This week's My Turn in Newsweek is a piece called "Less Shouting, More Talking", a sentiment that I am at most ambivalent about because while I love talking, shouting has its place as well. What makes me more ambivalent about the idea is what its author, Richard Mouw, wants to talk about. He wants to talk about sexuality; he wants to bring the different sides of the gay marriage debate to the table, and converse about it. The issue for me, though, is that it seems like it is going to be a disingenuous argument from the start - potentially from both sides. Talking it over would signify hope for the potential of a greater understanding, possibly some common ground in regard to the issue. I doubt for many of the people Mouw walked by on the way to the polls "carrying signs" that "mostly say 'Hooray for our side" the potential would ever be even there, let alone brought to fruition. And that stems from something rather simple, something Mouw erroneously - possibly ignorantly - states in the very beginning:
"I voted for the ban. As an evangelical, I subscribe to the "traditional" definition of marriage, and I do not want to see the definition changed. Does that mean I want to impose my personal convictions on the broader population? No."
But, in reality, that is exactly what a vote for Prop. 8 meant. It meant that not only did Mouw decide that gay marriage was wrong for him, but that it was wrong for everyone else in the state of California as well. And in reality, this imposition of personal convictions on the broader population is what a no vote meant as well - that the voter not only decided that s/he personally thought that gay marriage was a pretty okay thing, but that the entire population of California should have to recognize it as a legal reality. Hell, when I voted for Barack Obama, I was voting to impose my personal conviction on the broader population as well; I was voting for Obama because I believed in him and his ideas, and also because I didn't want to be imposed upon by the other guy (or more accurately, the other guy's VP... ...who won't go away!). The only way Mouw would not have been imposing his personal convictions on the broader population is if he chose not to vote at all on the proposition. Going to the table with that disingenuous reality married with the possibly authentic belief that false reality was in fact true is no way to start any kind of true discussion. Because there is no way to argue against such a falsehood.
One of the problems for me in the arguments presented by the religious right for the fear that they are being or will be marginalized is that this concern seems to ignore what has been fostered upon those who have been oppressed in the past and those who still make up a marginalized group. I don't know if their fear of marginalization stems from the lurking idea that they have done something wrong, that the privilege they exhibit in their interactions with the world - or rather, certain segments of the world - could very well become inverted with themselves on the bottom of a new hierarchy they recognize as profoundly unjust and shaming. I don't know if they don't recognize the similarities between what they fear and what they perpetuate, and their worries stem from a different source of martyrdom entirely. What I do know is this: the whole thing makes me see red. Like this sentiment:
"For many of us, 'normalizing' same-sex marriage comes down to deep concerns about the raising of our children and grandchildren. What will they be taught about sexual and family values in our schools? How will they be affected by the ways the entertainment media portray people with our kinds of views?"
Does Mouw not recognize that the gay community is living and has lived with the reality of those fears for decades? Does Mouw not recognize that gay youths and children of homosexual parents are being affected - and have been affected - by what they are taught regarding sexual and family values in our schools? Does Mouw not recognize that gays and children of homosexual parents are being affected by the ways the entertainment media portray them and their loved ones? If he doesn't, he is being willfully blind.
The thing about Richard Mouw's article that makes me see red more than any of the lunatic rantings found on my newspaper's opinion page is this: Mouw seems authentically calm, and hurt and interested in a discussion. But that doesn't make him any less immobile than someone like Michelle Malkin or Rush Limbough. He just puts a kinder, sweeter, more literate grandfatherly face on the debate. When he asks, "What is it about people like me that frightens you so much?", I want to ask him why I shouldn't be. Why my gay friends shouldn't be. The fact is that gays are a marginalized group, and people like Mouw - and heck, Mouw himself - are part of why they are marginalized. Why shouldn't a marginalized group, when faced with someone who supports their continued marginalization, be frightened? Why shouldn't they be angry? It doesn't matter that Richard Mouw is an evangelical Christian who believes in racial justice and gender equality and peacemaking and caring for the environment. Well, it does, but not here. Here and now, there's this. In terms of rights for gays, Mouw is still in a position of power and he is working to maintain that position. He is working for his religious belief to be the rule governing all. That is why I fear people like him. Because he can be sweet and kindly and he can fight for gender equality and the environment, but at the end of the day he is still a man who sees nothing wrong with continuing an inequality that - even if he does not condone it, even if he does not consider it, even if he has never even thought it - contributes to not only the marginalization a group of people but systemic violence toward that group of people.
Mouw "refuse[s] to go to the margins". What he doesn't recognize is that he and those who take the same sort of position he has taken have relegated a whole host of others to those margins. And I have very little tolerance for that. What he doesn't recognize is that positioning himself as someone who could one day become potentially marginalized is actually rather insulting - at least to me, as someone who has been marginalized and ostracized by those with his religious beliefs. It is insulting to be presented this potential world where his children and grandchildren may not be portrayed in a flattering light, where the beliefs he considers essential to family values are not included in the school curriculum, when I live in the real world where my loved ones and people of my belief (or lack of it) are not portrayed in a flattering light, and where a book about two daddy penguins starts an uproar. I don't know if it is possible for Mouw to recognize that, to recognize how what he fears is reality for too many. What I do believe is this: until that is recognized, any national conversation with any hope of succeeding is probably an unrealistic expectation.