• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Racism and not

It's usually at least irritating and sometimes infuriating when arguments are pushed to the absurd extreme. But once in a while, it provides a learning experience. Here, for example, is an article from a gay man and strong supporter of marriage equality who writes that "Opposing gay marriage doesn't make you a crypto-racist": His first reason is that marriage has always been gendered but it has not always been racist:

Why should this distinction matter today, if both kinds of discrimination are wrong? Because asking people to give up history’s traditional understanding of marriage is a big ask. You don’t expect thousands of years of unquestioned moral and social tradition to be relinquished overnight. And you don’t claim that holding to a venerable idea about marriage’s fundamental nature is morally the same as yoking marriage forcibly to a racist ideology which has nothing to do with it.

Furthermore, he says, opposition to gay marriage has deep religious roots, which puts it somewhere undere the First Amendment umbrella. Also, there is no political emergency since the gay-marriage cause is gaining momentum with breathtaking speed.

I recently talked to a gay-rights organizer whose job includes building support for marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws in conservative states, where gay people (especially kids) are most in need of such protections. She is not some internet activist posting comments; she deals with the daily realities of bringing about social change on the ground. When I asked if the analogy to racism was helpful, she groaned. No analogies are helpful, she replied, but this one is especially counterproductive. People snap into a defensive crouch and shut down. No one will trust or talk to someone who calls them, in effect, a racist, the worst thing you can be in America. Winning converts, finishing the fight, she said, requires taking people on a journey toward seeing marriage and homosexuality in a new light. It’s a process, and an accusatory approach aborts it.

But as I said, absurdly flawed analogies are usually just somewhere on the irritating-infuriating scale. Like this one:


Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is in some hot water with the Jewish community after his campaign tweeted—and then quietly deleted—several messages urging backers to read an article comparing black Republican voters to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis.

Chicago Sun Times readers were stunned last week to find that writer Neil Steinberg has penned a column comparing black supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis against their brethren.

“As a general rule, individuals will sell out the interests of their groups in return for personal benefit,” Steinberg wrote in his column, which claimed that Rauner is buying off the black community and its leaders. “It isn’t just a black thing. Jews collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, helping them to round up their own people in the hopes they’d be the last to go.”

Why are Jews the only ones outraged? I'd think Republicans and black conservatives would be, too. (As, of course, they are, but they're sort of used to the abuse).

This is a weird variation of Godwin's Law, which holds that the longer a discussion goes on, the more likely it is for someone to compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism, and one of its corollaries, which is that the first one to bring up the Nazis has just lost the debate.

Sometimes it seems we are so loose with our talk of racism that 1) It's difficult to hold a rational discussion and, 2) We might not even recognize the real thing when it comes along. But now here is Cliven Bundy to show us this is not the case.

They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.

That is such jaw-dropping, racist stupidity that it takes a while to register. God, yes, there are still people like that. Bundy claims to be a patriot. He should think on Patrick Henry's most-remembered speech. Freedom is the prime value, because with it all things are possible and without it nothing is. That's the whole premise of this country.