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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Bare Naked Homophobia: Sweaty Mud-Wrestling Edition

Bare Naked Homophobia: Sweaty Mud-Wrestling Edition
Image © Austin Cline
Click for full-sized Image

For some strange reason, homophobic Christians often don't want to admit that they are bigoted against gays and are driven by the desire to discriminate against them. It's almost as if they recognize that their bigotry is immoral and discrimination illegal, so they can often be seen working hard to reframe their agenda in manner that denies they are interested in treating gays any worse than straight people. They want to accomplish an anti-gay agenda without admitting that there is anything anti-gay about it.

If they really believe in their position and truly think that it's best, they shouldn't be ashamed to publicly declare themselves in favor of anti-gay discrimination. Remember, such Christians often compare their attitudes towards gays to their attitudes towards criminals — homosexuality is a crime in God's eyes, after all. When was the last time someone was ashamed of thinking that convicted criminals should be treated differently under the law (voting rights, gun ownership, etc.)?

Efforts to reframe their position will inevitably fail because their agenda isn't as democratic, just, or fair as they keep trying to portray it, but they continue to try — and sometimes the media helps out by using their preferred rhetoric. When was the last time you saw a report in the mainstream news which accurately described the conservative, Christian agenda as seeking to deny basic rights and equality to human beings and citizens merely because of their sexual orientation? It's a rhetorical coverup in which the media is not so much an unwitting tool as an actively complicit and culpable partner.

On the other hand, sometimes outsiders are able to reveal the depths of moral depravity that often passes for "family values" among conservative Christians. Anti-gay marriage movements typically frame themselves as "protecting" the family, but California's attorney general Jerry Brown has seen through this and accurately describes the effort to strike down gay marriage in the state as the elimination of equal marriage rights for gays. His description is unremarkable in its accuracy, but it's very remarkable in that almost no one is willing to be that truthful.

Conservative Christians are outraged at this correct description of their agenda — they are so accustomed to their own dishonest rhetoric that they almost seem to believe it themselves. It's perhaps a sign of how dishonest rhetoric not only warps legitimate political debates, but can even warp people's very ability to accurately perceive reality, including the reality of their own agenda. Then again, maybe they are outraged not because their rhetoric has blinded them to the truth, but because they simply aren't accustomed to reality in the first place. Given how many other things they sincerely believe which have nothing to do with reality, this isn't much of a stretch.

The Politics of Public Health, and the Public Health of American Politics
Image © Austin Cline
Original Poster: National Archives
Click for full-sized Image

Even better than outsiders revealing the truth of bigotry among conservative Christians is conservative Christians themselves letting the mask slip and showing the world their true face of hatred, all raw and wriggly. We were treated to a demonstration of this by Elaine Donnelly when she testified before Congress in defense of the military keeping its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy towards gays. Although she seemed to be trying to keep up some pretense of seriousness, the naked bigotry and stupidity shone through for all to see when she warned of "transgenders in the military," gays spreading "HIV positivity" through the ranks and "forcible sodomy" which would apparently be taking place right on the parade grounds.

I'm guessing she has mental images of military parades becoming gay pride parades, the standard military uniform being transformed into leather chaps without pants, bare, sweaty chests heaving in the hot sun, and...well, it's no wonder that her testimony was so incoherent, is it? I'm surprised she didn't have to keep taking breaks in order to cool off. You just know that she enjoyed all the research she had to do for this appearance, right? Someone should have brought a small radio and started playing "In the Navy" by the Village People.

Although it was heartening that both people in the audience and even some Representatives found Elaine Donnelly to be ludicrous, I suspect that twenty years ago the same testimony would have been greeted far more positively. It's not any more bigoted and stupid today, but twenty years ago the stupidity of anti-gay bigotry was more common and accepted, and thus harder to get people to recognize. It wasn't all that long ago that whites discussed in all seriousness the inferiority of blacks and how it made them unfit to serve alongside whites in the military. Such talk is beyond absurd today, but at the time people really believed it — just as Elaine Donnelly surely believes all the nonsense she tries to peddle under the guise of protecting "families" or "national defense."

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