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A gift from God
May 5, 2011 6:39 PM   Subscribe

Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, MN. Responding to the Republican push to put banning same sex marrage on the 2012 ballot. (SLYT)
posted by edgeways (62 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Puritan, Protestant ethics in the US derive from a Calvinist mindset, that God would create the gays in order to punish them. This makes straight Protestants who believe in the Calvinist vision of their world more holy, in their own eyes. In other words, Simon's arguments, while sensible to rational, thoughtful, humane human beings, will not easily break through four hundred years of condemnationist tradition.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:48 PM on May 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


You can't know if you're in God's good graces unless you can point at people who aren't.
posted by Malor at 6:57 PM on May 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


Too bad the House ignored him and voted in favor of putting it on the ballot anyway.
posted by Man Bites Dog at 6:58 PM on May 5, 2011


Blazecock, they only believe that to be the reasoning when they conjure a "rationale" for their knee-jerk hatred and fear.

Seeing a man act kind of like the mom who bathed them a couple months past the acceptable age, but have the physical characteristics of the dad that kicked the crap out of them, or condemned them for acting in the least bit out of sorts evokes a cyclic redundancy error, of sorts.

Plus, wouldn't they rather these people get to blow each other in matrimony so every last one of the gays is picked up by God's surveillance team, and tossed into Hades?

Well, yeah. But if it was out in the open, societal ambiguities may bring their Oedipal predispositions to the surface, and...
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:59 PM on May 5, 2011


I know it's been a long day with an OceanLinerLoad of posts, but this seems an obvious example of the earlier-today posted "Reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed to help us win arguments." Which, come to think of it, would make 90% of PoliticsFilter posts moot.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:02 PM on May 5, 2011


Which, come to think of it, would make 90% of PoliticsFilter posts moot.

Don't you mean 80% of contentious discussions, period? If someone changes your mind, you were wrong before. People don't like to be wrong.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:08 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I really like Rep. Simon. I really like what he said. He made me proud to be a Minnesotan.
posted by elmer benson at 7:11 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, God has made a lot of mass murderers and pedophiles, too, of course. Poor argument.
posted by TAP at 7:13 PM on May 5, 2011


"Which, come to think of it, would make 90% of PoliticsFilter posts moot."

Though I'd argue (ha!) that politics isn't about truth in the first place and while one will never win an argument with everyone, those in the middle...or who haven't quite made up their minds yet...or who have a general feeling that XXX is true and is just looking for reasons to "prove it"...can be swayed.

If folks haven't been making the arguments for the last 40 odd years we wouldn't be excoriating the MN politicians because the subject wouldn't have ever been brought up. So hurrah for reasoning!
posted by Wink Ricketts at 7:14 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, God has made a lot of mass murderers and pedophiles, too, of course. Poor argument

You think that the urge to mass murder is innate?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 7:17 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Crazy thought: Operation Get To Know A Gay (or Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender Individual). LGBT people are trained how to talk to politicians, and start chatting them up on soft politics. These brave individuals talk to apparently homophobic representatives, and come to be passing friends - they know small personal details about each-other, but not deep-dark secrets. And then the LGBT person lets the politician know, hey, I'm L/G/B/T. It's been hard to tell people, because of homophobia. Wait, this fine person is someone I've been against? This seems preposterous! Minds changed, the future is better!

But I'm a straight guy who had a glass of wine, so I'll stop there.

Why can't we be friends, why can't we be friends ... right. Stopping.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:20 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, God has made a lot of mass murderers and pedophiles, too, of course. Poor argument.

Simon was clear to note that consensual behavior hurts no one. Mass murder and pedophilia clearly hurt those other than the participants. Poor counterargument.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:20 PM on May 5, 2011 [25 favorites]


I feel a little better about how much money I spend in Rep. Simon's district now, that's for sure.

But I get annoyed at the frequent characterizations here and elsewhere of religious homophobes as some sort of closet case. I have no doubt that some are, and that those few are among the loudest. But based on my own religious upbringing I have to say the simple truth is that most people who use religious reasoning to support their anti-gay agenda simply believe that homosexuality is against their religious beliefs and an affront to God. And they don't think about it at all beyond that as far as I can tell, most of them.

It's a waste of time to try to put psychology on them. The only thing that will ever work is the only thing that ever does work when it comes to stamping out legally sanctioned prejudice, and that's shaming them, and being louder than they are.
posted by padraigin at 7:21 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


God has made a lot of mass murderers and pedophiles

You left out jackasses.
posted by Twang at 7:30 PM on May 5, 2011 [18 favorites]


There isn't any reason that that urge to mass murder couldn't be innate is the problem. Just because something is innate doesn't mean that it isn't something, like murder, which we have to restrict to have a society, or something, like homosexuality, that we really do not need laws to prohibit for any justifiable reason.

I don't understand why the nature/nuture argument is relevant here. Homosexuality shouldn't be illegal because we shouldn't be making laws about what sexual acts consenting adults perform. Why does it matter so much if we win an argument about whether or not it is innate?

Hate to pick on this guy considering I like the side of the argument he is on, but I just don't understand why anybody thinks that homosexuality wouldn't be ok if we could prove that it was a choice. Do we really want to plumb the depths of what human actions are governed by biology and what actions are orchestrated by a completely free will that exists in a vacuum? Because I imagine that virtually no actions humans can perform would ever meet up to a standard of pure absolute choice.
posted by SomeOneElse at 7:30 PM on May 5, 2011 [13 favorites]



Crazy thought: Operation Get To Know A Gay (or Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender Individual).


There are a few conservative politicians in the outer edges of my social circle. The majority of them have LGBT people, friends and relatives, with whom their on good terms and invites them to their weddings and hang out with their kids (or are their kids).

But that's private life, public life - the Job- that's getting the anti-gay vote and pushing for shit like this.

Cause that makes money.
posted by The Whelk at 7:33 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]



I don't understand why the nature/nuture argument is relevant here. Homosexuality shouldn't be illegal because we shouldn't be making laws about what sexual acts consenting adults perform. Why does it matter so much if we win an argument about whether or not it is innate?


He's trying to frame it as a religious argument, cause the audience for the argument is taking religious basis for their bigotry.
posted by The Whelk at 7:35 PM on May 5, 2011


I'm still wary of "it's not a choice" arguments, because that still seems to me to buy into the idea that being GLBT is a fault, just not my fault. I wish there were a way to turn the strategy more towards "there is nothing wrong with being GLBT".

Still, well said Rep. Simon. I'll have to drive over to St. Louis Park and spend money there in honor of his statement.
posted by jiawen at 7:42 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


But the whole thing is founded on this core-rotten punishment minded bullshit! He's not attacking the bullshit, he's just trying to get one or two things out of the line of fire. ....Ok I'll try to calm down. I'm not enamored of the got-to-prove-it-isn't-a-choice stuff. I don't think homosexuality is a choice, but I don't think an awful lot of other things in this world are choices either.
posted by SomeOneElse at 7:43 PM on May 5, 2011


Those homos do some disgusting shit in their bathhouses, but nothing as creepy as washing their disciples' feet.

I mean a grown man, a Jew with a long scraggly hippie beard, rubbing scented oil onto the feet of twelve other guys who call Him "Master"? Yeah, that's just fruity. It's just wrong.
posted by orthogonality at 7:44 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, that really brings it home, doesn't it? Beautiful.

So eloquent, thank you Rep. Simon. I live in WA but I just emailed him to thank him - we need more like him.
posted by tristeza at 8:03 PM on May 5, 2011


He's trying to frame it as a religious argument, cause the audience for the argument is taking religious basis for their bigotry.

I've said this before, but if you want to frame it as a religious argument, you can point to religion as an example of something which is obviously a choice and yet which is afforded full protection from the type of discrimination that currently besets gays. We don't ban Buddhists from being married, despite the fact that Buddhism is a choice and against the Bible. Even if being gay is a choice, there's no reason why we can't recognize same sex marriage; there's no need to rely on the immutability of the trait.
posted by shen1138 at 8:14 PM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


I also dropped him a line to thank him for being brave enough to try to speak to these people where they live. The web form to do so, if you'd like, is here.
posted by padraigin at 8:16 PM on May 5, 2011


Someone thought they said Gaimen.
posted by Artw at 8:18 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


keep your applause to yourself??? what a bitch
Finally, a YouTube comment I can get behind.
posted by PapaLobo at 8:34 PM on May 5, 2011


one of my relatives is a MN state senator (Paul Gazelka) who is a major sponsor of the legislation to ban gay marriage in MN.

conversely, my mother is a former director of PFLAG in the Twin Cities. (they are cousins.)

needless to say, there's some family drama there :)

Sadly there's a lot of red state angst amongst the suburban crowd in minnesota, but there's a lot of recognition of the right of free people to marry here, too.

My little brother is getting married this year in Iowa, as we don't recognize the right of loving couples to be married in this state. Shameful.

Needless to say, I can't give the anti-marriage crowd any quarter, as it's a direct offense to equal rights for all under the law. I used to feel otherwise, but now I understand my personal feelings and legal rights are two separate and distinct things!
posted by EricGjerde at 8:41 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, God has made a lot of mass murderers and pedophiles, too, of course. Poor argument

And God has made trolls, as well.
posted by gcbv at 8:48 PM on May 5, 2011


These brave individuals talk to apparently homophobic representatives

Larry Craig, meet Larry Craig.

As the Whelk stated above a bunch of them have LGBT family members & friends, and in many cases also staff members, co-workers, and lovers. Mark Foley's escapades were pretty well known but as long as he voted their way on legislation these supposed homophobes turned a blind eye. Their decisions are strategic, not moral.
posted by Challahtronix at 8:59 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


And God has made mirrors, burning bush, self important ego of storm.
posted by Mblue at 9:10 PM on May 5, 2011


No, not all anti-gay bigots are closeted, but the ones who care enough about this shit, which, let's remember, doesn't concern them in any way, deserve a closer inspection of their motivations. And if they have made the choice to advance legislation restricting the sexual activities of consenting adults, they have opened themselves up to that scrutiny with all the force it can bear.

Unfortunately, in the mindset of those non-closeted anti-gay activists, the "mass murderer/pedophile" analogy is right on. Those who have considered the idea at all find an easy out in the adage of "love the sinner, hate the sin." It matters not that the "sin" in this case causes no harm to anyone, and can in fact create great joy and, if permitted, great families, no. They are equal to the mass-murderer who never actually kills anyone, or the pedophile who never touches a child.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:00 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not trying to be a smartass here, but between the Ryan budget proposal, the constant antichoice maneuvering which has expanded to attempts to redefine rape, the courting of the racist Tea Party movement, the relentless attacks on labor and public broadcasting, the bald-faced attempts to funnel what little wealth remains in the hands of the working and middle class into the coffers of billionaires and aggressive bigotry bills such as the one at issue here, I genuinely cannot distinguish the present GOP's platform from anything but Pure Evil.

This sounds hyperbolic, but I mean it sincerely - terrorists don't scare me. Today's Republicans do.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:25 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


This sounds hyperbolic, but I mean it sincerely - terrorists don't scare me. Today's Republicans do.

Maybe the best thing for you to do is to go out and meet some actual republicans?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:49 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


meet some actual republicans?

I'm from Eastern Washington. I've met plenty of'em. And I quite frankly don't see where the conversation goes from "homosexuals don't deserve civil rights because something-something-Leviticus-family-values"
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:55 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


People say I'm idealistic, but I don't believe in evil people. (I know you weren't calling republicans evil.) Sometimes it's hard to imagine another person's existence. It's easier to live in an echo chamber and bolster your prejudice with confirmation bias. So… maybe the best thing for them to do is to go out and meet some actual gay people?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:24 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Keep your applause to yourself."

I was. Don't blame me that you were listening to it.

(That sums up the people Simon is up against right there.)
posted by salishsea at 12:44 AM on May 6, 2011


Until it becomes as freakish and bizarre as it should be to mention "god" in all seriousness in a major political arena, I am going to continue to ignore and deride the gobshites who criticise me for being vocally atheist.

I wish Americans could fully grasp how close-to-actually-insane this sort of speech sounds to those of us from more secular areas of the world. If someone in the UK parliament started talking about god creating gays, the awkwardness would be palpable. For a nation with a much-vaunted separation of church and state, the representatives of your state sure do bang on about god a lot.
posted by Decani at 1:07 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier Maybe the best thing for you to do is to go out and meet some actual republicans?

The problem with your suggestion here is that "meeting" them, apparently, does exactly jack shit. They fidget and sneer while you give your eloquent, impassioned speech in defense of good and right and decent things, and then they go ahead and vote "NO" anyway.

Steve Simon, bless his heart, is appealing to the sense of morality and intellectual desire for consistency that he imagines to motivate his listeners. Republicans don't have much, if any, of these things. If they did, they wouldn't be Republicans. At some point, the best thing to do is accept that fact, and come up with some other plan.

Stop treating conservatives as if they were people like you. They aren't. Appeals to reason, logical arguments, and educational techniques don't work on them. Find something else. They like to be told what to do, they seek clarity of social function and social identity, they like to be told who to blame for their troubles ("themselves" isn't any use to them, and therefore is immediately rejected), they like to be told that they are good and they are special, they like to be given things, and they do not like to have anything that they have been told is theirs taken away. Thinking hurts their heads.

People say I'm idealistic, but I don't believe in evil people. (I know you weren't calling republicans evil.)
I won't speak for EatTheWeak, but to me there is no meaningful distinction between (a) being evil, and (b) propagating evil ideas, doing evil deeds, and behaving in an evil manner.

Sometimes it's hard to imagine another person's existence. It's easier to live in an echo chamber and bolster your prejudice with confirmation bias. So… maybe the best thing for them to do is to go out and meet some actual gay people?
That will only help in that it will create small islands of exception. Now Conservative Joe knows Gay Freddie, who unlike every other gay, is OK. Conservative Pete doesn't know Gay Freddie, who obviously isn't at all like Pete's friend, Gay Bill. And vice versa. Unless you propose to introduce Joe, Bill, Pete, and Freddie, and repeat this exercise often enough for Joe and Pete to flip over the "most" switches in their prejudice lists--remember, they do not think, they exercise prejudices--you will not achieve much.

One of the very basic requirements of achieving anything at all, is the development of an understanding of what it is that you actually have to work with. You, esprit de l'escalier, do not have an understanding of conservative minds. You are applying techniques and ideas that might be applicable to your mind, to the minds of people you know and approve of, to their minds. You are trying to solve the wrong problem in the wrong manner.

You're doing that because you're nice, and kind, and distinctly not evil. None of this will make any difference to whether or not it will work. Personally, I believe that Republicans not being able to fuck up the world any more than they already have, or stop us unfucking it, is more important than whether or not they or we feel good about how that objective gets achieved.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:09 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


This was a great speech, though it got a little passive aggressive at the end. Still, quoting MLK is always a win in my book.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:52 AM on May 6, 2011


Well reasoned, well delivered, thoughtful. And this is exactly whats wrong with the Dems, they don't know how to fight. Maybe if every other Steve Simon was replaced with a Wiener or a Frank (yeah, yeah, not my fault our two best fighters have penis/meat-product names) we'd be getting somewhere.
posted by tempythethird at 3:26 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


For a nation with a much-vaunted separation of church and state

I can't think of a better description of it than "much-vaunted."
posted by Rat Spatula at 5:42 AM on May 6, 2011


I am beginning to suspect that Republicans are against gay marriage because it is harder to get happily married men to engage in the furtive gay sex that Republicans seem to prefer.
posted by srboisvert at 6:20 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had been fixing to do a more thorough post on Minnesota's anti-marriage-amendment bill, but this is here now, so I'll just add this open letter from nearly all of the University of Minnesota Law School's professors [scribd], urging the state legislature to reject the amendment (and neatly squashing the "let the people vote" canard along the way).
posted by nickmark at 7:22 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stop treating conservatives as if they were people like you. They aren't. Appeals to reason, logical arguments, and educational techniques don't work on them.

I agree with you except for the fact that you seem to be suggesting that all of humanity doesn't work like this. We are all responding to emotional arguments. We can all conjure great reasons for why some things are right and some things are not. But we all respond on an emotional level all the time, and that is how we communicate with those who are not "people like us." You are absolutely right: it is impossible to change people's mind using logic. And that's why becoming a part of someone's life—and being unapologetically gay, for example—is absolutely more effective than bludgeoning people with logic which they're not going to listen to anyways (referenced previously, very appropriately). Sure, there are some conservatives who will respond in the way you describe, pigeon-holing those gays they befriend as the "good gays." But there are many who will not, or who will have complex, conflicted reactions: "they" are not a monolithic entity with a single personality.

So most conservatives are not different from "us" in this way. And those who are at the furthest extreme probably bear far more resemblance to those at the furthest extremes of the left, rather than the vast majority under the bell curve. But many people who choose a conservative perspective are of course responding to different things, based on their personalities (I know, as I have plenty of them in my family, of various stripes of conservatism in fact), just like those of us on the left are responding to different things based on our personalities. That doesn't mean that their concerns are wholly and utterly different from those of us who are on the left. That doesn't mean they are incapable of thinking either. If you want to convince yourself that they are an alien species then fine, but it's not productive. If being unproductive is cool with you, if embracing an increasingly polarized U.S. is appealing to you (assuming you are American and have a say), then I can't stop you. But I don't care for that vision of the U.S. and I will fight it as I can.

I wish Americans could fully grasp how close-to-actually-insane this sort of speech sounds to those of us from more secular areas of the world. If someone in the UK parliament started talking about god creating gays, the awkwardness would be palpable.

Your country is not the same as ours. And also, for the record, many Americans do find this disturbing.
posted by dubitable at 7:27 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


> This sounds hyperbolic, but I mean it sincerely - terrorists don't scare me. Today's Republicans do.

> Maybe the best thing for you to do is to go out and meet some actual republicans?

I am much more likely to have my rights stripped away or denied entirely - it's already happened, in fact! - than I am to be blown up by a terrorist, so I don't think it's odd to live in the U.S. and be more afraid of Republicans than I am of AQ.
posted by rtha at 7:34 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dubitable, I also have conservatives of various stripes in my family, and I think they are fundamentally different from "us." And the ones farthest on the right, I would argue, are very very far from those of us on the left.

Of course the debate is not settled, but I think that one's position on the left/right spectrum is much more nature than nurture, and thus perspective is both irrelevant and not chosen. I think the emotional "thermostat" is different on the right than on the left, as described by moral foundations theory. I'm kind of obsessed with this and have been looking at people around me, and invariably conservatives seem to hold purity, respect, and loyalty above all else while liberals weigh care and fairness more highly.

I'd wager that a society needs a healthy mix of both kinds of people, but when one group becomes convinced that the other is inhuman and in need of elimination, thats one possible way for a society to destabilize. One group violently turning on the other is how you get fascism/nazism on one side and the leftist equivalents on the other. We are two distinct kinds of people and to pretend otherwise is naive. What that doesn't mean is that we shouldn't try to coexist, or consider ourselves superior. But I admit its a fine line. I'd be more concerned about this line if I didn't think that at this moment, the balance is seriously out of whack.
posted by tempythethird at 7:45 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Senator Simon's reaction to the internet popularity of his comments.
posted by nickmark at 7:59 AM on May 6, 2011


People say I'm idealistic, but I don't believe in evil people. (I know you weren't calling republicans evil.)

Evil doesn't exist, and people can't BE evil. People CAN be incredibly shitty, however (and yes I am calling republicans shitty people).
posted by FatherDagon at 8:16 AM on May 6, 2011


People seem to be reacting to TAP's comment as if it were trolling. It's not trolling and it contains zero homophobic content. Let me reword it:

His argument that god must have created homosexuality and it's therefore good can be undermined by expanding that argument to inarguably not-good realms of behaviour. Psychopathic behaviour might be innate, but we don't therefore accept that God wants Serial Killers and we should accept them.

To be clear, since this seems to need emphasis: I believe homophobia is ridiculous and pathetic. I am not equating homosexuality to psychopathic behaviour. It's a point about the nature of his argument.
posted by neuromodulator at 8:24 AM on May 6, 2011


The UK criminalised homosexual acts until 1967 and by law you could be put to death for it (1533-1861) or imprisoned for it (1861-1967).

The US is working on it. We haven't come around as quickly as other countries - but please remember that not very long ago you were just as discriminatory as we were.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:44 AM on May 6, 2011


I'd wager that a society needs a healthy mix of both kinds of people, but when one group becomes convinced that the other is inhuman and in need of elimination, thats one possible way for a society to destabilize. One group violently turning on the other is how you get fascism/nazism on one side and the leftist equivalents on the other. We are two distinct kinds of people and to pretend otherwise is naive. What that doesn't mean is that we shouldn't try to coexist, or consider ourselves superior. But I admit its a fine line. I'd be more concerned about this line if I didn't think that at this moment, the balance is seriously out of whack.

I don't think you and I are fundamentally disagreeing, but more that we are phrasing things a bit differently. I'm don't mean to suggest that there are no differences between conservatives and liberals, for as I said: "...many people who choose a conservative perspective are of course responding to different things, based on their personalities..."

What I want to emphasize is that, treating each other as more similar than different—and more importantly recognizing that those on the left are responding emotionally just as those on the right—is important if we want to fight the "seriously-out-of-whack balance," to paraphrase your apt description of the current state of affairs.

The reality is that cynical politicians engineer and push these issues hard because they know they are emotional issues which people respond to. Let's not confuse the politicians with the people who are responding to the rhetoric surrounding these issues. We can fight this by trying hard to understand each other's humanity, and deny the hyperbolic rhetoric coming from both sides.
posted by dubitable at 8:50 AM on May 6, 2011


Sorry, but I don't think that we're more similar than different. We're more different than similar. People who are emotionally tuned according to different scales are different species to each other, as vaguely comprehensible to each other as a cat is to a dog.

As for the cynical political engineering - that presents a chicken and egg problem. Do the politicians reflect the people's division, or do they create it? If the latter is true, how did the politicians ever manage to get started? A united people would have rejected cynical attempts to divide them, unless... they were never united in the first place.

Unlike older nations whose boundaries at least somewhat reflect ethnicity, America has always been a patchwork of competing peoples, each trying to get theirs. I see it as the job of the left to forge a new unity across the old lines that have traditionally divided America. And since this attempt will always look like a failure of loyalty and betrayal to those with a conservative temperament, they will always oppose any efforts to build said unity. We shouldn't expect otherwise.
posted by tempythethird at 9:12 AM on May 6, 2011


Do the politicians reflect the people's division, or do they create it?

It's not either-or. Both things can (and usually are) true at the same time.
posted by rtha at 9:21 AM on May 6, 2011


It's not either-or

Yeah, clearly. Was somewhat of a rhetorical question. But what I was trying to say (in an admittedly round-about way) is that if there was no division in the first place the cycle of politician-sows-division-divided-people-create-divisive-politics could never have started.
posted by tempythethird at 9:28 AM on May 6, 2011


Republicans come in all different flavors, just like Democrats. My mom is religious AND she is a Republican. Recently she joined a new group at her Methodist Church-- one challenging the United Methodist Church's stance on Gays. The group was started by a woman who was married for 20 years to a Methodist minister who then came out of the closet. They were divorced and she feels deprived and bereft. She does not blame her ex-husband, but rather the society that forced him to sublimate his actual sexual orientation and attempt to live as a straight man. If there weren't people being forced into closets, the world would be a better place. The next time someone starts spouting off against gay marriage, I'm going to ask if he would want his daughter to marry a gay man.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:02 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, clearly. Was somewhat of a rhetorical question. But what I was trying to say (in an admittedly round-about way) is that if there was no division in the first place the cycle of politician-sows-division-divided-people-create-divisive-politics could never have started.

Of course people are different, and have different objectives and wants. We all prioritize different things and there will always be conflict. This is why there is division in the first place. And politicians working within the political system in the United States, whether you believe it is for cynical reasons or not, simplify these divisions, and promote groupthink on a national scale, encouraging us to divide ourselves into these categories.

But there are not two kinds of people, "as vaguely comprehensible to each other as a cat is to a dog." To see people this way is a choice, not the conclusion drawn from observing any immutable fact. Viewing people through the lense of national political parties or within the binary of left- and right-wing enforces this kind of Manichean thinking, but it doesn't reflect the reality of the vast range of perspectives and emotional reasons for us behaving the way we do, or making the choices we do. That's all I'm trying to say. If you still think I'm wrong, fine: we can agree to disagree (I hope, haha).
posted by dubitable at 10:23 AM on May 6, 2011


We all prioritize different things and there will always be conflict. This is why there is division in the first place.

I think the left/right division runs deeper than the day-to-day variation of priorities.

To see people this way is a choice, not the conclusion drawn from observing any immutable fact.

Of course its a choice, all opinion is a choice. I make this choice based on my reading and my observation, just like everyone else.

encouraging us to divide ourselves into these categories.... it doesn't reflect the reality of the vast range of perspectives and emotional reasons for us behaving the way we do

Its true that there's a massive range of perspective and behavior. But that does not imply that we are so varied that there are no clustering effects and thus distinct categories. If there were no actual categories, a lot of psychology goes out the window, along with notions such as introverted, extroverted, serious, light-hearted, gay, straight, etc. So, are we to think that these categories exist, and yet the left/right categories are contrived?

Right now we equate left/right with democratic/republican, economically socialist/economically liberal, culturally permissive/not. But if we think that this is the definition of left/right, we're confusing forest for trees. The labels "left" and "right" muddy the waters by making us think that two fundamental temperaments are political in nature. Whether or not people are political at all, they will gravitate toward one of these two poles. You can probably find it in higher-order animals too - the ones who wander further and have weaker fear/aversion mechanisms and are less predictable and more likely to get themselves eaten vs the ones who follow routine more reliably and wander less and have correspondingly longer lifespans.
posted by tempythethird at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2011


The problem with your suggestion here is that "meeting" them, apparently, does [nothing]. Republicans don't have [any morality]… Thinking hurts their heads.

The irony is that there are some republicans see you in the same simplistic terms. The impasse between extreme republicans and democrats is not some failure of humanity in one group, it's the snap marginalization of the other group's experience. In other words, your diatribe is exactly the problem on both sides.

I won't speak for EatTheWeak, but [republicans are evil]… they do not think, they exercise prejudices.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but don't you think that you're coming across here as prejudiced yourself?

One of the very basic requirements of achieving anything at all, is the development of an understanding of what it is that you actually have to work with. You, esprit de l'escalier, do not have an understanding of conservative minds. You are applying techniques and ideas that might be applicable to your mind, to the minds of people you know and approve of, to their minds. You are trying to solve the wrong problem in the wrong manner.

You're doing that because you're nice, and kind, and distinctly not evil. None of this will make any difference to whether or not it will work…


Thanks for the kind words. The reason that I talk like this is because I know the transitions that I went through as I grew up. Maybe you inherited a wealth of perspective, but I used to say some pretty homophobic stuff that I justified on simplistic religious grounds.

I remember once talking to a girl in school who told me a very emotive story, and when I replied in my usual way, she said to me "have you met any gay people?" I said "No, but I don't think that would matter." Well, guess what? Slowly but surely, it changed everything.

It's easy to judge people who don't have the luxury of your experience: people who grew up unchallenged by a city teeming with different kinds of people, or who didn't have the opportunity of education to grant them the intellectual literacy and the habit of logical consistency. I know the injustice of suffering for the failings of other people. What I've observed is that human nature derives personal morality from experience. Thus, the mechanism for spiritual transformation is not the marginalization of detractors, but honest, steadfast communion.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:35 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


What I've observed is that human nature derives personal morality from experience.

I agree with you. The thing I have trouble with is applying people who don't have the luxury of your experience: people who grew up unchallenged by a city teeming with different kinds of people, or who didn't have the opportunity of education to grant them the intellectual literacy and the habit of logical consistency to middle-aged adults who have been elected (often repeatedly) to public office, where they are supposed to serve all of their constituents, not just the ones who voted for them. Elected politicians have been to college; many have been to grad school of some sort; many have been or are business owners; all of them have traveled the length and breadth of their particular district in order to get elected. They absolutely should not get a "they just don't know any better" pass.
posted by rtha at 12:36 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


And also, for the record, many Americans do find this disturbing.
Apparently not enough of them, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:11 PM on May 6, 2011


esprit de l'escalier Please don't take this the wrong way, but don't you think that you're coming across here as prejudiced yourself?
A prejudice is a belief that the holder will not change in response to fact. The plain fact is that Republicans generally, and especially as a group, respond negatively to reason, and generally respond positively to other persuasive methods such as intimidation, example-making, appeals to identity, appeals to fear, and appeals to greed. Ample evidence exists of this: expert reasoners like Simon here completely fail to achieve anything and Rush Limbaugh has the typical Republican leashed, collared, tagged, and spayed.

You are still free to conclude that insufficient quantity or quality of reason has been used, of course, but at some point it must surely become obvious that an insistence on engaging them with reason is, itself, a methodological prejudice.

The reason that I talk like this is because I know the transitions that I went through as I grew up
You possess the willingness and ability to change your mind. You were born with this. You acquired a set of views fairly early, from imitation of people around you, however when you realized that your previously held views turned out to be incompatible with observed fact, you changed your views.

This action, this modality of thinking, seems so simple, easy, and obvious to you, and you are generalizing from your own experience there, to others. You apparently think that a person will change their minds if the facts show them to be wrong - this is why you advocate engagement with conservatives.

Conservatives do not cease making assertions because those assertions are factually wrong. They cease making assertions only when and if the assertions do not serve their egos. At least, this is what observed experience tells me. I suppose it could all be a statistical blip.

What I've observed is that human nature derives personal morality from experience. Thus, the mechanism for spiritual transformation is not the marginalization of detractors, but honest, steadfast communion.

It might be possible, given time and effort, to change the mindset of an individual Republican, and perhaps because you feel loyalty and love for that particular individual, you might find doing this to be worthwhile. In the meantime, the teeming herd of the rest of them are dismantling your/their society, and they are laughing at you and your notions of "communion" as they do it. They are celebrating your distraction from actually fighting them, and they are using your failure to get results as morale-raisers among themselves, making it even harder for you to get results.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:26 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I totally accept that we have very different sets of experiences, so I accept the possibility that you might be right, but right now I'm not convinced.

What surprises me (if I haven't misunderstood you) is that you are talking about millions of people. I don't feel like I have the life experience to make those kind of judgments: I haven't met enough people. So, I'm tempted to wonder whether you aren't maybe judging based on the selection bias of metafilter, etc. Do you really think that the millions of people who voted conservative are all rabidly racist?

Even if you're right about conservatives being irrational and stubborn, I don't see what anyone can do except talk with people and share experiences. What are you suggesting?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 9:13 PM on May 6, 2011


I don't feel like I have the life experience to make those kind of judgments: I haven't met enough people.
When will you? When you meet a hundred? A thousand? Ten million? Where do you draw the line? Could it be that putting up huge numbers as a prerequisite for judgment, is merely a way of avoiding judgment?

So, I'm tempted to wonder whether you aren't maybe judging based on the selection bias of metafilter, etc.
Yes, I am. Also newspaper website comments, FreeRepublic, etc. A ten minute dip in there will show you the taste and smell of the water. There's really no need to spend more time; you'll just be repeating your first ten minutes. Try it for a while and see.

All selections are biased. Refusing to draw any conclusions from a selection isn't the answer to that. Once again, it's just avoiding discomfort.

Do you really think that the millions of people who voted conservative are all rabidly racist?
Since the representatives they elected are racist, or at the very least, promote and give effect to racist policy, does it really matter what stories the representatives tell the electors, and the electors tell themselves? Do you think that saying "this policy isn't racist" can somehow make a policy not racist?

Even if you're right about conservatives being irrational and stubborn, I don't see what anyone can do except talk with people and share experiences. What are you suggesting?
Stop wasting time and effort on the symptoms, and attack the disease. Devise, research and widely spread easily remembered, emotionally appealing, short sentence form talking points to refute, disparage, and savagely mock the actual enemy - the Republican politicians.

"They're cutting education because they want your kids to grow up stupid, so the corporations can pay them less. And so they'll keep voting Republican, because they don't know any different."
"Going to work without a union is like going to court without a lawyer. You think the bosses have lawyers? Why would they want you to not have a union?"
"Republican cuts to pharmacy benefits kill ten times as many people as terrorists do. If you're old, or sick, you're on your own. That's what they want. They'd rather just let you die, than raise taxes."
"Private health insurers have death panels already. They're called claims assessors, or claims deniers."
"Defense funding mostly goes straight into the pockets of Republican-aligned corporations, who charge ten times the going rate for crap food, crap weapons, and crap housing for soldiers. That's why they're fighting those wars, just to rip you off. And if you survive and come back, you might just get dumped in the street with no medical care, in the hopes you'll just shoot yourself. That's what Republicans mean when they talk about supporting the troops."
"Small government wouldn't stop you smoking drugs, aborting babies, and sharing copies of TV programs. It couldn't. They want a big government. A VERY big government, that will control every single little aspect of your life, and any time you step out of line, you'll get stomped on. Look at the TSA. That's a Republican program. How many more jumped-up thugs do you want feeling around in your crotch? Looking over your car? Under your bed? When are you going to say No to this?"
"The only people who pay too much tax are the ones who can't afford to bribe Congress to give them massive tax deductions. Millionaires pay less tax than you do. Most millionaires pay less than five thousand dollars tax a year. What do you pay?"
"The more a man hates gays, the more likely he is to be one, who just plain hates himself. No-one would make that much noise about it otherwise. Who else gives a damn? So, how many Republicans have been caught having affairs with men now?"

And so on. The elements are: appeal to Sameness, aligned with the interests of the listener; identification of Differentness, aligned with the Republicans; blame of the Different for some troubling situation; and a call to action to reject Republican lies.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:54 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


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