Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Writing Assignment

All right, students, here is your chance to hone your writing skills. The Kingsport Times-News published this editorial today, Gay Marriage Advocates Win the Battle, But Will Lose the War. In 250 words or less, with eloquence and style, demonstrate the fallacies of this editorial. When you have completed your assignment, you may send your response here.

I gave a quickie response over on the PFLAG Tri-Cities blog.


  1. It seems to me that much of this hysteria over gay marriage stems from the fact that in the US the government defines what the term "married" means. In many other nations marriage is purely an ecclesiastical affair. Any two consenting adults can form a civil union, which is essentially a legal contract. They are then free to have a wedding ceremony performed in the religious tradition of their choice. It is there that the clergy person proclaims them "married."

    I like this resolution of the problem, as in my own church (ECUSA) marriage is seen as a holy sacrament belonging to the church, not the state.

    I think homophobia is simply a lucrative money maker for the Religious Right, a way to frighten the troops into voting Republican no matter how awful the candidate. How else can you explain the current occupant of the White House?

  2. How about:

    I can't be bothered to argue with you bone-heads any more on this. You are wrong and you will be found, like the supporters of slavery in their time, on the wrong side of both theology and morality.

    You catch me on a bad day!

    Combative? Me?

  3. Exactly who was that aimed at? And why? I'm confused.

  4. Methinks the editorial board of the Kingsport Times-News and the conservatives for whom they purport to speak.

    But I'm just guessing.

  5. I am shocked that editorial staff of a modern mainstream newspaper would write and editorial like this. It is an embarrassment to the community, though I'm sure it reflects a majority opinion.

    Richard Florida says that community growth and development requires three T's: technology, talent and tolerance. I have hope of the Tricities of Tennessee, but less for Kingsport.

    My snarky side wants to respond, "What's next? a call for Klan rally?"

    But my cautious side yeilds to the adage of not getting into a war of words with someone who buys ink by the barrel.

    I'm with Doorman Priest: leave the boneheads alone.

  6. The article does conclude with a valid point. The civil rights movement of the 1960s succeeded because it affected the opinion of the average white man and woman about people of color.

    Court decisions alone can never guarantee that homosexuals will enjoy access to marriage, because it is true that an aggravated majority can always overturn, or simply defy, the rulings of any judge.

    At that point the only tool the government has to enforce its rulings is force, which I doubt would ever occur due to the incalculably high political price that would be paid. Nothing would give opponents of homosexuals more ammunition than the sight of soldiers marching into a community to force it to allow same sex marriages.

    This is truly a battle which can ultimately be won only be changing the hearts and minds of the people as a whole.

  7. Here's what I sent in:

    I was disappointed to read Monday’s editorial regarding the California Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the ban against gay marriage in that state. Our “core values” were being threatened, it said. At its core, the value most under threat by this decision is the right of the majority to maintain control and power over the minority. The editor said so directly by saying the court’s decision “elevated…minority rights…over the common cultural values of society at large.” That’s correct. You see, the US Constitution was created to express the will of the majority while simultaneously protecting the rights of minorities and the powerless. Equal rights means just that. Equal. Rights. Yours. Mine. Theirs. Ours.

    The editor claims that homosexuals are not denied their civil rights: they can vote, get jobs, food and homes, and also the laws prohibiting same-sex unions are applied equally to men and women. Yet, if I am entitled to something by law there is no constitutional basis for others to be denied those same rights. That’s what the term “civil rights” means. Since I can get married, so should my gay friends be able to get married. Besides, if a law is constitutional simply because it is applied equally to men and women, then we could reasonably violate the civil rights of other minorities – as long as we violate both sexes. Huh?

    History will prove gay-marriage bans are as wrong as were laws prohibiting women from voting, Blacks emancipation or Jews from owning property.

    We'll see if they print it!

  8. Freethinker, how does one enforce somebody else's marriage at gunpoint? I have this weird mental picture of guys in fatigues with rifles shouting "SAY THESE TWO WOMEN ARE MARRIED! SAY IT!!!"

    And yes, the history of the civil rights movement is a bit more complicated than you indicate. The crucial event was a Supreme Court decision (Brown v. Board), which gave those in the Movement the momentum they needed for the next decade. There were riots, and the Federal government did have to use the National Guard to enforce the Brown decision. Rather than give ammunition to opponents of civil rights, it made them look like dangerous nuts to the rest of the country. Leaders like Martin Luther King (in the hearts-n-minds realm) and Lyndon Johnson (in the political realm) played off this beautifully to get the Civil Rights Acts passed. Even then, the courts had to use their power to enforce the laws passed by the legislature. Johnson used up what influence he had from his Senate Majority Leader days to force the bills through, even famously noting to Bill Moyers that the Democratic Party had "lost the South for a generation".

  9. Flycandler, it would appear that you still insist on having a caustic, combative tone in your remarks to me. So long as this remains the case I shall continue to exercise the option of ignoring what your write. Should you choose to instead behave like a Christian gentleman, however, I will be glad to have a dialogue with you.

  10. Sorry: it was a rant at the fundamentalist right wing and their "Bible based" homophobia.

  11. Good one Snad.

    It seems like there two issues here.

    One is a protection of individual rights from the tyranny of the majority, which I take to be a fundamental principle of the greatness of our country, and an idea not playing well with the editorial staff in Kingsport.

    The other issue is spoken of in the 9th amendment of the Constitution, which reads: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." What this says to me is that while the constitution specifies certain rights of individuals, other unnamed individual rights are still ours. One of those rights is the right to be left free in governmental interference in our most personal affairs, especially those that don't harm anyone. Yes, this is a very unpopular notion amongst rigid religious zealots, but that's why we have a constitution.

  12. It's not caustic or combative. I'm genuinely interested in how the "troops in the streets" threat applies in this case. It's obvious when it comes to escorting a black child into a school building. It's not quite so obvious when it comes to forcing someone to recognize someone else's marriage.

    I'm also interested in your take on why the public's response (at least outside the South) to National Guard troops being used to enforce Federal court orders in the 60s was so different from the scenario you spelled out.

  13. I repeat. for the last time this time: I will not engage in a dialogue with you when you employ a caustic, combative tone.

    In the future I will not even bother to read your posts, unless you first email me with an assurance that your tone will be that of a gentleman, and not that of a schoolyard buffoon trying to pick a fight. Good day to you, sir.

  14. "The article does conclude with a valid point. The civil rights movement of the 1960s succeeded because it affected the opinion of the average white man and woman about people of color."

    I don't agree. Look back at the Perez case in California from 1948. The CA Supreme Court decided to ban restrictions on inter-racial marriage. At the time, over 68% of Californians supported inter-racial marriage bans. The court was well ahead of public opinion.

    Regarding the article, it sounds like the author is trying to convince himself that his "side" is winning despite the overwhelming evidence. If you look back at the last 20 years it is impossible to argue that the LBGT Civil Rights Movement hasn't made HUGE progress in a number of fields. Presently in California, some 52% of the population supports marriage equality. This represents a huge increase even compared with 8 years ago when Prop. 22 was passed in 2000.

    The anti-equality folks have already lost the war. They just don't want to accept that reality.

  15. From MLK's speech on June 23, 1963 in Detroit:

    "Now the other thing that we must see about this struggle is that by and large it has been a nonviolent struggle. Let nobody make you feel that those who are engaged or who are engaging in the demonstrations in communities all across the South are resorting to violence; these are few in number. For we’ve come to see the power of nonviolence. We’ve come to see that this method is not a weak method, for it’s the strong man who can stand up amid opposition, who can stand up amid violence being inflicted upon him and not retaliate with violence. (Yeah) [Applause]

    You see, this method has a way of disarming the opponent. It exposes his moral defenses. It weakens his morale, and at the same time it works on his conscience, and he just doesn’t know what to do. If he doesn’t beat you, wonderful. If he beats you, you develop the quiet courage of accepting blows without retaliating. If he doesn’t put you in jail, wonderful. Nobody with any sense likes to go to jail. But if he puts you in jail, you go in that jail and transform it from a dungeon of shame to a haven of freedom and human dignity. [Applause] And even if he tries to kill you, (He can’t kill you) you’ll develop the inner conviction that there are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. (Yes) [Applause] And I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live. [Applause]

    This method has wrought wonders. As a result of the nonviolent Freedom Ride movement, segregation in public transportation has almost passed away absolutely in the South. As a result of the sit-in movement at lunch counters, more than 285 cities have now integrated their lunch counters in the South. I say to you, there is power in this method. [Applause]

    And I think by following this approach it will also help us to go into the new age that is emerging with the right attitude. For nonviolence not only calls upon its adherents to avoid external physical violence, but it calls upon them to avoid internal violence of spirit.

    It calls on them to engage in that something called love. And I know it is difficult sometimes. When I say "love" at this point, I’m not talking about an affectionate emotion. (All right) It’s nonsense to urge people, oppressed people, to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. I’m talking about something much deeper. I’m talking about a sort of understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. [Applause]

    We are coming to see now, the psychiatrists are saying to us, that many of the strange things that happen in the subconscious, many of the inner conflicts, are rooted in hate. And so they are saying, "Love or perish."

    But Jesus told us this a long time ago. And I can still hear that voice crying through the vista of time, saying, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you."

    And there is still a voice saying to every potential Peter, "Put up your sword." History is replete with the bleached bones of nations, history is cluttered with the wreckage of communities that failed to follow this command.

    And isn’t it marvelous to have a method of struggle where it is possible to stand up against an unjust system, fight it with all of your might, never accept it, and yet not stoop to violence and hatred in the process? This is what we have. [Applause)"


    In the above excerpt Dr. King speaks specifically of how his non-violent protests worked on the conscience of the white oppressors, of how it weakened their desire to keep black people in bondage.

    This is one of many sources that prove that he saw the changing of hearts, and not court decisions alone, as key to the achievement of equality for people of color.

    The civil rights movement succeeded not only on the judicial front but also in the minds and hearts of people who abandoned their bigotry and embraced King's dream of universal brotherhood.

    His message is applicable to the modern day effort to win marriage for gays.

    By loving the unlovely, even the most ardent homophobe, the consciences of the anti-gay people will be worked on, just as Dr. King above describes such an approach working on the white bigots of his day.

  16. This is completely off-topic, but it made me laugh so hard I had to share it. Follow the link below for an example of Left Behind lunacy:

  17. An excellent piece on the original topic:

    The Culture War Disarmed from the 6/9 issue of The Nation.

    BTW, I don't think that King's message was so much focused on Southern white bigots as moderates elsewhere. The images of Selma played VERY differently in Wisconsin than it did in Alabama.