We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Monday, April 1, 2013

Empty of Any Reality

In a news posting entitled, "Gay rights opponents' last argument," Paul Waldman notes that the opponents of full civil rights for the LGBT community have seen argument after argument punctured.  All they, except for hard core fringe types,  can really say now is that they are against gay rights because gays make them uncomfortable.  Waldman points out that this argument means LGBT Americans are supposed to be deprived of their full civil rights because of the personal feelings of one certain segment of the population—this in spite of the clear mandate of the Constitution, which protects the civil rights of all citizens in all cases except treason and terrorism.

Opponents of gay rights cannot say what they actually mean.  They cannot say, "We are prejudice, and we demand that the civil rights of others are abrogated so that we can maintain our prejudice.  We don't 'like' them, and so they should not be accorded the rights we enjoy."  Waldman concludes,"At this point, that's about all opponents of gay rights have left. They don't want to sound like bigots, so they've almost stopped talking about gay people entirely. It's not you, they say, it's us. Well, they're right about that. Just maybe not in the way they think."

Waldman also notes that the whole argument sounds ridiculous, which it is because prejudice is what the word says it is, a pre-judgment not based on reality.  Holders of this prejudice hope that if they repeat it often enough, forcefully enough, and act upon it often enough, the prejudice will create the reality.  And they have been successful in the past in turning their prejudice into a reality of sorts.  Their prejudice has branded homosexuals as "immoral," driven them underground, and thrown obstacles into the forming of stable homosexual relationships, which in the fashion of circular thinking "proves" to the prejudiced that gays are immoral.  Americans have used this same kind of circular thinking against people of color, women, people with physical disabilities, people of other ethnicities, and even people living in certain locations ("hicks" comes to mind) or under certain conditions.  The problem is, of course, that real people don't fit the stereotypes of prejudice—well, sometimes they do, but not nearly often enough and not with enough consistency to give substance to the prejudice.

In addition, American holders of prejudice face another obstacle to their prejudices, which is that one sentence in the Declaration of Independence that states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  We have been too often too slow in fulfilling the vision this sentence offers us of a citizenry that is truly equal and equally enjoys the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  But, for all of that, we are working our way out of the land of prejudice and into the land our nation's founders envisioned—slowly, painfully, and inconsistently, but still headed in the right direction.

It takes serious effort, in sum, to maintain the prejudice against LGBT Americans.  It has to be held in the face of reality and in the face of our national ideals.  Prejudice is powerful, to be sure, but it is ultimately built on the shifting sands of its own inconsistency and injustice.  Amen.