Monday, September 10, 2012

Chris Kluwe's Takedown of Emmett Burns and the Moral Arc of History

I haven't yet made any mention of the recent masterful takedown of Maryland state delegate Emmett Burns by Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.  As those who have followed the story will know, after Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo voiced support for marriage equality in Maryland, Burns sent a letter to Ayanbadejo's employer Steve Bisciotti, insisting that Bisciotti "inhibit such expressions from your employee."

To repeat: Burns baldly asked Bisciotti, as owner of the Ravens, to squelch the free speech of an employee, Ayanbadejo.  Just because.  Because Burns said so.  

Because Burns is opposed to same-sex marriage.  Because he has been a vocal opponent of marriage equality in Maryland.  And because--though the media have delicately skirted around this issue--he's an ordained minister.  Emmett Burns is a Baptist minister.

He belongs, that is to say, to the sector of American Christianity that has done everything possible in recent years to convince us that the right to free speech--the religious freedom--of Christians is being assaulted in American culture of late.  The right of Christians to voice their opinions about gay marriage: it's being suppressed, evangelicals and right-wing Catholics and Orthodox Jews seek to argue, and we need to make our political choices with this troubling fact foremost in our minds.

Burns seems spectacularly unaware that his demand to Ayanbadejo's employer to suppress Ayanbadejo's free speech rather astonishingly undercuts the argument of the sector of American Christianity to which he belongs that free speech is under attack in American society today.

And so that point interests me in the discussion.  But what also interests me is how quickly Kluwe's zingy response to Burns (the first link above contains the text of Kluwe's letter to Burns: warning to readers with delicate ears--the letter contains what some folks might regard as profanity) has taken off.  In the mainstream media.  Kluwe has been on MSNBC's Ed Schultz's "Ed Show."   Bloggers across the internet are circulating (and applauding) Kluwe's rejoinder to Burns--from Abby Zimet at Common Dreams to Dave Zirin at The Nation, who writes,

Thank you Chis Kluwe, for the greatest political statement made by any athlete in decades. The fact that it happens to be about LGBT rights only shows how far we’ve traveled, in the streets and in the locker rooms.

As Kluwe (who's straight) tells Ed Schultz, the struggle for gay rights is the defining civil rights issue of our time, and straight allies of gays seeking their rights at this point in history will one day, years down the road, be asked how they behaved as some groups in American society were assaulting the rights of a targeted minority when the 21st century began: Whose side were you on?, Kluwe tells Schultz younger people will ask their elders when this battle is over and done with, and when it becomes widely known which was the right and which the wrong side in this cultural battle.

And that interests me as well: the growing signs that the cultural consensus about the rightness and wrongness of targeting a vulnerably minority and snatching human rights from it has moved beyond a point of critical mass.  Beyond a point of critical mass to a point at which it becomes increasingly unthinkable to defend the assaults of various groups--many of them claiming God as their warrant for dealing out injustice--on a targeted minority.

Because this activity is wrong.  Because denying rights to demeaned minority groups is simply wrong.  Because it's right and good to assist those struggling for their human rights.  And to defend them as they're assaulted by the powerful.

The response to Kluwe's letter, which has received widespread attention and acclaim not merely on "gay" blogs and in the gay media, but in the mainstream, confirms for me that groups like the National Organization for Marriage, the Southern Baptist Convention, the LDS Church, the U.S. Catholic bishops and the Vatican, and the Republican party (along with "faith-based" Democratic allies like Emmett Burns) are simply on the wrong side of history and its moral arc in their attempt to attack LGBT people.

And the public increasingly sees this.

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