Thursday, July 9, 2015

#Love Wins (Part 1): Defining Hatred

When I was in grade school there was a girl in my class whose mother apparently lived with another woman. How we all knew this seems very vague to me now, but safe to say, we were all aware of it somehow. This girl also happened to be a friend of mine. We certainly weren't "besties" or anything, but we did share a natural affinity for one another. I bring this all up only because in recent years there has obviously been a concerted effort to ramp up the rhetoric between those who oppose same-sex relationships, and those who are in favor of them. Whereas in the early aughts, if one happened to disagree with such relationships, one might have been regarded as a tad judgmental; now, if one even dares to raise a concern, one risks being labelled a hate-filled bigot (something on par with the KKK).

Looking back on grade school (a time when everyone was presumably less tolerant than they are today), I do not recall ever feeling anything even approaching the sentiment of "hatred" surrounding these matters. In fact, I don't remember thinking much about it at all. I probably thought to myself, well, that's different, but it's really none of my business anyway, and I think many of my classmates felt the same way.

Twenty to thirty years years ago, if someone in your family were under suspicion of living an "alternative lifestyle" (as was the popular phraseology in my day), aunt Betsy (or some such person), would usually pester uncle Billy and ask him why he couldn't find a decent girl and settle down. Obviously this issue gets more complicated when applied to a parent-child relationship, but that would be true regardless, for oftentimes our hopes and dreams are quite different from theirs.  

Point being, it was not in those "hate-filled" days of intolerance where people felt most compelled to make resounding  judgments about the moral lives of others. Quite the opposite, it is in these dark times that one feels most compelled to make definitive judgments. I am relatively certain that in grade school no one would have asked me what I thought about Heather having "two mommies", but now everyone and their brother must "judge", not because religion compels us, but because civil society demands it. And what happens if I "judge" wrongly? Well then I am "on the wrong side of history", and no doubt filled with rage and hatred. They are filled with love, and I hatred. No fine shades of gray allowed.

Yet what perplexes me now (as much as it would have back in grade school) is this charge of "hatred". I may or may not have had a position on this matter back then (I frankly don't remember), but what I can say with relative certainty is that hatred would have had nothing to do with my position, whatever it turned out to be. What's more, it's always a little bit bizarre and pedantic being told how you feel about something, especially when you don't feel that way at all.  

It is a bit like accusing someone of hatred for objecting to the practice of cohabitation. Yes, if you really want to press me on the issue, I will give you my honest assessment of this increasingly popular living arrangement, not because I want to judge anyone in particular, but because I do have some specific ideas about what makes for a good society (and there are any number of studies that support my position). Call me opinionated, call me naive if you like, but hate-filled? Really? What does that even mean in this context? And why should the "mean/nice scale" replace any substantive dialogue on these matters? Cohabitation is not an exact parallel, but it does offer some insight (I think) into why there is very little mature discussion surrounding this issue.

This is not to say that hatred towards homosexuals is negligible, and that there are not those out there who do genuinely wish them harm. Indeed, there are always bullies waiting to prey on the perceived weaknesses of others. But that is precisely why the word hatred should be used in its proper context. The dictionary definition offers us further insight: "A feeling of intense dislike; enmity". "Enmity", is not a mere disagreement with another person's philosophy or lifestyle, but rather something which suggests malice or ill-will (it has the same Latin root as enemy). The figure in the photo below offers an excellent example of what that "malice" might look like:

The following does not:

This photo was taken in an AIDS Hospice run by the Missionaries of Charity. This has been part of their ministry since the 1980s, a ministry dedicated to the care of everyone afflicted by the AIDS virus, regardless of how one identifies

Having disdain for another human being, or reviling them to the point that you wish to deny their basic humanity- that is probably more in keeping with the spirit of this word. Subsequently, no one should employ it as a cheap rhetorical trick, anymore than one should blithely call someone Hitler. This is true not simply because few people deserve this moniker, but even more importantly, because the people who do deserve it, deserve to have it used with its full force and meaning intact.
There is of course a thing called "soft bigotry", wherein one exhibits a kind of moral superiority towards an individual or their philosophical worldview (a attitude ill-suited to any worthy discussion). That being said, there is still a huge difference between questioning the worth and dignity of an individual, and objecting- in particular- to their moral outlook.

The freedom to agree or disagree with another person's moral philosophy is not only not hatred, but it is  practically the very definition of a healthy democracy. Indeed, if mere criticism amounted to hatred, then everyone in the world would be reduced to silence (a sobering thought). People are to be respected. Ideas, however, can (and should) be debated vigorously. Tyranny in one form or another is the price we all pay for failing to uphold either of these virtues.

Because you think that the other person's position is mean and judgmental, and that your position is much nicer, does not mean that the other person must be silenced at any cost. Yes, "mean people suck", I agree, but we must be very careful to make a distinction between those little hood-wearing Hitlers out there, and the people that may earnestly, and with good reason, disagree with our point of view.

In truth, I think it seems relatively obvious why some have chosen to characterize all opponents of same-sex marriage as hate-filled bigots. Why? Because it is the best way to win the argument. One can hardly re-define something as universal and essential as the institutional family by a mere appeal to open-mindedness. You must instead create an enemy on the other side of the issue; a terrible troglodyte looking to crush the hopes and dreams of the tear-stained martyrs of love (throw in a few Westboro Baptists and you've got yourself a winner). But whatever you do, do not ever let anyone see that you too have some nasty folks on your side as well, for that might force people to focus on the ideas as opposed to the emotions.

Needless to say, there is much blame to go around, for none of this would have at all been possible were it not for the current condition of the family in the West- torn apart by divorce and infidelity- and further paralyzed by its own understandable (if sublimated) feelings of guilt and hypocrisy.

All that notwithstanding, if you are going to make the case for same-sex marriage (and gender ideology in general), you must successfully co-opt the two most important words in the English language (viz. love and hate), and then you must creatively re-arrange their meaning in order to accommodate your agenda. You must also ask this fundamental question: How can anyone be against two people who are in love; people who- for all intents and purposes- simply want to memorialize that love? After all, they can't be any worse than that couple over there who's marriage(s) are a veritable train wreck. Ah, it's all starting to make sense to me now: if you aren't for love and commitment (in whatever form it takes) then you must be for the opposite; you must be some kind of hate-filled, small-minded, red-necked, evolution denying, retrograde, bigot. Case closed.

In Part II of this post I will explore the question of how to define "love", especially in light of the question left hanging in the final paragraph; "How can anyone be against two people who are in love getting married; two people who- for all intents and purposes- simply want to memorialize that love?"     

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