Published on July 9th, 2013 | by James Schlarmann0
I’m (Sort of) a Bigot and Why That’s Totally Okay
I get accused of being a bigot from time to time; does anyone else? The charge seems to only come from people on the right side of the aisle ideologically, and it’s only when discussing marriage equality. I get called a bigot when I state for the record that I don’t hold bigoted beliefs — like any that dictate members of the LGBT community are subhuman or deserve to be the targets of legislation that abuses and disenfranchises them — as being beliefs worthy of respect. I get told I’m a bigot for not being tolerant of someone’s religious-based intolerance of homosexuality. Is your head spinning from that logical back-flip yet?
Of course the idea is a stupid one, and flawed eight ways from Sunday, but I thought it was important before I set about to actually explain why it’s stupid to accuse someone hates bigots of being bigoted themselves, to admit that in a very real sense — they’re right. Then again, in another sense, they’re incredibly wrong, of course. “Bigot” is defined as “a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, especially on religion, politics, or race.” From a very real and practical standpoint then, my hatred of bigoted views like “all gay people are icky and if we give them equal protection under the law our society will crumble” makes me bigoted towards bigots. Crazy, huh? Technically, these slack-jawed morons are right when they call me a bigot even though I’m the one fighting for everyone’s protection, even fighting to protect their right to say bigoted things.
The problem of course is that I’m not intolerant of “any ideas” other than my own. I am intolerant of views that when held give someone permission to discriminate against others. I don’t just summarily throw away every point of view but my own. This notion that I have to accept someone’s bigotry as part of their larger umbrella of personal views is ludicrous. I wouldn’t look at Ted Bundy and say, “Well, I despise that he was a mass murderer, but you know I don’t want to be a bigot. Just because I don’t want to kill a bunch of people, does that mean I should be intolerant of those that do?”
That’s what I wanted to get out of the way at the outset; that technically since I completely reject bigoted feelings and views I am a bigot-bigot. It’s certainly only a paradigm that can exist on the lunatic fringe of the right-wing, but just for the sake of argument, I’ll go with it. I am (sort of) a bigot.
It’s at this point though, that it becomes imperative to start dissecting this paradigm with an extremely sharp and precise scalpel. Perhaps indeed I am a bigot-bigot — bigoted against bigots — for not granting someone leeway to discriminate against another human being based on their religious beliefs. Indeed, I am intolerant of their religious beliefs that pertain specifically to discriminating against homosexuals or other members of the LGBT community. If you stop the train here though, you get left with an extremely distorted picture of reality. The truth is that there is no defensible bigoted position; bigotry is not an ideal to protect, and being intolerant of intolerance does not put someone on the same moral footing as another person who actually actively seeks to hurt and disenfranchise people based on illogical and unfounded personal preference issues.
Let me put it this way — in this country everyone has the right to say and feel and think whatever they want to about any issue. A bigoted homophobe has every right to stand on a street corner and tell the world, “I hate gay people and I don’t think they should get marriage benefits that straight couples do.” What no one is allowed to do is use their religious dogma as a cudgel to beat someone else with by way of codifying their discrimination into law; at least not when the discrimination isn’t warranted. Keeping convicted sex offenders from owning firearms is the kind of discrimination that can even be considered “wise” or “prudent,” telling adults they can’t devote their lives to each other on a permanent basis because they happen to be the same gender is not discrimination that holds up, not after years and years of seeing that mainstreaming homosexuality has done nothing except expose the world the truth that was there all along — there’s no justification to further harm and insult someone based on their sexual orientation.
The bottom line is simple — denying someone their civil rights for any reason is wrong. Prisoners have their civil liberties stripped when they enter our penitentiaries, and even that is solely based on the idea that they have harmed society in some way and as a punishment for that transgression, we remove some of their rights as part of their payment back to society; that’s the idea anyway. However, disenfranchisement isn’t something to be taken lightly, and it’s certainly never justified for religious reasons, and at the end of the day, there is not a single argument against same-sex marriage that isn’t at least rooted in religious dogma.
There isn’t anything in any of the anti-discrimination laws on the books that prevents someone from holding a bigoted view. There are no “thought police,” no matter how much right-wing rhetoric insists there is. All that these laws seek to do is protect people from being discriminated against unfairly, and therein lies the heart of the matter. The anti-equality side doesn’t want to admit it, and they’ll come up with all kinds of flowery prose to obfuscate their true intent, but when it’s all said and done they want to discriminate against homosexuals because they feel they are entitled to do so. That’s what this fight is about, and that’s what the fight for any civil liberty being extended to a group that didn’t have it before is all about — whether a group has the right to oppress another, and whether that oppression can be based only on subjective views of morality.
They want to legislate the morality of homosexual sex. Justice Scalia tipped all the homophobes’ hands when he mentioned “sanctioning homosexual sodomy” in his scathing and hate-filled dissent on the recent Prop 8 decision. The true motivations for these people aren’t really about love and tolerance; they’re about antiquated views of a particular set of sex acts performed by two consenting adults. We all get there’s a reason to regulate sexual activity, but only when it comes to situations where power is abused to victimized someone in a sexual way — such as rape and child molestation. It’s an entirely different proposition to legislate the sexual morality of adults, which is exactly what these laws seek to do.
If a homosexual couple were to sign a contract saying they’d never engage in sexual intercourse with each other, how many right-wingers would suddenly say “Hey, it’s just a social contract, no need to discriminate anymore! Let them get married!” It’s disingenuous of them to claim any other motivation, but they’ll do it anyway. They say it hurts traditional family structures — it doesn’t. Yet they’ll cling to one debunked social science study after another rather than face the reality — the reality that they are just flat-0ut wrong.
We pride ourselves in this country on respecting the views of every American. After all, we understand that everyone has their own point of view, and that no idea is less valid than another. Except the truth is that there are most definitely views that are just wrong. It’s wrong, for example, to believe that black people are inferior by birth and they deserve to be subjugated and enslaved. It’s wrong for example to think that women don’t deserve equal protection under the law, and that they don’t deserve a vote. These are both two sentiments that for a long, long time were the most popularly-held views on two extremely important social subjects. It took society as a whole — in the streets, in our legislature, in the White House and in our courts — telling the true bigots, the true haters of their time, that their views are now wrong, in the eyes of polite society for slavery to end women to be given the right to vote.
Being bigoted against bigots may be a true paradigm; and if it is then you can count me gladly among those the bigot-bigots. I’d rather be known as someone who was intolerant of intolerance and hated ignorance than someone who tolerated the most evil aspects of human nature because that’s what our founding tenets supposedly dictate. We would never ask anyone to just “tolerate” another person’s world view if that world view was “we shouldn’t let brown eyed people get married because brown eyes are said to be signs of evil in my religious text.” So why should anyone have to be tolerant of views that are just as illogical?