty-nine year old man to marry a twenty-something woman. Finally, a black person is free to marry a white person. Churches are beginning to accept gays and lesbians. More and more of them are offering religious ceremonies of marraige for homosexual couples. So where is the government's problem? Why is it their business?
    You don't have to approve of gay marraige, just like you don't have to approve of old geezers marrying sweet young things. I don't think one is more the business of the general public than the other.

  4. ronsonic,

    What is the difference between intolerance and denying approval, given that "approval" in this case (as far as government's interest goes) is just like approving a business license, or a driver's license?