Thursday, April 9, 2009

Contempt

Andrew Sullivan takes on the National Review and their scorn for gay people.

National Review’s new editorial comes out firmly against even civil unions for gay couples, and continues to insist that society’s exclusive support for straight couples is designed “to foster connections between heterosexual sex and the rearing of children within stable households.”

This is an honest and revealing point, and […] [i]t reaffirms, for example, that infertile couples who want to marry in order to adopt children have no place within existing marriage laws, as NR sees them. Such infertile and adoptive “marriages” rest on a decoupling of actual sex and the rearing of children. The same, of course, applies much more extensively to any straight married couple that uses contraception: they too are undermining what National Review believes to be the core reason for civil marriage.

That would be making babies. If you can’t do that, according to the NR, then what is the point of getting married?

But, as Mr. Sullivan notes, there’s another point to be made.

National Review clearly believes that gays exist beyond the boundaries of civilized life, or even social life, let alone the purview of social policy. But, of course, a total absence of social policy is still a social policy. And such a social policy – leaving gay people outside of existing social institutions, while tolerating their existence – has led to some rather predictable consequences. We have, for example, lived through a period in which around 300,000 young Americans died of a terrible disease that was undoubtedly compounded by the total lack of any social incentives for stable relationships. Imagine what would happen to STD rates or legitimacy rates if heterosexual marriage were somehow not in existence. Do you think that straight men would be more or less socially responsible without the institution of civil marriage?

Simply put, the good people at NR would just prefer that those tacky gay people would just go away and not clutter up their neat little world.

As far as National Review is concerned, homosexuals can go to hell. Their interests and views cannot even be accorded respect. They are non-persons to National Review: means, not ends.

I really don’t know how to explain to straight people what it feels like to live a life where a segment of the society in which you live in views you with contempt or dismissal without even knowing you, so I won’t try. (To be fair, I’ve gotten it from members of my own extended family.) But in some ways it’s a badge of honor to be important enough to cause them to lash out with such well-tempered vitriol. It means that we must be doing something to make them aware of the fact that we actually do represent something to them; if not a threat, then at least something worth noting. Why else would they bother to even go to the trouble to be so dismissive?

This is par for the course for the NR mindset that still aspires to restricted country clubs, winters on St. Armand’s and summers in Harbor Springs. (Never mind the lunatic ravings of the mythology-mongers on the religious right. I suspect the people at the NR view them privately with as much contempt and scorn as they have for the gay community. To them they are the useful idiots who get their flocks to vote for their candidates; again, a means to an end.) But this callous dismissal of an entire class of people and to hold them with such benign contempt says more about the state of the ossified right wing than it does about our society in general, which is, however awkwardly, beginning to realize that, lo and behold, gays and lesbians are entitled to equality in all matters.

What truly scares the National Review, however, and the people who think like them, is the simple truth expressed by Iowa State Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal:

One of my daughters was in the workplace one day, and, in her particular workplace at that moment in time, there were a whole bunch of conservative, older men. And those guys were talking about gay marriage—they were talking about discussions going on across the country—and my daughter Kate, after listening to it for about 20 minutes, said to them: “You guys don’t understand. You’ve already lost. My generation doesn’t care.”

Nothing scares someone more than finding out that they are slipping into irrelevancy.

It’s also ironic that the right wing, so used to thinking of themselves as a majority, finds themselves being treated as a minority and getting much the same treatment as they dished out to others. Actually, I hope we treat them better than they did us. Not that they deserve it, but to do otherwise would show a lack of grace, and vengeance is a trait only reserved for the weak.

HT to Melissa.