There’s a controversy brewing at my alma mater. As the kickoff to True Love Week (meant to contrast with the concurrently running Sex Week at Yale), organizers invited Professor Anthony Esolen of Providence College to speak on “The Person as a Gift.” A few days before the keynote, IvyGate publicized Esolen’s fervent writings about the destructive power of gay marriage. Activists on campus organized a kiss-in and then marched out of Esolen’s talk.
I disapprove of demonstrations that interrupt speakers, if any other alternative is possible. I think the kiss-in would be better timed if it occurred before Esolen began or at the conclusion of his remarks. And if you’ve come to protest a controversial speaker, it is poor form to walk out of the talk. We deplore that kind of behavior when it’s the other side doing it and robbing us of our ability to change their minds. I agree with Minhal Baig, who wrote in The Yale Daily News today:
The impolite spectacle did not make me any more sympathetic to the talk; nor did the lackluster talk make me any more sympathetic to the spectacle… [T]he demonstrators had no seriousness in purpose; the kiss-in was an effort to defeat Esolen’s arguments not in a discursive manner but through visceral exhibitionism. It made no argument but this: We think you’re wrong, and we don’t like what you have to say.
A number of my friends got into an extended fight on facebook over whether Esolen’s views on gay marriage and homosexuality disqualified him to speak at Yale. Choosing not to give someone a platform is not the same thing as abrogating their free speech, and it can be productive to debate community norms on acceptable speech. However, as everyone got more engaged in this metadebate, Esolen’s content was obscured.
One conservative friend of mine, Matthew Gerken, accused folks on my side of the gay marriage debate of shying away from the strongest arguments of the opposition. So I’ve invited him to summarize those arguments as a guest poster to this blog. His first post will go up this afternoon, and I’ll respond on Wednesday. All posts in this series will be listed below, for ease of reference.
I’ll add that I know Matthew personally, and I know he does not speak from malevolence, but from honest disagreement. So skip the comments impugning his character. If you think (like I do) that he’s wrong, nail him on the content.
- Gay Marriage and Male Friendship – Matt’s opening sortie. Does legitimizing gay marriage sexualize platonic friendships?
- Weighing the Consequences of Gay Marriage – My first reply to Matt. Any major cultural change has collateral damage, so how do we minimize it and balance it against the reforms we seek.
- When Men Treat Men Like Men Treat Women – Part two of my reply to Matt. Why are we acting as though balancing friendship and sexual tension is a new problem?
- Leah’s Handy Guide to Not Letting Eros Destroy Philia – Debating gay marriage/giving relationship advice is like tomato/tomahto, right?
- Divorce and the Doctrine of Individualism – Matt debut’s his second argument: affirming gay marriage entrenches everything wrong with modern marriage
- Whaddya Wanna Get Married For? – Pitching Matt and everyone else on the secular cousin of sacramental marriage: gay covenant marriage