Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "Oh William, Please Do Not Equate Me . . . To Your Backward Southern Relatives"

I mentioned the following exchange at the Commonweal blog site in a comment to Michael Ferri earlier today.  I find the exchange amusing for a number of reasons: 

First, there's the sheer, gutsy irony of investing in an argument that owes everything to a distinctly Southern political strategy of states' rights obstructionism, and then the moment someone points out to you that you are associating yourself with the obstructionism of Southern states' rights advocates, claiming you couldn't possibly have a thing in common with those ignorant and backward folks!

The very idea that you could be like a bigoted Southern racist defending racial segregation, when you, a good Catholic, are defending good Catholic discriminatory ideas about gay folks.  Enlightened discriminatory ideas.

Second, there's the (again amusing) total lack of self-knowledge on the part of those Catholics who go into conniptions when you point out to them that the arguments they're using to deny rights to gay folks today, and the tactics they're employing, are right out of the playbook of bigoted white Southerners in the 1950s and 1960s.  The inability to see the louse parading proudly on the gauze and lace of our church hat, since lice parade only on the hats of those other people, don't you know. 

And so here's the exchange that took place between me and reader Ken Berg at Commonweal today:


Important matter such as this [i.e., according civil rights like marriage to gay folks] must be allowed to proceed via the democratic process; the voters and/or our legislators. So far, those in favor of gay marriage have not trusted the people and have instead tried to shove it down people’s throats via unelected judges and courts, but long term, the legislative process – the will of the people – is the better way. 

Me in response to Ken:

Ah, the memories that argument brings back, even with precise rhetorical flourishes.
It’s 1957. I’m growing up in Little Rock, a boy of 7, listening to my family rant about the integration of schools and abolition of legal segregation. A lengthy Christmas-dinner rant . . . .
“They’re shoving it down our throats. It’s the courts. The federal government. Those unelected judges.
If they’d just let us work things out, we’d do the right thing. In time.  Let us vote on all of this! Stop shoving it down our throats. The bible says, after all . . . . ” 
Plus ça change. 
The human rights of oppressed minority groups should NEVER depend on or be decided by popular vote. 

Ken in response to me:

Oh William, please do not equate me or other folks who do not approve of gay marriage to your backward Southern relatives.

Ken's not ignorant or backwards, you see.  Not in opposing human rights for gay and lesbian persons.

He's a good Catholic! Couldn't possibly be like those ignorant, backwards Southerners who opposed human rights for stupid reasons.

Unlike the good, intelligent reasons proceeding from a good, intelligent, well-meaning Catholic heart that Ken Berg offers when he makes the very same arguments, using the very same terminology, that those ignorant and stupid Southern folks used to oppose human rights for people of color several decades ago.

There's more, if you care to follow the rest of the dialogue--which then peters off into the silence that Commonweal folks like Ken always use when they want to freeze someone like me out of the conversation.  After they have begun by insulting him and his forebears and letting him know he's not welcome in the exalted circles of their highly intellectual conversation.

Where what counts is sweet reason and good here comes everybody Catholic intent, it goes without saying.

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