Of Analogies, Rorschach Tests, and Elder Oaks

Of Analogies, Rorschach Tests, and Elder Oaks November 3, 2009

It might seem a little mundane to say that a single analogy can be used in contrasting ways to serve the interests of discursive power grabs, but the constant resurfacing of Elder Oaks’ BYUI talk makes me jump, Johnny-Come-Lately, into the fray. The implicit claim in the many vociferous critiques of Elder Oaks’ talk that the Left has a monopoly on Civil Rights analogies strikes me as deeply ironic. As I recall, last year several public media outlets hosted guests that questioned the link supporters of gay marriage were making to civil rights, sans the acerbic attack implicit in the objection. What current objectors really seem to mean is that they’re horrified that someone should take the sacred cow (probably the most effective claim made, viz. that to deny gays the right to marry is analogous to a denial of Blacks the right to vote, join “white” schools, etc.) and press it into service toward other ends.

Obviously, you can’t copyright an analogy, and, furthermore, any comparison can be valid depending on the parameters constructed (who says you can’t compare apples and oranges? I certainly can!). Elder Oaks did, despite the willful ignorance of this in the media, attempt to delineate the limits of the comparison. In the end, perhaps as with most analogies, what you see in constructing and reacting to especially political comparisons says more about you than it does about anything else.

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