You know, something has really been bothering me these past few days. You see, unlike most individuals who spend a lot of time on the internet, I still have this little problem — I read the comments.
Never do that. It’s a bad idea.
But anyway, upon reading a lot of the comments regarding the DOMA/Prop 8 ruling, I’ve noticed a trend: individuals who post something along the lines of, “Hey! All these people are calling me a bigot because I don’t like gay marriage! I just don’t want gays to marry, okay? I don’t hate them! I’m not a bigot! Damn liberals!”
The cognitive dissonance is astounding — but it’s a trend, isn’t it?
Over the past few years I’ve noticed that a lot of conservatives have joined this mental movement in which they disconnect their beliefs from the consequences associated with them. Apparently it’s become something of a meme within conservative types — any time they are criticized with an accusation of bigotry, they hide behind a defensive wall of “no I’m not! That doesn’t exist!”
Perhaps more accurately, the belief seems to be that unless you express vehement rage toward a group, you are not a bigot.
Take Paula Deen, for example. I’ve had to endure a handful of individuals on Facebook defending her under the ideas that:
- a). It happened years ago! (ignoring her current defense of her language) and
- b). It’s “folksy” racism!
The thing is, if we can’t agree that a woman who admits to using slurs (and who believes it is acceptable to reconstruct an image of “Civil War society”) is at least somewhat racist, then we’re probably going to have a problem.
But I digress.
When it comes to homophobia (or general bigotry) it seems that people want to wash their hands of any wrongdoing — they want to believe they are a good person, and they know (even if they don’t accept it) that the “modern” narrative of a “good person” is one that is accepting — one that isn’t associated with bigotry.
At the same time these individuals can’t accept that they hold bigoted beliefs.
The thing is… if holding a bigoted belief doesn’t make you a bigot, then what does? What incredible stretch do we have to make to label and consider individuals bigots? Do we have to stretch to hate crimes? Is the binary that wide?
The discussion sort of loosely reminds me of the frequent arguments over “free speech” that appear all over the internet. Typically someone says something awful (usually a comedian, or some sort of celebrity), directing a slur toward some minority. The typical crowd yells at them, and then the *other* typical crowd pops up to defend them: it’s free speech! This is America! We can do what we want! DO YOU WANT TO CENSURE US?
Much as the above situation, the problem seems to be a disconnect — while most people don’t argue for censorship, they do argue for moderation — self censorship, if you will. The idea being, of course, that words have some sort of innate power (they do something) and that they have consequences.
What does this have to do with the above bigotry thing?
Well, consequences — people want to believe that they can disconnect themselves from society, that they can say and believe whatever they’d like (they can!). The problem is that these choices have consequences. You can’t run from them. We aren’t discussing opinions on your favorite soda, after all.
Holding a belief that is bigoted reinforced bigotry.
Of course, the immediate defense here is “well, I don’t want to be gay married!”
Which is absurd.
For one, it’s an opinion that isn’t asked for (as if there’s a gay mafia going around forcing gay marriage on people?), and it’s one that seems to sprout directly from a fear of gay marriage (which, uh, homophobia). It’s the idea that one feels like they have to speak up about something else it will destroy them.
Worse yet, it’s an opinion that is inherently problematic. After all, think about how problematic it would be to say “I don’t like interracial marriage.” What does that convey? Doesn’t that send a message?
It says a little more than “I’d prefer not to have one.” It says “I think something is inherently wrong with the concept.” It reveals an underlying prejudice, even if the speaker is unwilling to come out and say it.
But even then — I’m giving this opinion the benefit of the doubt, aren’t I? They aren’t saying “I don’t want one,” they are saying “this is wrong to me.”
And hell, that doesn’t need any discussion, does it? It’s just bigoted. It is a belief that holds a group of people to be lesser than another.
You can’t escape that. Going back to free speech, if you say something wrong — if you say a racist slur — you’re going to be labeled. You’re going to have sponsors drop you. You’re going to fade into obscurity.
If you say something, you’re going to have to accept the consequences. If the thing you’re saying is bigoted, then you are a bigot.