My right to be offended by your existence trumps your right to exist

My right to be offended by your existence trumps your right to exist June 29, 2012

Rod Dreher tweets: “Oreo embraces gay pride? Since when do we expect supermarket cookies to take political stances?”

Because, you see, gay people aren’t really people — they’re political issues.

Dreher would never think to criticize green-stuf Oreos for St. Patrick’s Day as “a political stance,” but rainbow stuf Oreos for Pride Month are somehow essentially political. Celebrating Irishness with your Irish customers is cheerful fun and good business. Celebrating pride with your LGBT customers is a “political stance.”

What does that even mean? To take a political stand is to stand against something, but what, exactly, is the opposing position of the alleged “political stance” of the rainbow Oreo? Does Dreher think Nabisco ought to have produced an Oreo that “embraces gay shame” instead?

No, no, no, he would protest — he simply wants his Oreos neutral, to take no “political stance” in the controversy between pride and shame. WTF?

Again, try to imagine anyone saying such a thing about St. Patrick’s Day, or about your local Polish festival.

Every year, your local newspaper runs a photo of the mayor, grinning broadly over a plate of kielbasa served by a grandmother at the tent from Our Lady of Czestochowa. The mayor, of course, is a politician and he has political reasons for celebrating Polish heritage at the festival. He wants the Polish community’s votes in the next election.

But while the mayor’s joining in the celebration is in some ways political, that doesn’t mean that his presence at the festival constitutes his taking a particular “political stance.” To suggest that his attendance there amounts to “taking a political stance” would be weird and kind of creepy.

What would you think if someone argued that the mayor should have stayed “neutral” — keeping apart from the political fray of polkas and pirogies?

Such “neutrality” wouldn’t seem neutral at all. It would seem anti-Polish. It would lead you to suspect that the person calling for this neutrality on the “political stance” of the Polish festival harbored some deep-seated hatred toward Polish people.

The suggestion that celebrating Polish-ness is somehow a “political stance” implies that the very existence of Polish-ness is an unsettled matter of political controversy. It implies that one is not yet convinced that Polish people have a legitimate place in society, or even a legitimate right to exist.

I don’t think Rod Dreher wanted to suggest all of that in his tweet about rainbow Oreos, but there’s no other way to read what he’s saying there. To “embrace gay pride” is to “take a political stance,” he writes, meaning that LGBT people are existentially controversial. That their legitimacy is legitimately disputed. That their right to participate in society is an unsettled question.

“Embracing gay pride” is to “take a political stance” because it’s bound to unsettle those who deny, dispute or question gay people’s right to be here. A rainbow-colored Oreo cookie is a “political stance” because it’s bound to offend those who find the very existence of their LGBT fellow citizens offensive.

The cookie endorses no candidate, advocates no piece of pending legislation, favors no political party. But it reminds others that LGBT people exist , and that is perceived as a horrific insult by those who would prefer they didn’t.

That preference, Dreher is saying, is their right. Those who embrace gay shame have a right not to be confronted by such offensive reminders of that which they would prefer wasn’t so. And that right, Dreher is saying, must be presumed to be valid, legitimate and undisputed in a way that LGBT people’s right to participate in society cannot be.

It boils down to something like “My right to be offended by your existence trumps your right to exist.” That’s a pretty dark and creepy place to wind up at in response to such a fabulously festive cookie.

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  • Münchner Kindl

    If highly-educated scientists can be suckered into believing dubious proofs that justify their homophobia, their Young Earth Creationism, etc. despite going to some of the best schools in the history of the planet…

    Which schools are you talking about here? Just because US private schools or colleges like Harvard are terrible expensive, doesn’t make them the “best schools”! Quite contrary, the fact that you can buy your way into Harvard means the quality will be lower. And if 19 out of 20 students in one classroom lack basic skills – as too many personal anecdotes of teachers show – then the single other student still can’t learn too much because the others will slow down the speed. (Heck, don’t some colleges still grade on curves??)

    If you want some of the best schools according to PISA, you would need to go to Finland – where, because they are a small nation, take every child serious and don’t mind spending money to give everybody a chance. Including things like a book mobile every two weeks to remote farms where only a handful of people live, no matter how cost-ineffective that service is.

    It does work, too – By proportion of their total population, Finns are among the most active readers (and sharers of books).

    And I haven’t heard of highly-educated scientists from good schools believing in YEC – all I have heard are people with a degree, which can come from any backwater college (since the US doesn’t have a national standard on what counts as college), and a lot of lies, like a faked letter being published where it turned out the scientists whose names were given hadn’t been asked or had vociferiously spoken against the letter.

    Got some examples?

    As for homophobia: until the 70s, being gay was still considered a mental disease in the standard manual. Sexual orientation really started as subject of scientific research with Kinsey in the 50s. The whole field is still far too new to have any solid evidence, esp. when compared to other subjects (evolution or gravity has truckloads of hard evidence compared to a few shelves for gayness).

    That strong social forces influence the psychologial aspect of sexual orientation makes the whole thing even more complicated to research, or to get a neutral finding on. So while the evidence we currently have is overwhelmingly pointing towards Gay being not a choice – there still isn’t enough evidence for scientists to be absolutly sure.

    Finally, scientists aren’t like in Hollywood
    they know about a very narrow field. A geologist who is homophobic because he was raised that way and has since high school never bothered to research biology and the current findings is not illogical (only lazy and misinformed).

    Creationism is unexcusable among serious scientists, of course. It’s too much part of the public debate and basic science education to miss. But you don’t even have sexual education or biology of humans including sexual development as mandatory at all schools, and colleges narrow courses based on majors, so it’s possible to moderatly educated and not know the real facts about gays if the issue doesn’t compell one to do their own research.

  • My usual response to statements like the one Tricksterson made:

    Amateur.  ;)

  • The_L1985

    Polygyny = one man, multiple wives
    Polyandry = one woman, multiple husbands

    Both polygyny and polyandry are forms of polygamy, which is the married form of polyamory. :)

  • The_L1985

    Nope, sorry.  It is perfectly possible for someone to get through school having to be told what to do, step-by-step, the whole way along.  I am an intelligent person, but it wasn’t until after I finished high school that I was able to structure and write an entire essay all by myself with no input*.  And math word problems–even the 4th grade ones–required me to get help.  I know what words like “sum” and “difference” meant–but I wasn’t sure what was being added to what in order to set up an equation.

    A lot of teachers will simply give you a problem, like “The sum of three consecutive integers is 15,” and never explain how you know that this means x + (x + 1) + (x + 2) = 15.  I was in AP Calculus before I figured this one out–again, entirely on my own, because I was never given any clue as to how to start the reasoning process.  (I was just told, by my parents and teachers, “Consecutive means they’re right after each other when you count, so it’s [the equation above].”)  Why 15 was the number all by itself was not explained, and I didn’t understand why; I just set up my homework problems the way I was told to do.  Once I had the equation already set up, I used the steps (memorized by rote) to solve that equation–I was very good at following the procedure, so the word problems were generally the only ones I missed, and they were seldom on tests anyway.

    If this is true of someone who qualifies for MENSA**, I have very little hope that the average student is able to reason at all, because metacognition–thinking about thinking–is never covered.  Teachers forget that you don’t just know how to think–you have to learn how to reason through a problem in the same way that you have to learn to do anything else worth doing.  I have to fight the temptation all the time to cut corners in my explanations because “surely my students already know how to do that.”

    * My K-12 years were unusually writing-heavy, too–I actually took penmanship classes, which had been abandoned by most public schools ages ago.

    ** I’m not saying it to brag; I’m saying it to point out how intensely hard it is to teach yourself how to think for yourself.

  • crazylikeafox

    “To take a political stand is to stand against something”
    Why? Who says taking a political stand has to be a stand against something? Why can’t it be a stand for something? I’d much rather stand for something than against something.