Saturday, October 25, 2008

Is that 'B' for 'Backfire'? Or for 'Beginning', as in 'just the...'?

By now you've heard about the McCain campaign worker, a young woman in racially charged western Pennsylvania, who claimed that she was mugged and beaten by a tall black dude who then carved a B into her cheek. (The implication, of course: B for Barack.) I won't Blabor the story here, which blew up in the woman's face (no pun intended) after her account unraveled during police questioningbut you have to wonder if this signals the start of an all-out blitzkrieg of dirty tricks and other back-stage derring-do that's intended to stoke strong racial feelings in battleground states like PA, as we move into the final week of campaigning.

I'm also wondering: Did the police check for Karl Rove's fingerprints?


Yesterday on The View, comedian Sheryl Underwood, who is black and normally a staunch GOP supporter, said she's voting for Obama this time around.
She made it pretty clear that this was "a black thing," and even playfully claimed the credit for the recent Colin Powell endorsement, saying that her stance has "made it safe for all black Republicans" to vote Democratic this time.

Though the segment was all in good fun, or that's how the audience was supposed to take it, anyway, that kind of stuff still bugs me no end, because it shows the degree to which, even amid the climate of post-racialism that Obama's candidacy allegedly has fostered, you can get away with being a blatant racist if you're doing it in a way that benefits blacks. (Can you imagine what would happen if a guy like actor Tim Robbins*, who is normally to the left of Left, announced that he's voting for McCain because they're both white? Especially in Hollywood? He'd never work again.) I wish there were a way of denying the vote to anyone who admits that race plays a role in his voting preferences this year; or maybe we could take it a step further and give polygraph tests at the booth? Yeah, I know that's absurd, and I don't really mean it in a literal sense. It's just a sign of how strongly I feel about this subject. If there aren't laws against supporting (or rejecting) candidates for racial reasons, there ought to be.


consider this an honest request for illumination: What is the objection to gay marriage? If the gays up the street decide to marry, how does that hurt me? I'm seriously asking. I want to understand what it is that has so many people's underwear all bunched up.


AFTERTHOUGHT: Or maybe it just stands for "Bigot."

* I mention Robbins because he's still fresh in my mind after his appearance last night on Bill Maher's show.


Elizabeth said...

that kind of stuff still bugs me no end, because it shows the degree to which, even amid the climate of post-racialism that Obama's candidacy allegedly has fostered, you can get away with being a blatant racist if you're doing it in a way that benefits blacks

Steve, I know it bugs you to no end. But you gotta relax, man. As in, take a deep breath and remember that this too shall pass. No, really.

After centuries of slavery, disenfranchisement, and various other forms of discrimination that blacks have suffered in this country, this is the first ever black candidate that has a shot at the presidency. This is huge. Is it any wonder that some people may be motivated to vote for him just because of that? If there were more than one black candidate -- in this election and/or before -- this would not be an issue, i.e. people would not be so awed by this unheard of occurrence and would pay greater attention to other factors (stance on issues, etc.). But as it is a rare thing -- the first such thing ever -- the element of awe plays a role here.

Continuing the same reasoning, you have had centuries of white men voting only for other white men. Has that bothered you the same way all these 40 years or so when you have paid attention to American elections? Please give it some serious consideration. All these elections in which there were no black (or women) candidates were no less racist (and sexist) -- actually one could say they were much more racist than this one where some folks may be motivated *for the first time ever* to vote for a black candidate; you (collectively) just did not think about it, because it was the accepted status quo. This time around it is different -- so please bear with it. In fifty years or so, when black (and female) faces of presidential candidates are more common (one hopes), voters will be more accustomed to the diversity and less awed by it. It takes time (and patience, I may add).

As to gay marriage, the greatest outrage over it comes, IMO, from males who are deeply threatened (and disgusted) by male-on-male sex. This so-called "sanctity of marriage" is just a noble sounding cover for very base fears.

M said...

Hello there,

I haven't visited for awhile; had to tuck my tail in and take my medicine. It went down okay.

Thanks, Steve, for shakin' me up. I'll take that on board and appreciate it. Good advice, is well, good. I swear I don't mean to be an ass. :)

Why are people over the top on this election?

Self-defacement? Literally...or name it? So sick and strange and odd, weird and whatever. People are losing their gourds.

Lordy, who really makes a difference and if they do, who is it to, and how often and how much and how effective?

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, the inclination of blacks to support a black candidate because of his color certainly isn't a new phenomenon. It's merely an indication of a clan mentality that has permeated humanity since we lived in caves, and is an integral part of the survival mechanism of all species. We embrace one who seems to be part of our clan, and rally our defenses against one who isn't "one of us."

As we gain some degree of intelligence, we come to realize that not everybody outside our clan is a threat. Unfortunately, such clan mentality remains in the form of political affiliation, nationalism, team pride, ad infinitum. It's diminishing, albeit more slowly than we would prefer.

I'll second Eliz' assessment of the resistance to gay marriage, but with one added element. Pre-pubescent boys' initial curiosity about their own sexuality lacks the clarity of focus that comes with sexual maturity. They know they're interested; they just aren't too sure what they're interested *in.* That curiosity is usually expressed only to those they trust the most; generally another little boy.

As they get older, and the sexual identity becomes more clearly defined, the early experimentation gets a label applied: heterosexual or homosexual. Some males are unable to understand and accept that it is normal for their earliest sexual feelings to have been androgynous, and end up consumed with guilt and/or self-doubt over their behaviors and emotions, even if they do not harbor any homosexual desires. The most convenient and acceptable means for them to resolve these conflicts is to vehemently reject anything that reminds them of these early doubts. When I was a teenager, gay-bashing was considerably more common - and more violent - than it is today. The doubts apparently linger for many men, but they've found a more civilized - even politically correct - means of expressing them.

RevRon's Rants said...

And on the subject of things that backfire, I read this morning that Joe the Plumber is considering a run for Congress in 2010, and that the Republican machine is actually supportive of his candidacy!

First, it was actors. Then hockey moms. Now faux plumbers. What's next? Rather than spew my rant here, I put it on my own blog at RevRon's Rants. Amazing the lengths the cynical will go to in order to hold onto power.

Steve Salerno said...

Thank you, all, for the cogent and detailed feedback. I hear what you're saying about the covert reasons that "explain" why so many people are threatened by gays and gayness--but what is the literal logic of their position in opposing gay marriage as an institution? I wasn't just being coy or rhetorical in asking. I genuinely want to know, because I've never really seen the point articulated in any meaningful way; it's as if they assume that we all know "what's wrong with" gay marriage, and why it represents a threat...when in fact I honestly have no clue. How did this develop legislative traction? If Barney Frank is married to some guy, how does that hurt me, or his neighbors, or anyone else, or the "institution of marriage" itself?

Isn't there anyone out there who opposes gay marriage who also reads this board and can explain this to me? I mean, seriously, even if the guy up the street wants to marry a does that hurt ME? (Assuming the wildebeest is a friendly animal.)

RevRon's Rants said...

"even if the guy up the street wants to marry a does that hurt ME? "

Apples & oranges here, Steve. The prohibition against bestiality is founded in self-preservation and preservation of the species (humanity). For example, syphilis originated in humans who had sex with sheep, and it has been speculated that HIV/AIDS originated as the result of humans having sex with chimpanzees. Since both these diseases threaten humans' general well-being, such a prohibition is well-justified.

The prohibition against gay marriage is nothing more than an overt expression of a covert doubt, magnified by a political ideology that has aligned itself against anything that threatens that ideology. Since the far right has laid claim to the "christian values" mantle, they feel justified - even compelled to - fight against any group that is inconsistent with that ideology, no matter how contrived the ideology itself might have become.

Most homosexuals reject the Republican platform, and the Republican platform sees no downside to alienating homosexuals. The "base" is satisfied, and the majority remains, for the most part, completely unconcerned with a platform item that does not apply directly to them.

Elizabeth said...

It's a different story with the wildebeest, Steve. I would oppose that marriage, because a wildebeest cannot give free consent -- we would be talking about abuse then.

But two consenting homosexual humans, that's a different matter.

From the Catholic (and religious) POV -- and religiousness is prominent among opponents of gay marriage -- homosexuality is a sin and the purpose of marriage is procreation. Given that, gay marriage is super-sinful and an uber-abomination. Case closed.
(No? :))

If you are waiting to hear rational arguments against gay marriage, Steve, you'll be disappointed. There are none.

Steve Salerno said...

OK, Ron, I could make a pedantic ass of myself by engaging you on the wildebeest point, but the more pertinent concern here is that you're still not addressing my question: What is the official argument put forward by the anti-gay marriage crowd, and what is the underlying rationale? You're giving me what you regard as the "real" reasons--the fears, the hatreds, etc. I'm asking: What is it that they say in defending their stance? I haven't yet heard anyone say, "I'm a right-wing zealot who drips with prejudice, so that's why I'm trying to deny gays their due." But by the same token, I haven't really heard anyone advance a more logical argument, either. So again...what is the official argument here? How do they actually succeed in making ballot propositions out of this, as they have in several states?

Steve Salerno said...

Btw, I am cheered to find another commonality between Rev and Eliz: Both of you think the man/wildebeest union is not a good idea.

(But...suppose the wildebeest consents?)

Elizabeth said...

I doubt the wildebeest would be so, er, dumb, Steve. ;) But if it indeed consented (sigh), then it's no business of mine.

Now, here you have not one but 10(!) reasons against gay marriage, as put forth by my favorite zealot, James Dobson. Enjoy! (But get yourself some strong coffee first).

Stever Robbins said...

As a resident of Massachusetts, where we have many legal gay marriages, I'm equally puzzled.

The marriages have had no effect on anyone or anything except the in-laws, a minister or two (who get more work), and a divorce lawyer or two (who also get more work).

I don't think there's any logic behind this at all, except that people have a strong mental image of the word "marriage" and it has a man and a woman in the image. They're offended because someone who doesn't match their image wants to get married.

Some people try to invoke Biblical logic but the passages they quote to justify the position seem really weak (and also ignore the fact that marriage as an institution transcends Christianity, so there's no particular reason to look solely to the Christian Bible for instruction).

I think it's irrational fear combined with a healthy dose of justification wherever it can be found. To assume there's underlying logic may be a bad assumption.

Lana said...

I don't know if there's an official argument that all agree on, but here's one of the biggest objections to gay marriage:

Homosexuality is against God's law. A nation that accepts homosexuality will bring God's wrath as well as built-in "natural" punishments, thus destroying the nation.

They'll point to homosexuality leading to the fall of the Roman Empire, for example.

Chad Hogg said...

I've already written about gay marriage, so I'll just refer you to

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks for the link, Eliz, but that's exactly what I mean: I don't see any reasons there that don't reduce to a form of bigotry and an a priori, circular assumption that "gay marriages are bad because they're not traditional marriages, which are the only good kind."

I laugh especially at Dobson's No. 7, which attempts to justify anti-gay statutes by citing their adverse impact on social security. Again, that presupposes that gay marriages are automatically less legit to begin with. It's no different from my saying, "You know, if we allow all these black people to marry each other, just think of the implications for social security...!"

It's absurd. It's still not a reason, as I understand the concept of reason, as distinct from emotion/bias.

RevRon's Rants said...

"So again...what is the official argument here?"

That, by allowing same-sex marriages, the government would be endorsing such unions as acceptable and - dare I say it - equal to traditional marriages. This would effectively nullify the more extreme ideology of the religious right who have diverted the party from its mainstream members. For a party whose platform has descended into a divisive "us versus them" mentality, it has become essential to further marginalize the "them."

Steve Salerno said...

Lana: Op. cit.

RevRon's Rants said...

"(But...suppose the wildebeest consents?)"

When she insists upon a condom, we'll consider that. :-)

For the record, I am against *any* legislative action concerning marriages, gay or otherwise. A marriage is a religious ceremony. Unfortunately, we have infused the religious-based union with the minutiae of a legal contract, thereby demeaning the religious symbolism while, at the same time, allowing government intrusion into the expression of religious beliefs.

IMO, marriage and civil unions should be distinctly separate entities. The state has no jurisdiction or authority over the parameters of marriage, and ideology has no business getting involved in purely contractual matters. As a minister, I would not hesitate to perform a marriage for a same-sex couple, yet by doing so, I run the risk of breaking some law. If that isn't an example of governmental intrusion into religious practices, I don't know what is. By the same token, if my own beliefs were that such a union were morally wrong, I still would have no right to impose those beliefs upon the legislative process.

Lana said...

Sorry. I didn't see the Dobson link before commenting.

Elizabeth said...

that's exactly what I mean: I don't see any reasons there that don't reduce to a form of bigotry and an a priori, circular assumption that "gay marriages are bad because they're not traditional marriages, which are the only good kind."

And that's exactly what I meant too. :) There is no rational reason to support a ban on gay marriage. Dobson's et al. "arguments" are as good as it gets in this matter -- and it's laughable, as you observed.

But, keep in mind, there is a large group of people who consider these "reasons" with utmost seriousness (Dobson chief among them).

Elizabeth said...

It's still not a reason, as I understand the concept of reason, as distinct from emotion/bias.

Okay... Wait. Stave, are you seriously looking for reasons justifying discrimination (of this or any kind)? By golly, it must be a slow Saturday in your neck of the woods, no? :)

Discrimination (and opposition to gay marriage is no less) is always rooted in bigotry and irrationality. There is no good reason for it and no decent justification of it, no matter how hard one tries to twist his or her reasoning into pseudo-arguments (as Dobson proves).

Steve Salerno said...

Lana: Don't be silly. I'm just glad that you (and others) keep coming back!

Eliz: Well now, wait, not so fast. For example, suppose it could be proved that adoption agencies look more favorably on "married couples" when placing children. And suppose it could then be proved that children adopted by gay couples, and raised in those households, were 75% more likely to be abused, or commit suicide, or whatever. That argument--if it existed--would, I think, be a rational argument against gay marriage. Perhaps there are other factors that might be used in rebutting the statistic, but at least it would constitute a "reason" for the purpose of starting discussion. And it would be a reason that has nothing to do with "because God says so, on page 468..."

As I've pointed out elsewhere on this blog--a number of times now--I think there are many "reasons" why people dislike certain other groups that don't necessarily reduce to "discrimination" as I think you're using the term. For example, let's take the dislike/distrust that some (if not many) women have for men. If it's true that up to 90% of all men cheat, and women are therefore constantly exposed to that heartache, I don't think it's a prejudice--necessarily--for a woman to say that she doesn't like men as much as she likes women. In the same way, as I've also pointed out before, we blatantly "discriminate" against various groups in all sorts of insurance settings--teenage drivers being the classic case--and we justify it based on actuarial data, incidence rates, etc.

Lana said...

I'm not trying to be silly :-) I guess I misunderstood what you meant.

More than half of Americans oppose gay marriage. According to The Pew Forum:

"As with many other social issues, opinions about same-sex marriage are closely linked with partisanship, ideology and religion. For instance, opposition to gay marriage is lowest among self-described liberal Democrats (26%) and highest among conservative Republicans (83%), with other ideological and partisan groups falling in between. Those who identify themselves as independents are roughly divided on the issue, with 49% opposed to same-sex marriage and 41% in favor of it."

You asked, "What is the official argument put forward by the anti-gay marriage crowd, and what is the underlying rationale?"

Most conservative Republicans are Christian and hold the belief that homosexuality is wrong because God says so. Period. That's their official argument and rationale for opposing gay marriage.

I don't find their reasoning to be illogical or inconsistent based on their beliefs.

Am I missing the point of your question?

Steve Salerno said...

I've looked over the foregoing pretty carefully, and though I'm not sure it's an example of actual malfeasance--at least based on what we know so far--it's more grist for the Palin mill. There always seems to be "something else" with this woman.

Lana: No, you're not missing the point at all, but in making the points you make, you're reinforcing my point, which is twofold: 1, every argument against gay marriage seems to reduce in the end to religion--not just "implied" religion but clear, overt religious bigotry, and 2, in light of (1), I don't understand how these measures get on the ballot. If there is no objection that can be backed up by some secular reason that's rooted in empiricism and other judicial precedent, how do these things develop the traction they do? How are they constitutional? Is this really any more ridiculous than my proposing a ballot measure that bans blacks from eating in groups larger than two in restaurants?

Elizabeth said...

my proposing a ballot measure that bans blacks from eating in groups larger than two in restaurants

Phew! Finally someone has the guts to do the right thing. Yeah, you go, Steve! Salerno '12! You'll get my vote, man. It's about time thems blacks stopped congregating in restrants and other public places and scare the good folks away. Bad for business, bad for America. Vote Salerno -- the sane choice!


Anonymous said...

I don't understand the ban on gay marriage either except for religious reasons, but the U.S. separates church and state so religion is a no-no. Banning gay marriage for religious reasons is basically unconstitutional. Remember, at one time, blacks and whites could not legally marry.

By the way, there are many gays who do not want to see gay marriage allowed. My lesbian sister does not want to marry her live-in partner. She always had the government on her side in this, but now her girlfriend is pushing for them to go "legit" and my sister has run out of excuses. David Sedaris is in the same boat by some of the comments he made about not getting married to his long standing partner. So gays and straights have the same committment problems it would seem.

Why should straight people be the only ones to feel the joy of divorce court. I say we spread the love around.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 9:16: How funny is that? So the ban on gay marriage gave the commitment-phobes a built-in excuse, huh? Too much.

Lana said...

Steve, I agree. (I didn't realize what you were really asking.) And I have the same question about how this issue can technically end up on a ballot. Another research topic to add to my list! By November 4 I will be a crack economist, political scientist, constitutional scholar, theologian, neuroscientist and cultural historian.

Elizabeth said...

Yep, it has come to this, my friends. Watch the heartbreaking story of this young man, attacked by a McCain supporter who carved a "J" on his face: