Monday, April 27, 2015

What are you holding firm, Bobby?

     "Pick your battles," the saying goes. Which is odd, because more often than not, battles pick you. Actual hostilities break out for odd, non-strategic reasons that mock the deliberation implied by "pick." "Mere chance" is more like it.
     Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was in Pennsylvania in late June of 1863. He wanted to fight, hoping to inspire peace parties he imagined flourishing in the North. And the Union armies were looking for him.
     So there was going to be a battle, somewhere. Maybe at Chambersburg, or Harrisburg, or Cashtown.
     But an army needs shoes. So a unit of Southern troops was sent to forage for footwear at a nearby town, known for its tanneries and cobblers. And they found them, after a fashion. "Boots and saddles were there," Samuel Eliot Morison wryly notes. "on one brigade of General John Buford's cavalry division." So the great three-day battle erupted at Gettysburg and not down the road.
     In the same manner, someday historians will look back at America's epic social and legal struggle over gays joining society and wonder, "Why here?" Why did the forces of ossified religion, put to flight by much of modern life, turn and make a stand over whether a bakery must bake a frosted tower of sugar and flour—to channel Natalie Merchant—for any gay couple who walks through the door?
     Why here?
     That question bubbled up last week, while reading Louisian Gov. Bobby Jindal's op-ed in the Times, "I'm Holding Firm Against Gay Marriage" (Jindal must have written that headline himself. No Times copy editor would have dared.)
     Prejudice is about dehumanization. People of faith, to Jindal, are individuals: "a priest, minster or rabbi." They are "musicians, caterers, photographers and others should be immune from government coercion" Specific trades, like characters in a Richard Scarry story.
     And who is doing the coercing? They are "left-wing activists" "the radical left" "radical liberals" "left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom" "Hollywood and the media elite" Shady, faceless forces. Once, he does mention "gay men or lesbians." A typo perhaps.
     And what do these anonymous hordes do? They "bully," and "shriek" The idea that they might be regular folks too, individuals who, though gay, want to get married and have cake, and should be able to buy cake in a free society, well, that's not an issue to Jindal.
     "They will not deter me," he vows, standing like a stone wall, surveying the battlefield.
     Jindal uses the words "liberty" "freedom" or "free" 17 times, part of the right wing delusion that if the right buzzword is found, they'll fool people. Heck, it worked with abortion.
     As with many battles, the clash over balky bakers and phobic photographers was half luck, half opportunity. A weakness in the line of advancing rights. Hoteliers couldn't refuse to rent rooms to gay couples, since adultery is banned in the Bible too. They couldn't draw the line at baking birthday cakes for children of gay unions. That would recognize forming families is what marriage, gay or straight, is all about, and be too cruel, even for religious conservatives.
     This is a skirmish, a small battle in a losing war. They have to lose, since winning would unravel society. If a baker doesn't have to make a cake for a gay weddings, then the county clerk doesn't have to record the paperwork and the fire department doesn't have to keep the hall where one's scheduled from burning down. People whose faith keeps them from participating in the modern world should retire into enclaves, like the Amish.
     That won't happen. This is just the hidebound wheeling about and charging, again, before falling back to the next defensive line. A momentarily successful rally, like Pickett's Charge -- the last gasp of Confederate hopes at Gettsyburg. The Rebs breached the Union line at Cemetery Ridge. And then overpowering numbers of the boys in blue crushed them.      
     Whatever victories Republican revanchists win or lose, whatever the Supreme Court decides, they've already lost. History will continue to roll over them, past them, around them, and they'll be left only with bitter memories of their glorious lost cause.

45 comments:

  1. They are "left-wing activists" "the radical left" "radical liberals" "left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom" "Hollywood and the media elite

    Can anyone seriously argue that the media, academia and Hollywood don't spew anti-Christian pro gay propaganda at our children day and night? And the minute Jindell or any other politician or pastor has a different opinion it's bitch-piss-moan-scream attack defame. And these are the tolerance for all opinions crowd-Bullshit! all this should be called what it is-CENSORSHIP of opinion and the attempt to control the thought of the population, and it's highly organized.

    But they go too far sometimes. I remember the Chick Fil A support day. The lines were around the corner and everyone I talked to had the same thing to say: "Fuck You I'll believe and think any god damn thing I want to". Liberty, free expression, religious freedom, use them while you still got them, how they hate that pesky constitution that prevents them from making your thoughts and speech illegal.

    Mark Grinder

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    1. You might have noticed that Chick Fil A has backed off on its previous stand. It found out that there are a lot of gays that like their food. So money trumps religious beliefs.

      And those of us who are against the various churches that are spreading their beliefs in public, you pay no taxes, yet you want us to follow your rules, even when we don't believe in them.

      So I guess you don't like the Hollywood that puts on TV shows like "AD" which is running now, or "The Bible" which was on, or "Madam Secretary" where the lead character's husband is a professor of religion, a true believer?
      Or that ABC inflicts the movie "The Ten Commandments" every spring as an Easter movie, even though it's obviously a movie of the early Jewish experience & has absolutely nothing to do with xtianity!
      Yeah, that Hollywood!
      Always amazing that the dominant religion in America feels so threatened by a few non-believers. Maybe because you know, deep down that what you believe in isn't true! That it's all a fantasy.

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    2. Mark, Jesus said to love your neighbor. Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven. There are plenty of Christians who find bigotry to be the most anti-Christian act of all.

      No one is trying to prevent you from believing anything you want to believe. Your beliefs, however, are not immune from criticism in a free society. You are not free, however, to force non believers to abide by your religious tenets, tenets, I'll remind you, that are not held by all Christians (cue the No True Scotsman fallacy argument)

      Commercial businesses have to serve the public--all of the public. If they bake cakes, they have to serve them to everyone that wants to buy one. They don't have to carry gay toppers. They don't have to pipe a message that offends them. They do have to sell the product to anyone who has the cash.

      That's not oppression. That's America.

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  2. It is the fragility of their belief that has them so fearful.

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  3. Ban Republican marriage. It offends me and is an abomination in the eyes of the Great Pumpkin, the :Lord of us all! :)

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  4. I AM a robot. How come us robots can't marry. And why can't we have sex. Do we not bleed? Oh, wait... we don't, do we? Never mind.

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    1. You leak oil sometimes.

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  5. Advocate of the Anti-ChristApril 27, 2015 at 6:47 AM

    Also, please explain to me all this controversy over "worshiping Satin." Can't we choose our own fabrics?

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  6. first, lol to the 6:47, yes, some people can't spell

    Here is what I don't get. How did those still bitter, loser, racist Southerners, vote for Jindal for governor. I would guess they wouldn't be fans of East Indian Hindus that converted when it became convenient. Or did they not mind as long as he said the right things and to them anyone is better than a Dem.?

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    1. I think Jindal's appeal must be some kind of linkage between his physical appearance and the Southern drawl. On the other hand, when Ted Cruz speaks, I can't help but think of Mr. Haney on "Green Acres".

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  7. Again, while I support adding gays to civil rights protections, I dislike the flipness about the principle here: whether a person should have sovereignty to refuse to do something they find hateful in public accomodations. Imagine a Holocaust survivor refusing service to a Christian Identity church member and being forced to either close his/her business rather than serve a Robert Sherman-like gadfly. Or a Native American who refuses to serve Caucasians at her restaurant because they stole her ancestors land and profit off of it while leavng the remnants in third world poverty on the reservations. Nitpick at the examples but the point remains - the boundaries of freedom can't be written to only cover the easy, sympathetic cases.

    I also find it interesting where the battle lines are being drawn: not gay marriage (an important cause) but denial of business services. Yet there's no call to boycott vacations with Caribbean nations where sodomy is illegal and gays are brutalized, few calls to stop foreign aid to African nations that oppress gays (or even tie such funding to reform benchmarks), and most gay rights activists are eager to sign a nuclear arms agreement with a nation that publicly hangs gays. If only we could put a soupcon of the effort fighting homophobic pizza parlors into that. Neil, for your next column, how about calling the consulate of Jamaica and ask them to defend their sodomy laws or talk about the violence gays face there?

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  8. While you bring up a valid point, A-N-A, I would think that most people would want to get our own house in order before we start fixing the world on this topic. I imagine, if you dug, you'd find that gays already avoid Jamaica, etc, and that rallying against it would ring hollow with asshats like Bobby Jindal trying to pass laws against you right here right now. It's a red herring of a concern.

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    1. Respectfully disagree, because 1) our house was sufficiently in order a decade ago to tell Jamaica that 10 year jail sentences for sodomy (let alone the lax attitude towards everyday violence against gays) is wrong. By the standard you are insisting of, Americans in 1938 would have no standing in 1938 to criticize Nazi Germany because we hadn't passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and pizza parlors could still refuse service to Jews. The former is out and out government discrimination and violence, the latter is tolerating individual non-violence - they just aren't comparable. When Iran hung gays did people here really say "we need to shut up - we don't let them get married." 2) Gays may indeed avoid Jamaica, but the effect would be greater if straights did too - most people either don't know or only vaguely know the problems there. It'd be like white people vacationing and doing business in droves with apartheid era South Africa - not sure how much of an impact an African-American boycott would have had.

      (PS - I don't mean to single out Jamaica - I'm guessing they get a lot more US tourism than, say Barbados, which has similar laws on the books (don't know how bad the on-the-ground situation is there...)

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    2. A. N.A. you should be writing a column in a big time newspaper.

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  9. You make a good point indeed, AnA.

    Lady

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  10. But Mr. S. also has a valid point.

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  11. Those interested in learning what can happen when Mr. Jefferson's wall of separation between church and state is seriously breached should read David Kertzer's "The Pope and Mussolini," which has just won a Pulitzer prize, It records in fascinating detail the deal reached by the Italian dictator, an anticlerical at heart, with the Church to remove "separation of church and state from the Italian constitution and make Italy a "Catholic nation." . Among the results: Vatican endorsement of the colonial conquest of Ethiopia and support of the 1938 race laws that set up Italy's contribution to the Holocaust.

    As Jefferson put it, "In every country and in every age the priest has been hostile to liberty."

    Tom Evans

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  12. That's why Jefferson was a deist. Although one of the Popes or rel. leaders then did try to save soe Jews in Italy.

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    1. (some not soe)

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    2. No, Pius XII did nothing to save any Jews as he liked Hitler. But it's probable that he had something to do with murdering his predecessor, who was anti-Hitler.

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    3. well some Pope was venerated for helping Jews some, not sure which

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    4. Jefferson may have been a Deist at heart, but he spent most of his life as a practicing Episcopalian. It doesn't matter. If Deists had a set of Commandments -- which they didn't-- he still would be against using the power of the state to enforce them. In a more explicit statement of his views he wrote: "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own"

      Pius XI did take a dim view of Hitler and was souring on Mussolini when he died, but his successor was a very political Pope, who didn't want to do anything to antagonize the dictators when they seemed to have an upper hand. It's doubtful that he did anything to help Jews. Italians were never very enthusiastic anti-Semites, and there were no Italian death camps, but the situation created by the Race Laws led to Italian authorities turning over some 10,000 Jews to the German Army for shipment up north.

      Tom Evans

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  13. A-N-A -- I think you're confusing two separate questions. You ask why we're not pressuring Jamaica, et al, about their stand on gays, and the answer is we're trying to get our house in order here. And then you ask, SHOULDN'T we be pressuring Jamaica, et al, bringing up our inaction in the face of Nazi Germany, and the answer is sure, in an ideal world where all ills are addressed vigorously by everybody. I, sadly, don't live in that world.

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  14. NS - I'm talking about how they overlap. I'm saying that there's a disconnect between the way some domestic gay rights advocates sound on these relatively peripheral matters and their effective callousness on the international situation. I'm not bringing up our inaction in the face of Nazi Germany, I'm saying the disconnect is almost as surreal as-if in 1938 friends of Jews were vacationing in Nazi Germany, buying German products, rarely if ever commenting on the laws against Jews, but domestically were issuing scathing attacks on rural Christians who refused to let Jews stay at a bed and breakfast. Basically, I'm not buying the "we can't walk and chew gum at the same time - not even for a few minutes" argument. Not directing this at you, and this is just speculation, but I think for a lot of people it's risk-free to bash the evangelical homophobes and their ilk, but they're more uncomfortable challenging non-homophobes who might have to inconvenience themselves (especially if they like rum!) or taking on a less traditional "enemy."

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  15. Great photo. I don't think I'd open my yap about "love thy neighbor" in that venue. It's in Kentucky, right? The State that has laws against laws against tobacco.

    John

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  16. What church was that taken at, NS?

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    1. The chapel at the Virginia Military Academy.

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    2. The chapel at the Virginia Military Academy.

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  17. Good points, well presented -- as usual, A-n-A. But I think Neil's rebuttal is valid, as well. It may be inconsistent and lazy, to whatever extent, but it's also unsurprising that, in this navel-gazing nation, folks address the issues that are right in their navel rather than those taking place with regard to furreners someplace else. I, for one, have never been to Jamaica, nor do I have any plans to go there, but I've spent more time in Indiana than I care to admit. ; ) Plus, we've got a Constitution that is supposed to protect minorities HERE, which is why it's so galling to see the governor of Indiana try to get around it; that document doesn't apply to folks in other countries.

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  18. Interesting that the first commenter cries "CENSORSHIP" in his rant! To the battlements, oppressed Crusaders! Except, uh, it's a pretty curious form of censorship that is exemplified by the censored person placing an op-ed in the New York Times...

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  19. well said, Jakash, esp. on your first post

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  20. not sure if the word lazy is right though

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  21. How is Mayberry USA's economy supposed to remain solvent if Mom's Cakes is hounded out of business for refusing to write a cursive "Congratulations Adam and Steve" in frosting? I mean, have you ever stopped to ask yourself what portion of our GDP is generated by mom-and-pop bakeries? I'm guessing, by the amount of attention they're getting, probably, I dunno, 50%?

    This battle seems to be as much about people hanging on to a nostalgic picture of family-owned storefront businesses as it is about religious persecution. To hear Jindal and others tell it, Wal-Mart hasn't driven Ed's Hardware and Mom's Cakes out of business; nope, it's gays, driving them out of business by attempting to buy goods from them that they don't wish to sell. Won't somebody save Mom's Cakes?

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    1. Well, I don't know if somebody will save Mom's Cakes, but many folks were more than happy to chip in toward the $842,387 reportedly donated to that pizza place in Indiana... Ain't that America, sad to say?

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  22. Bobby Jindal is not being talked about as a candidate for president of Jamaica. I'm an American and I'm a lot more concerned what goes on in my own country,which is a democracy in which I share collective responsibility as a citizen, than I am with what goes on in Jamaica or Iran or anywhere else. These "what about...?" arguments are nothing but stupid attempts to change the subject.

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  23. good one, Scribe

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  24. A-N-A -- It's your "relatively-peripheral" that jars. If it were your rights, it wouldn't be so peripheral. And remember, this is an issue created by the Republican right. As far as most of America -- including most Republicans under 50 -- this is a solved issue, and we passionately would love to talk about some of our more significant problems. As one commentator pointed out, the segment of the economy devoted to making wedding cakes is very small. But then, so is the number of people shot by police. The news is not a meritocracy.

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    1. My God, yes. Even Dick Cheney is probably on the side of the angels on this one.

      John

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    2. PS - Tangent, but hopefully an interesting one. Homophobia on sportstalk radio was a constant presence until just a couple of years ago. I complained to Mitch Rosen at the Score all the time about the use of "gay" and "f--" (in the form of "f---ity") as insults. Went in one ear and out the other, but it disappeared in lightning fashion (I'd say in the course of one year).

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  25. I said "relatively" peripheral - compared to the right 1) to legally be gay, 2) have the rule of law standing between me and those who would beat me up, 3) marry, and 4) have housing and employment nondiscrimination protections (which in many states does not yet exist), no, I don't think being denied wedding cake is on the same plane. Of course, it's more than serious than that because you can envision more serious scenarios (e.g., a rural area with only one car repair shop), and I wrote a while back that I supported extending civil rights law protections to gays because the Constitution *doesn't* protect them from this kind of discrimination. I merely said I perceive that it's not simply "domestic vs. foreign" at play that accounts for how gay rights gets played in the media. FWIW, I'm far more critical of the Christian response to *real* persecution going on in the world compared to the attention they give the "Huckabee agenda," even if it were true.

    Jackash - legally it's a more complicated situation, because the Constitution doesn't prohibit such private discrimination and I don't think Indiana's state laws do either - in a sense this measure by Pence was a redundancy just to feed his base. Here's a piece directed to a similar Arizona initiative: http://reason.com/blog/2014/02/21/news-flash-its-already-legal-to-deny-ser

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    1. A-n-A,

      I sit corrected. Thanks for the reply. Since the first thing you wrote today was "Again, while I support adding gays to civil rights protections...", I won't ask you why sexual orientation shouldn't be among the factors addressed by civil rights laws. Though this does highlight the work that needs to be done in the U.S. before the average Joe or Jill is likely to be very deeply concerned about which country one's rum comes from...

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    2. Indiana's state laws don't prohibit discrimination against gays, but Indianapolis and several other cities have ordinances that do. Indiana's RFRA, as originally passed, would have allowed bigots who were sued under those ordinances to use Jeebus as a legal defense.

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  26. ANA-you're right, being denied a wedding cake isn't on the same plane as some of the more serious instances

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  27. a-n-a-are you an attorney?

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  28. The trouble with Jindal's political pandering (because that's exactly what this is) is that it makes no sense. "Individuals" cannot reject the basic rights of other "individuals" merely because their religion doesn't recognize their right to exist. We've seen what happens when that's taken to extremes. And it's not government coercion to stand up for the individual, but it is when government bodies create laws that allow discrimination for any reason. You must tolerate our intolerance and suffer indignity and rejection in the name of "whatever"? Not gonna happen.

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