Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Who stands on the moral high ground now?

Just a word meanwhile, to everyone who voted for Proposition 8 and and all its sibling ballot measures without being confused by the legal wording:

Shame on you. Shame on you .

You may feel that you don't deserve that term -- but you do. You may think that you were doing God's work (or something of the sort) -- but you weren't. You may think that you were defending society, but you were only helping in the attempt to drag it backwards, to make it less fair and not more -- less virtuous and not more. Resting on the laurels of your heterosexuality (for honestly, what self-respecting queers would vote against the happiness and wellbeing of those like themselves?), you thought yourselves entitled to pass judgement against the rights of others.

Now, in a courtroom trial it requires a unanimous vote to convict for a crime, and in an impeachment it takes two-thirds of the Senate to get a President out of office. But in California you dare to think that a simple and deliberately-misinformed majority represents the will of the people in curtailing the advancement of rights for an entire swath of citizens?

Shame. You have earned it. Let it sink in a bit -- you have been the agents, the pawns at best, of hate and fear and intolerance against people who have done you no harm, posed you no threat. The government was never going to force gay weddings into your churches (separation of church and state, remember that?), or take away any legal right you ever possessed, or even say that you weren't still "normal" and the cultural default way of living that most people assume. You were never at any risk of losing anything, yet you claimed the tenuous right to take away the short-lived rights of others, who are different from you in no other way but the composition of their relationships. How dare you argue that your prejudices are not prejudices, that your bigotry is not really bigotry, and that you shouldn't be socially criticised or thought "uncool" for taking action that deprives others of rights that you yourselves take for granted. Beliefs and personal dislikes and squidginesses are one thing, people -- but to vote your prejudices into law over others' lives?

You are wrong and you were wrong. You are bigots, regardless of all claimed shades of gray, to the extent that you cast your vote against another's domestic happiness and stability, another's well-being, another's dignity which they had fully earned on their own account, owing nothing to your good will or mere toleration of their existence.

You may have done it out of ingrained ignorance, or fear of some inevitable progression of moral decay, or some personal experience that made you willing to condemn all similar people for the actions of one person. Or maybe you're just old and set in your ways as to what the world ought to be like, and no one can budge you from claiming to know what's best for everyone. You may have done it because your pastor told you to, or because of those nice wholesome television commercials that only spoke of "defending" marriage, rather than defensively and selfishly withholding it -- which is all that this was ever intended to accomplish. You have done nothing praiseworthy, nothing honourable, nothing deserving of respect; rather, you have set your actions down on the dark side of history. And you deserve to feel guilty about it.

You could have kept your opinions in the realm of opinion, your social attitudes in the realm of agreement to disagree, behaving like decent mature people who can tolerate the existence of things in the world that you don't necessarily support or feel comfortable with. After all, you yourselves may very well be merely civilly tolerated by others who disagree with you. But when some smooth-talking, God-&-tradition-invoking PACs came your way telling you that it was okay to be prejudiced, that you shouldn't feel ashamed of wanting other people kept away from what you have -- why did you believe them, unless you had the sin of bigotry inside of you already?

Yes, the sin of it, and perhaps even the awareness of that sin. Knowing that what you felt did not deserve the dignity of being made into law, but still longing to be reassured, coddled, pandered to, made to feel comfortably righteous in your self-righteousness...afterall, it's never morally abhorrent to judge any minority's rights, because if they were really justified then they'd have the majority on their side already. Wouldn't they? Shouldn't everyone have to wait for their equal treatment under the law until it can no longer disturb popular sensibilities?

Now try applying that to some minority situation that doesn't conveniently have sexuality involved to make social puritanism sound so appealing. Where do you think you land on that one, except right on your own doorstep with some zealot claiming that the law of the land ought to uphold his personal discomfort with your existence or presence in society?

See, people, this is why your so-called moral victory is a stinking offense against every ideal that this nation was formally built upon, and a crime against humanity itself. Were it not for the enabling anonymity of the modern ballot, you would be laid visibly open to the social criticism and moral disgust that your actions warrant. You cannot hide in your slim majority and consider it to be justification of your narrowmindedness.

If you think you were acting to the glory of God -- think again: after all, are we not judged as we judge others? Are we not to be known by the fruit of our actions? And, if indeed believing in the reality of Jesus Christ, do we not encounter him, as he said himself, in the least -- and the least-accepted -- of our fellow humans?

We are morally defined by how we deal with those we do not choose to encounter or live among: "your neighbour" is the 'other,' whether stranger or familiar and close, who tests the reality of so-called "Christian charity." And those who deserve the highest respect in this debacle are the people who, regardless of what personal reservations they themselves might hold inside, nonetheless chose the moral high ground -- the path of enlarging others' legal and social rights -- because they know it is the right thing to do. Not because it is comfortable, not because they have anything to gain or defend for their own worldly benefit, but because it is virtuous to want our civil rights to be equal for all citizens, with no preemptive discrimination, no categorical prejudice to sully the honour of society itself.

As a nation, we have been struggling over the past two centuries and more to confirm, as best we can in every era and social consciousness, a more-perfect union, a more noble and comprehensive demonstration of the founding proposition of the United States: that all of us are created equal. Not some of us; not just landowners, or white males, or the male half of the population, or those who can afford to pay a poll tax -- and not just the majority, however vast they may be in number, who happen to be oriented to mate and form romantic attachments with the opposite sex. Gender-conforming heterosexuals are not the only ones who can sire or bear children; they are not the only ones who can raise children responsibly; they are also far more likely to abuse, neglect or molest their children than those for whom parenting is a conscious choice rather than taking procreation for granted as the natural way of things. And, lest it be conveniently forgotten or glossed over by any calculating con-artists ever again, they are not the only ones who can love sincerely, selflessly and "'til death do you part."

[Additional scriptural thought for those, religiously-motivated or not, who rely on the majority opinion of society as if it were some royal or divine vindication/mandate for themselves...]

So you've done something wrong in the belief that it was something right. Assuming that you haven't yet gotten outraged by my presumptuous invective and decided to comment-spam me with religious tracts...what are you supposed to do now, seeing as the the ballots have been counted and the results assumed (for the time being) as legally-binding? Can you undo the harm that you've done to others by your intolerance?

To which my answer is "yes -- but not in secret." This ballot issue was not just some online survey, after all: it had real results to real people, and no one can simply recant their actions in private when those actions have made for the perpetuation of public injustice. The lies that have been told and believed about gsy marriage need to be debunked and defused; the fear that has been exploited in people's hearts needs to be quelled and rejected. If you have been part of the misinformation campaign against marriage equality, dig deep and wide for the truth and take the risk of speaking out against the lies. If you have taught your children that homosexuals are living immorally and don't deserve any civility or respect in society, or that it's right that they be prevented from marrying and having families, then at very least have the decency to admit that you've spoken without really knowing what you're talking about, and that you might be wrong in judging others' personal lives. And if you have friends, family, acquaintances -- your neighbours, in short -- who are distanced from you (politely or not and knowingly or not) because you voted against them.....ask them for forgiveness. Have the courage to admit that you were wrong, and try to find the paths to work for what's right.


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