Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Don't let this drag you down

Well, the voters of Missouri decided that they want bigotry enshrined in their constitution. I am really bummed about this, of course. One would hope in a new millineum that the values of freedom and individualism that first gained popular ground hundreds of years ago would guilt people out of their all-too human urge to exclude others to make themselves feel special and to use the force of law to control people who they don't understand.

I believe that Americans value freedom and individuality. I believe even that we know that in order to protect our basic values we must respect diversity and keep our noses out of other people's business. The forces of bigotry work by reaching past people's value systems and going straight after their human nature. It's human nature to want to be a superior person by virtue of birth--that's why the heroes in fairy tales are princes. In this case the inborn tendency that grants automatic superiority is heterosexuality. And those of us who are arguing for equal rights are thumbing our noses at their own view of themselves and saying, "Who died and made you king?" And some people are extremely loathe to give up the fantasy that their own superiority is innate.

A lot of people reject the comparison of the gay rights movement to the civil rights movement since the goals are different. But the comparison is useful because the opposition is pretty much the same. The homophobic bigots see themselves in the same way that the racist bigots saw themselves in the South for so very long. There are a number of different cultural narratives to explain different beliefs, and the narrative being used to justify homophobia is the same narrative as the one used to justify racism, just with different characters this time around. It's a very powerful narrative and we ignore it at our peril.

The basic outline is this: There is a threat from below to the "good" people(whites to racists, straights to homophobes). The threatening group (blacks or gays) is singling out a Symbol of Innocence and Purity for a sexualized attack. It is up to the strong members of the righteous group (white or straight) to protect the weak innocents by keeping the threatening group out of the institutions and spaces that the threatening group might encounter the pure innocents and sully them. If that means that the threatening group is therefore blocked from their equal rights, well that's a shame, but no price is too high to pay to protect the innocents.

In the racist viewpoint, the Symbol of Innocence is white women, and don't doubt it for a second. The entire system of segregation was bolstered by paper-thin arguments for the protection of the innocence of white women. To this day, racist men in the South will hint around their "duty" to protect innocent white women from this threat that exists only in their minds. The KKK admits to cherishing the myth of the pure white woman and the lecherous black man.

In the updated, homophobic version of this myth, children have replaced white women as the Symbol of Innocence. Straight people, particularly parents and especially Christian parents, are the exalted protectors of the innocent. And just as it was assumed that most, if not all, black men would rape a white woman if given half a chance, it is now assumed that all homosexuals will molest children unless the protecters are vigilant. This myth is drawn on constantly, creating ever more complex justifications for bigoted policy. For instance, the myth is used to argue against same-sex marriage like this--if gays are allowed to marry, they will become more acceptable to society overall which means that one day people will feel comfortable leaving gays alone with children. Same-sex marriage is seen as a step in the ultimate goal of molesting children. That's why there is so much ink spilled to redefine marriage as an institution to protect children--the idea is to wed the idea in people's minds that gays are struggling for the right to hurt children.

We cannot get discouraged by setbacks like this. They are inevitable when your opposition has powerful mythology on their side. But there is good news. The amendment got 71% of the vote, but that doesn't mean 71% of the population actually approves. The religious right is really good at getting out the vote for measures like this, which creates an artificial sense that their numbers are bigger than they are.

Gay activists need to just keep at the work that they are doing to build a counter-story, that they are in a struggle to secure the rights that everyone else takes for granted. Just keep on reminding people how shameful bigotry is. They are getting the message, slowly but surely. And as that bigotry recedes and gay people have an ever-more open place in society, more people will see the myth that gays molest children as the lie that it is.

44 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Final:
Constitutional Amendment 2
Precincts Reporting 3992 of 3992
Marriage Definition
Yes 1,054,235 70.7%
No 437,563 29.3%
Total Votes 1,491,798

MO Dems are anti-abortion non-social-justice Catholics
who regretted Vatican II, are conceal-carry advocates,
are black churchgoers who resent white gays for being
stereotypically well-off and who resent their own gays
for bringing shame to the community - not just the
Jews, liberal mainstream Protestants, social-justice
Catholics, the actual GLBT community.

Many MO Dems are Zell Miller types, DINO.

Turnout was extraordinarily high, at least 35%.

The new gambling boat amendment hurt us as well, by
generating a large turnout from the same folks that
are anti-gay. However, the boat was turned down
55-45%, and many crossovers were made. I voted
against the boat myself. Many antigays probably voted
for the boat, for the tax revenues or promised jobs or
merely more convenient access (currently you have to
drive to St. Louis to find legal casino gambling, a
pain if you live in the Ozark hills).

Churches promoted no on gambling boat, yes on marriage
ban quite openly from the pulpit. More notably, the
"Christian" radio stations also gave abundant free
GOTV and editorial time to the Missouri amendment
issues. We are talking about 100,000 watt stations
here.

The marriage vote almost broke even in St. Louis, by
far the most liberal area, and also the hub of GLBT
life in MO. The "no ban" votes in outstate MO were
maybe 10-15% at best in some areas, and I dare say
many of those votes were from people who wanted to ban
but got confused.

The one thing that I can see good coming from this is
that the LGBT community is now truly politically aware
in a way that it hasn't been before. Many, many names
of supporters have been gathered, and will be
available for volunteering or gotv contacting for
November and beyond. You saw the same folks show up
for gotv efforts sponsored by PROMO - now there may be
new faces. In the little volunteering I did in the
past effort, I seemed to meet a bunch of people who
had never participated in campaigns before. 90% LGBT,
10% friends. And, of note, many people were trained as
activists, and many more opened their checkbooks
($400,000.00 or so raised). Maybe even the Log
Cabinites are reconsidering. I feel tempted to contact
my ex-landlord (the guy with an office full of Pride
beads and elephants), and see what his thinking is.

NancyP

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