The Terms of Their Surrender.

The Terms of Their Surrender. March 5, 2014

There’s just something inevitably tragic about the eternally-insufferable Ross Douthat that draws my attention like a freight-train wreck would. It’s not just his whiny waa-baby misogyny. It’s not just his oblivious racism. It’s not even just his insistent bigotry. It’s all of that, combined with a level of weapons-grade ignorant entitlement and blithe inconsistency that when put together creates a singularity that blinds all astronomers with its brightness. It’s like he encapsulates everything that is awful and cringe-inducing about the Republican/Jesus Party and the Religious Right. He both parrots their favorite myths and puts words to the nameless myths to come. He is in the process of perfecting the persona of the whiny oppressor, the actively-wronging-people bigot who is upset about losing the right to oppress others, the mischaracterizing “right-wing chatterbox” (as someone called Ann Coulter not long ago) who is both completely blind to his own privilege and to the suffering of others at his hands. And nowhere does he do all of these things and worse than in the his constant complaints about the proliferation of women’s and LGBT rights.

This is what surrender looks like. (Credit: Les Chatfield, CC license.)
Aw, he’s surrendering. (Credit: Les Chatfield, CC license.)

A variety of people have torn him apart on a variety of fronts on his latest piece, “The Terms of Our Surrender”: on how strange it is that he has relabeled bigotry “dissent” when it’s just plain old discrimination; how weird it is that he sees LGBT people as oppressors and poor widdle right-wing Christians (like him) as persecuted victims; how odd it is that his arguments are so strikingly similar to those of racists from 50 years ago even if he says, without any justification or evidence whatsoever, that racism and anti-gay bigotry are totally, for realsies different, y’all, just take his word for it; even how weak this bigoted Christian’s faith must be if it requires him to discriminate against others in order to practice it and cannot withstand any challenges to its delusions. More than a few Christians are even speaking out against him and distancing themselves from his extremist views, which is a welcome change. I’ve included some links about these criticisms at the end.

But folks, even a broken clock’s correct twice a day, and this poor persecuted man-child has hit on something I want to talk about today: namely, the real reason misogynists, racists, and bigots are scared lately:

The rest of us are no longer willing to negotiate with people who are bigoted, misogynistic, and racist, and worse for his side, there is no reason whatsoever why we should do so.

Mr. Douthat writes, regarding the various “conscience” bills that exist purely to allow bigots, misogynists, and racists to refuse service to those they think are ickie (emphasis is his):

What makes this response particularly instructive is that such bills have been seen, in the past, as a way for religious conservatives to negotiate surrender — to accept same-sex marriage’s inevitability while carving out protections for dissent. But now, apparently, the official line is that you bigots don’t get to negotiate anymore.

And you know what? He is totally, totally right. The rest of us are actually kinda sick of trying to negotiate with his bigoted tribe.

We’ve learned, as a society, that you just can’t appease people like Mr. Douthat. They are satisfied with nothing less than complete victory, and any sop thrown to them will be taken as encouragement by them to try to grab more things they don’t deserve and shouldn’t have.

We tried that route. We gave right-wingers a 20-week limit on abortions. Now they’re trying to make that a 12-week limit. Or a six-week limit. Or one that declares that fertilized eggs get more rights than their “hosts” even before they are technically fertilized. We gave them the right to refuse to marry gay people in their churches and the right to decide, in their own states, if they would engage in anti-LGBT bigotry. Now they’re trying to make that into a right to refuse to serve gay people in any capacity that involves their marriages or potential marriages or even their gayness in any way at all. We gave them tax-free status as long as they don’t get involved in politics. All that did was give us churches that deliberately flout that rule by deliberately preaching about politics, explicitly daring the over-burdened IRS to do something about it.

So no, we’ve learned our lesson. We aren’t doing that any more. Appeasement does not work and only serves to encourage oppressors to continue to oppress and take more, and more, and more from those they are busy trying to oppress.

Minorities already know what it is like to try to “negotiate” with racists. They already know how well that works. Egalitarians’ attempts to be reasonable and negotiate got them Jim Crow laws and “separate but equal” drinking fountains. Racists took those sops as permission to tell black people, “We don’t serve your kind here.” Even today, racists look back fondly on those horrific days, while black people know well the miserable outcome of trying to appease their oppressors.

I know minorities and their allies were probably hoping that a little appeasement might work while they endeavored to advance racial harmony, a way to tell racists “Look, we understand you’re not quite comfortable with this thing yet, and we’re going to give you some time while you catch up.” But that isn’t what happened. Here’s a horrifying account of what white people did when someone finally decided to integrate the high school in Little Rock, Arkansas (yes, I censored one word):

A mob of several hundred protesters that had gathered across the street quickly caught sight of her. “They’re coming!” someone shouted. “The n*****s are coming!” Elizabeth walked down the street a bit, then approached a different group of soldiers. This time they closed ranks and crossed rifles. “Don’t let her in!” someone shouted. . . Now the crowd fell in behind her, shouting: “Lynch her! Lynch her!” “No n***** bitch is going to get in our school! Get out of here!” “Go back to where you came from!” Looking for a friendly face, she turned to an old woman, who spat on her. Before long, some 250 whites were at her heels. . . “Lynch her!” someone shouted. “Send that n***** back to the jungle!”

Are these the words and actions of a group of people who had been satisfied by negotiation, who had been satisfied with the shaved-off rights minorities had given up in an effort to appease their oppressors? Are these the words of a dominant, privileged majority who were trying to catch up with the rest of the human race?

No, they are not. These are the words of a dominant group that resented any intrusion whatsoever into their dominance. These are exactly the actions I would expect of a group that couldn’t share any of their toys, even if not sharing caused suffering.

And like so many people back then and so many people now, when confronted with the reality of what appeasement really gets me, I have simply stopped considering “negotiation” one of the acceptable tactics I will use to achieve my goal of equality.

My body belongs to me. I will not negotiate with my rights. They are my rights, totally mine, and I will not shave off bits of them to make misogynists feel more comfortable. I will not allow them to steal anything that belongs to me to placate their rage at my advancement. There was a time when my rights were not as assured, when demands to “negotiate” might have fallen upon more fertile soil simply because the dominant majority had to power to deny me my self-ownership entirely. But at this point, when society’s collectively gotten tired of misogynists’ BS, I’m just not willing to entertain their shrill and increasingly impotent demands that I settle for less than full bodily ownership to make them feel more comfortable.

LGBT people have the exact same human rights that straight and cis-gendered people do. And they are not willing to negotiate any more with their rights, nor should they be. They  are no longer willing to shave off bits of their rights just to make whiny bigots like Mr. Douthat happy. Any laws passed to shave away parts of their rights will only enshrine their Otherness, and that time when LGBT people were willing to negotiate with their bodies, their lives, and their happiness is simply coming to a long-overdue end.

As a progressive society, we are no longer willing to humor bigots, racists, and sexists by letting them redefine words to distort the truth. Christians are infamous for redefining words–I’ve got a whole series about precisely this nasty habit of theirs–and we don’t really care as long as they keep it to themselves. The more redefined words a Christian uses, the more toxic that Christian tends to be, but if they’re not hurting anybody, we indulge them. But when Ross Douthat insists that he’s not really bigoted but “dissenting,” the rest of us just laugh at him because we know he’s just trying to do the same thing with us that he does in his home in-group, and we have no reason whatsoever to let him do it, unlike his in-group, which depends upon just such redefinitions to maintain its belief system. No, sorry, bigots of the world; you are not “dissenting.” You are just plain ol’ bigots. Own it.

We are no longer willing to let Christians cast themselves as the poor widdle victims and persecuted minority against the GAY MAFIA, either. Only toxic Christians themselves could ever even go there; it’s a rank insult to the many thousands of LGBT people who live at risk of physical abuse and can legally be fired and discriminated against in a big chunk of America (and those who care about those LGBT people) to even hear Christians whining and moaning like that, and it’s definitely not loving of Christians to try to claim victim status when they’re the ones beating up LGBT people, firing them, and wanting to cast them out of their shops and businesses. Even more offensive are those Christians daring to compare gay people getting civil rights to fascists stomping on Christian throats, when fascism is notorious for its intolerance of, and violence toward, those in the LGBT community. No, sorry, bigoted Christians, you are the fascists here, not the people who just want nothing more than the same rights you totally take for granted.

We are no longer willing to pretend that “negotiation” is anything but giving away our rights to make our oppressors happy. This is Ross Douthat’s biggest failing, really. He cannot seem to understand that any “negotiation” we did would involve us giving away parts of our rights for his comfort. Any concession we made would be basically allowing him to intrude and infringe upon our own rights. This is not a compromise where each side gives something up that they want so they both can get along. This is nothing more than him demanding that LGBT people be okay with less than full equality because full equality would make him sad. He’s totally okay with making such a demand–but we’re not.

We are just no longer willing to tolerate the intolerant, especially when that intolerance is so blatantly self-serving and obnoxiously inconsistent. We know that Christian business owners are happy to serve divorced people, fornicating people, adultery-committing people, tax frauds, liars, blasphemers, and heathens–and we think it’s kind of hilarious that they draw the line at LGBT people and no others, and don’t even stop to think that there are other religions out there in the world, some of which might view them with as much disdain as they view LGBT people. We also know that LGBT people aren’t committing any sins against anybody, and we find it offensive to see them lumped in with predators and evildoers. We know that Christians want the legal right to tell LGBT people, “Get out–we don’t serve your kind here!” because enshrining their bigotry into law is their last shot at being able to marginalize one of the last groups Christians feel comfortable marginalizing.

We are no longer willing to allow Christians the luxury of pretending that their crusade against LGBT rights is somehow magically different from their earlier crusade against minority rights. As Van Jones, a CNN host, put it so deliciously well, “The one great achievement of the last century, we took out of American lexicon six words, ‘we don’t serve your kind here.’ . . We don’t want to see ‘no gays’ signs allowed in this country.” The arguments being employed are precisely the same for a very good reason: this bigotry comes from the same wellspring of hate, fear, and frustrated privilege that racism and misogyny come from, so of course it will manifest the same way.

Ross Douthat’s options at this point are limited. He can continue to be a bigot, of course, and within that ballpark he can either keep agitating for bigotry and exclusion, or else he can at least learn to live with LGBT people having some of the toys he’s been hoarding on the playground. Ideally, he’d just figure his butt out and stop being a bigot, but this is Ross Douthat we’re talking about, and given the rewards he is getting for being an insufferable bigot and misogynist, the chances of him learning to overcome either are slim. About all he can do at this point is try to make himself looks as pitiable and sympathetic as he can:

If your only goal is ensuring that support for traditional marriage diminishes as rapidly as possible, applying constant pressure to religious individuals and institutions will probably do the job.

Awww.. poor puddy. Notice how often he keeps harping on how obviously there’s all this external pressure on churches and leaders to embrace LGBT people? I wish we had that kind of power! This thing would already be done if we did! No, churches are coming to their conclusions all by themselves. There’s not actually a Big Fabulous Gay Mafia, but then again, I’ve seen toxic Christians get upset over billboards that just say “Atheist,” so I’m not sure how good they are at judging this stuff. He just wants to make himself sound more sympathetic. The truth is, more and more and more Christians are simply waking up to how cruel, evil, hurtful, hateful, and un-Christian their behavior toward LGBT people is. He can’t accept that because it would highlight how cruel and evil his type of bigotry is, so he comforts himself by saying that obviously they were unduly influenced by a cabal of super-persuasive, super-powerful gay people (and I’m sure the LGBT community would love to know who these people are).

One thing that ain’t going to be happening is him shutting up about it now that he’s conceded that bigotry has lost. If you think this is the last whine out of Ross Douthat about LGBT rights, you are quite mistaken. Conservatives and toxic Christians wouldn’t know what to do if they weren’t able to flounce and bleat and whine and moan and complain about progress. And that’s okay. I don’t want him to shut up. I want him to keep talking in his out-loud voice, because the more he talks, the less patience the rest of us will have for his self-pitying and self-serving lies, distortions, and mischaracterizations. We need Ross Douthat to show us exactly why his side deserves to be cut down to size and exactly why it’s so important to talk about his naked emperor. I’m happy to see he’s begun to accept the inevitable, at least. He’s mostly through the denial phase and starting to bargain now; no doubt we’ll see the other stages of grief soon.

He’s just trying to, as he said, figure out what the victors are going to give him once the dust settles. The answer wouldn’t make any sense to him, trapped as he is in his toxic-Christian bubble of privilege, even if we could speak his language to tell it to him: that the very fact that he sees marginalized people gaining rights as some kind of substantial loss for himself shows how desperate this need is for equality to happen.

But he can take heart.

His side is still eyeing women’s bodily rights, and now that they aren’t splitting their attention between evil LGBT people and women’s private parts, they can really start focusing on destroying women’s personal liberties.

I have absolutely no doubt that their next battle totally won’t backfire at all and end up losing them millions more Christians and oodles of public respect, not like this failed culture-war has, nope, not at all, not in the least. Surely they’ll win the next one. Surely. And then surely it’ll all go back to the way it was and the Baby Jesus will smile upon Ross Douthat for his bravery in being a member of the dominant majority who fights the good fight against all those mean ole feminists and gay people wanting equality. Surely next time they’ll win.

(And don’t call me Shirley.)

Interesting Analyses of the Original Post:

* Slate: Homophobia is More Acceptable than Racism.

* Salon: Religious Right’s New Panic: How Can We Practice Religion If We Can’t Discriminate?

* Pandagon: Yes, Religion Will Become Less Homophobic. No, That’s Not a Bad Thing.

* Formerly Fundie: The Un-Christian Nature of New “Religious Freedom” Laws. (An educated Christian points out the inconsistency involved with these laws.)

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