Fairness and tolerance — an obituary in the age of irony   Leave a comment

as published on examiner.com

George Orwell and Ayn Rand present in their masterpieces of dystopic prognostication what appear to be fundamentally different imaginings of a society under the hammer of oppression and intolerance.  Orwell’s 1984 posited  Newspeak and watchful overseers; Rand’s Atlas Shrugged imagined producer hating, definition destroying culterati. The decades long public debate over gay marriage suggests that both were right.

Part Four of this series on Civil Unions, Gay Marriage, and DOMA makes the case for changing both the dialogue and the goals of the debate on extending civil protections for gay couples. The issue is one, not of ethics and rights, but of concepts, communication, and definitions.

It is far too apparent that unless the methods and the manners of the two sides of the divide radically change, neither side can expect to achieve tolerance, fairness, or resolution.

A daily perusal of the Times Union’s Tea Party Voices and Libby Post’s blog, and hops on over to Fred Lebrun, demonstrate the prescience of both Orwell and Rand. They expose the nature of the divide and of  those who stand astride it.

A visit to Libby Post’s Times Union blog will find users bullying and berating individuals who endure quite graciously while they have already conceded to the pro gay marriage side two thirds of the case against gay marriage. Hardly behavior one might expect from gays and lesbians who have always demanded tolerance and fairness, especially when they hold the moral high ground when it comes to legal recognitions and protections, and certainly not from a community that was painted with the effeminati brush for fifty or so years.

Tea Party Voices, on the other hand, a voice in the wilderness in this very Progressive of Progressive states, rallies against abortion rights while holding on to the name “Tea Party”. This is  a moniker that ought not be sullied with culture war nonsense when T E A once stood for Taxed Enough Already. It is  hardly a name that brings to mind biblical or socially driven indignation, and needs all the support it can get from New York fiscal minded folk.

The non traditional conservatives and liberals of New York, who would be amenable to the case for free minds and free markets, might not  particularly relish an association with the inevitable (though inappropriate)  “hatred” or “extremism” they might perceive in the entrenched culture warrior.

What gives with the label switching, identity blurring, bait and bully tactics that is the debate on gay marriage?

A peek at Fred Lebrun provides a window into the answer.

When one reads In sight, but not in reach, a piece that begins with “New York is long overdue for accepting marriage equality”, one might assume that the author is a champion of equality under the law, as such is the issue that need be addressed when it comes to gay marriage.

Alas, this is not the case.

The problem with gay marriage, as indicated in Part four, is that opposition to it — and the debate between the two sides — is a conceptual problem, not a moral one.

As we see in Fred’s work,  the public voices for gay marriage do not grasp what public recognition and civil sanction entails. They do not grasp the premises involved.  More troubling, they don’t recognize their own, neither in motivation nor in intent.

It seems that for Fred  “marriage equality” means far more than merely civil protections for the rights and responsibilities of gays, though this has been the language used in courtrooms and in legislatures. Fred appears to imagine that not only will gay couples gain equal status in the eyes of a court when dividing property or visiting a partner in a hospital room, but in the eyes of the public. He obliquely calls this “public acceptance of same-sex marriage”.

This would be a correct perception of the issue at hand, if in fact  supporters were seeking a correction in the law because the problem was, as Fred describes the debate,  “a civil rights issue”.

This is not how much of  the public perceives the debate, however.

They realize, unlike their self professes voices in local and national conversations who either evade or obfuscate, that far more is involved. The public grasps  intuitively that the overseers of  today’s definition destroying culterati clearly have something else in mind.

Fred’s article is ostensibly a criticism of the  bullying, redirection, and poorly chosen battles tactics one  finds  in much public discourse.

Fred describes in what some might perceive as  glowing terms Governor Andrew Cuomo’s use of “‘my way or the highway” tactics in dealing with the state Legislature”.  As he puts it, Cuomo “bullied legislators, goaded them to do his bidding and not theirs”.

Fred recognizes that Cuomo’s approval rating hovers around 70%, but  admonishes Cuomo,” a steady champion of giving gay marriage full rights and privileges” not to use the same tactics on the gay marriage front.
Fred understands that this will entrench the opposition in the general public, and might seal the deal against gay marriage in public hearts and minds.

Which brings us to the crux of the issue. Just what are we discussing when we talk about “accepting marriage equality”. Fred himself calls the debate  “an argument over moral convictions, wrapped around religious views”.  Is it?

When visiting Libby’s blog, one finds a friendly, yet firm, conciliatory but convinced opponent of “gay marriage” harassed and harangued as having “a neuropsychiatric disorder”, and being  “intellectually challenged”. He remains courteous , but firm despite the pile on that has  resulted from his  support of  civil unions but opposition to a legal redefinition of the term  “marriage”.

In the Gay Marriage debate there is chum in the water and the sharks are on the lose.

A 70% approval rating for the Governor is an indication of, Le Brun believes, widespread support for bullying one’s intellectual opponent, at least when one is the Governor and one’s opponent is the Legislature.

It is abundantly clear that this is a popular method in public discourse.

It’s hardly rational, however, and is not likely to convince.

Many, many, people  are now bearing down against the attacks, locking and reloading.

The bullying does grind down the moral fiber and morale of the opposition, however. Fred and many on the Left show themselves as well aware of this.

Rest assured that regardless of  Left wing assertions  that the debate over “accepting marriage equality” is a civil rights, civil government legal issue, supporters of “gay marriage”   are not making the case for legal protections, they are making the case for social acceptance entrenched into law.

The fact that after roughly thirty years of public dialogue over all manner of  legal protections for gay individuals and for our relationships, we are down to arguing over the nuance of “marriage” vs. “civil union” and “definitions” vs. “rights” exposes this fact.

Five sentences into the piece, the first sentence of which referring to the debate as being over “accepting marriage equality”, New York and Albany’s  public face for media Fred LeBrun acknowledges that for gays the discussion is really about “tolerance and fairness”.

It is not, Fred. It’s about ethics, its about rights, it’s about definitions.

Fred calls this an  “argument over moral convictions”. Arguments over moral convictions cannot be won by bullying, yet Fred speaks glowingly over Cuomo’s bullying tactics in every arena other than that on gay marriage. Why?

Is bullying appropriate? Fred says he is  concerned that when a voting populace sees their proxies in the Legislature hammered by the Governor on this issue, they may well turn their back on this, despite alleged approval for the method thus far.

But isn’t this debate about Constitutional and legal protections? That is the public argument, isn’t it? It’s about “rights” isn’t it? If indeed marriage is a right, does not the community deserve a fighter who will stand against the oppressors?

Fred recognizes, as do some gay people and their supporters, that this is not a civil rights issue, but one of definitions and of moral arguments. These are not won in legislatures, and legislatures must never be employed to make the moral case.

Civil Unions can and should happen. Government must provide its citizens equal protection under the law.  Civil Unions do this.

“Marriage”, however, is a public validation of a relationship, not merely  a civil protection. Fred is tacitly aware of this. He argues for a step down in the bullying and the rhetoric.

Gays and lesbians and their supporters in the community, however, claim they are demanding legal protections, yet the methodology they employ is moral bullying and attacks on character, all the while calling the opposition haters.

Fred’s use of the terms “tolerance and fairness” are the buzzwords of gay marriage.  While folks in the halls of State Houses, Congress, and the Courts talk “civil rights” ,”Constitutional Protections”, “equality under the law”, the folks on the ground beat each other into a rhetorical pulp while screaming “fairness” and “bigot” .

Media types may open the dialogue with “marriage equality”, but will glow over public bullying and attacks on elected officials  and will speak of “fairness” and “tolerance”, as if a legislator writes these into law.

One is entitled to equal protection from government intrusion. One has the right to equal recognition of legal status. One does not, however, have the “right” of tolerance or fairness.

These come from a well presented moral case  and a consistent, demonstrative positive character.

In the Orwellian and Randian dystopia of today, we have the Newspeak of “tolerance” and “fairness” screaming that their opponents have  a  “neuropsychiatric disorder” , and that they are “haters” and are intolerant, though they’ve already conceded to  two-thirds of Newspeak’s case.

We have culterati expecting to smuggle in acceptance by calling it “civil rights”. They argue that changing legal definitions will not affect the older concept, despite the fact that the force of law must necessarily ram its changed concept down everyone’s throat.

In 1984, Winston loved Big Brother.

Once Atlas Shrugged, John Galt declared “the road is clear” and told the other men of the mind “we are going back to the world”.

Orwell imagined a collectivist nightmare where thoughts are  controlled, where individuality was impermissible, and where intellectuals controlled language, and altered historical facts at whim.

Rand imagined producers under suspicion and criticism for daring to earn a living, picturing a collectivist nightmare where individuals are forced to support an entrenched elite that could change things at whim through the force of moral condemnation.

It’s up, its down, it’s left, it’s right.

Stop. You’re both right.


Posted May 16, 2011 by cchashadenough

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