The Cult Of Social Justice and Identity Politics Has No More Worlds To Conquer, Yet Still It Marches On

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There may be no more worlds for the regressive Left to conquer, but the warriors of the Social Justice Army still see enemies all around

This blog has spent some time explaining that the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is far less about helping genuinely oppressed people and far more about a small, snarling pseudo-intellectual clerisy seeking to use the often dubiously legitimate suffering of various proscribed victim groups as a means of wielding power and influence over wider society.

It follows, then, that for this cult to perpetuate itself there must be a constant stream of wronged victims at all times, on whose behalf the social justice priests and priestesses can claim to speak. When your career and entire worldview is built on the bedrock of seeking to end “oppression”, one inevitably sees oppression everywhere and in the smallest of things. To acknowledge that we actually live in an historically free and prosperous era would be to admit that their services are no longer required – that their whole raison d’être is no more.

And this is why even now, when the fruits of SJW hyper-sensitivity, snarling authoritarianism and utter contempt for ideological agnostics lie strewn across the political landscape in the form of President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-dominated Congress, that portion of the American Left which has fallen under the spell of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics cannot admit wrongdoing or overreach, and refuses to change tactics or re-examine their mission.

This is why despite having lost the White House by racking up superfluous votes in liberal enclaves while actively chasing away votes in key swing states with their out-of-touch policies and narratives, the bulk of the American Left and the Democratic Party are unable to conceive of any other possible course of action than shouting the same shrill, divisive message even louder.

Ben Shapiro captures the essence of the problem in a great piece for the National Review:

For decades, the Left consistently put front and center its vision of an America in which Republicans were victimizers: Either they were evil racists, or they were John Lithgow–in-Footloose holier-than-thou sexual prudes, or they were old-style Mad Men sexists looking to shove women back into the kitchen. Celebrities helped push these narratives through the stories they told, the movies they filmed, the books they wrote.

And Americans accepted the critiques.

Americans accepted racial equality. Americans celebrated female empowerment. Americans went libertarian on sexual behavior.

And the Left had to go searching for a new civil-rights struggle with which to cram conservatives back into their “victimizer” cubbyhole.

There was, however, one problem: All the good civil-rights issues have been dealt with already. And so the Left, which focuses all of its efforts on social issues, was relegated to pushing crime-increasing myths about the evils of cops; the celebrities were forced to pretend that men peeing next to women was the next great Martin Luther King, Jr.–style struggle; Democrats were forced to march on their next target, not merely church involvement in state, but private beliefs of churchgoers.

And herein lies the biggest problem facing the American Left: America is the most tolerant country in world history. There are no more serious civil-rights struggles for the Left to push. In fact, the Left now pushes against civil rights in its ignorant search for the new struggle: Religious bakers must be destroyed if they won’t bake a cake for a same-sex wedding; young girls must be forced to go to the same bathroom as middle-aged men, hosts on HGTV must be policed for belief in Scripture regarding sexual sin.

No wonder Americans reacted by telling the Left to shove it.

That phenomenon could very well continue. The Left has run out of aggressors to target; instead, they’ve become the aggressors, self-righteous morality police dedicated to wiping out dissenting thought. Americans aren’t up for that sort of thing. We think we’re pretty tolerant people, and, by and large, we are. Trump won, at least in part, by refusing to kowtow to the Left’s newest social crusades, in word if not in deed.

And Shapiro’s conclusion may well prove prophetic, unless the American Left change course:

In Die Hard, villain Hans Gruber misquotes Plutarch: “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.” The Left will never recognize that simple fact — and so they will push ever onward, steadily encroaching on liberty and driving a blowback they cannot comprehend.

There may be no more worlds to conquer, but the Left is strangely unwilling to disband its standing army – or rather is unable to do so, knowing that their electoral coalition of competing special interests and designated victim classes is only held together so long as there is a clear Enemy Oppressor to fight.

Having helped to achieve civil rights, women’s equality and gay rights, the American Left should now be beating its swords into ploughshares, hanging up the social justice armour and generating a tide to lift the boats of all Americans (including the maligned white working class), not only their favoured interest groups.

Hint: this might have something to do with trying to solve the great political question of our time, as frequently mentioned on this blog.

But they can’t. There are too many greedy over-powerful generals to feed and reward with war spoils, and these generals (the leaders of the various social justice movements) in turn must keep their troops happy by providing them with bounty in the form of political victories, legislative accomplishments and tangible real-world perks – including those which encroach on individual freedom, as Ben Shapiro notes.

Thus the American Left has become an unstoppable social justice juggernaut, perpetually seeking out new offences to take outrage over, in order to give the troops something to do and keep the fractious coalition together a little longer.

Even if Democratic Party leaders could see the folly of their present path (and the re-election of Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader clearly shows that the vast majority still do not get it) they would be powerless to change course. The unfolding slow-motion car crash is not pleasant to watch. As Ben Shapiro notes, the fury of the American Left (and the British Left too, to a slightly lesser extent) is “driving a blowback they cannot comprehend”.

While plenty of Donald Trump supporters may spend their leisure hours percolating in an online ideological echo chamber, their necessary interaction with a broadly large-L Liberal media and culture means that they are at least constantly aware of the existence other political viewpoints. Conservative college and university students often learn how to debate, defend and refine their ideas through having them constantly challenged and disparaged on campus.

Not so for the Left. Depending on geography and occupation, it is entirely possible for many on the Left to go for long periods (interrupted only by the odd traumatic microaggression experienced when venturing beyond their safe space or carefully curated social media feeds) without ever bumping into the Other America at all. Judging by the ongoing howls of outraged incomprehension, some on the Left only ever glimpse this America once every four years, at presidential election time.

This is why the American Left is unlikely to change course, even now. When your view of the path ahead is skewed to the side so that you cannot see the iceberg field directly ahead, the first light impact may not persuade you of the need to stop or change course. Nor may the second, slightly more jarring collision with reality. And only when a massive head-on collision holes your social movement and political party beneath the waterline does the folly become truly apparent.

 

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A Sermon On Justice And Reconciliation From Ferguson, Missouri

Ferguson Missouri MO Fourth 4th July parade 2

  

What to say about the slow-motion tragedy unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri?

The few known facts – that a black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot to death by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in disputed circumstances – belie the visceral anger that has consumed the town.

The subsequent actions by the authorities, notably the St. Louis County Police – stonewalling on releasing the name of the officer involved, refusing to release the autopsy details, waging an increasingly military-style war of aggression against legitimate protesters and journalists, and releasing CCTV footage of Michael Brown purportedly robbing a convenience store in what can only be interpreted as an act of pre-emptive character assassination – have only compounded the sense that a predominantly white establishment have more interest in protecting their good names and quelling dissent than administering justice.

St. Louis is a city that I know, have spent much time in, and feel close to. People should not be put off St Louis, Missouri and the surrounding area by the horrible scenes unfolding there now on television and Twitter, because the current crisis is not representative of the state and its citizens. But having personal experience of the area,  it is also glaringly evident that the violence and racial tension that forced itself into our collective consciousness with the shooting of Michael Brown last week was looming, unaddressed, for a long time.

Since I have known St Louis, it has been a city of two halves – the still somewhat dicey downtown area and select suburbs with higher black and lower income populations on one level, and the highly desirable enclaves and suburbs (such as Clayton and University City) that surround them, populated by a much wealthier (and whiter) demographic on the other. Everyone may cheer on their hometown St. Louis Cardinals baseball team on game day, but there is a clear divide between those who can afford tickets to watch the game at Busch Stadium and those who have to tune in on the radio or TV.  Tensions between the city’s two halves, while not ordinarily visible to the casual observer, have roiled this part of Missouri for years.

The New York Times thoroughly summarised the history of this divide in a recent article, revealing the underlying causes of the difference between St. Louis City and County:

Back in 1876, the city of St. Louis made a fateful decision. Tired of providing services to the outlying areas, the city cordoned itself off, separating from St. Louis County. It’s a decision the city came to regret. Most Rust Belt cities have bled population since the 1960s, but few have been as badly damaged as St. Louis City, which since 1970 has lost almost as much of its population as Detroit.

This exodus has left a ring of mostly middle-class suburbs around an urban core plagued by entrenched poverty. White flight from the city mostly ended in the 1980s; since then, blacks have left the inner city for suburbs such as Ferguson in the area of St. Louis County known as North County … 

Many North County towns — and inner-ring suburbs nationally — resemble Ferguson. Longtime white residents have consolidated power, continuing to dominate the City Councils and school boards despite sweeping demographic change. They have retained control of patronage jobs and municipal contracts awarded to allies.

This history lesson may seem a million miles away from the reality on the streets of Ferguson today, but it is directly relevant. It is because of structures such as this, where the now-minority white establishment continues to wield almost unchallenged control over the levers of local government, that allow the scenes of high-handed crackdowns on civil assembly and free speech as practiced by the predominantly white County Police.

The attitude – sometimes explicit, sometimes more subtle – of many of the wealthy St. Louis County residents to their St. Louis City and poorer County neighbours – has often been one of impatience and grudging forebearance on one end of the spectrum, and wilful ignorance on the other.

In 2009, St. Louis residents faced draconian cuts to their Metro public transportation service, the network of buses and light rail that connects the city. Residents of generally wealthy St. Louis County voted against an increase in the transit sales tax that would have raised $80 million to fund the Metro’s operation. They made little use of public transportation themselves – they were wealthy and drove cars. But the subsequent service cuts predominantly impacted the poorer County residents and the City residents who rely on public transport to get around. One figure implied that access to jobs in St. Louis County was reduced from 98 to 71 per cent.

Why does this matter? Because it was the poorer, predominantly black workers who served the coffee, sold the groceries and worked in the nursing homes used by the wealthy St. Louis county residents. A measure came up for vote that would have prevented it from becoming exponentially harder for these people to get to work in their low paid jobs every day. And the response of the County voters: Tough luck, we won’t pay a penny more to fund the civic infrastructure that you need. Screw you, we got ours.

Take this attitude and repeat it in every area, from education to police traffic stops, and you get a sense of the climate in which the Michael Brown shooting took place, and how little the two sides of St. Louis have historically been able to empathise with one another.

And on Saturday 9th August, it led to this:

Ferguson Missouri Michael Brown Protests Police

  

On my visits to St. Louis, a visit to the Episcopalian Christ Church Cathedral was always on the itinerary. The church and its community made a lasting impression on me with their many acts and expressions of love, welcoming and tolerance which sometimes seem so much at odds with the prevailing impression of Midwestern Christianity in America.

The way that Christ Church Cathedral (both in its grand stone home on Locust Street and its lively Facebook presence online) is responding to the crisis as it roils the city is perhaps a model to be studied and followed by all of the jostling interest groups – police forces, politicians, civil rights groups, the media and the oft-reported but scarcely-heeded residents – that have descended upon the area.

Yesterday, the Cathedral’s Dean Michael Kinman had this to say:

“The police and the justice system needs to hear the cries of the people and the people need to hear the cries of the police and the justice system, and we as followers of Jesus are the ones to stand in the breach between and even as we are being convicted and converted ourselves, help everyone on every side have their Jesus moment of conviction and conversion, of truth and reconciliation….

“The cry is ringing out from St. Louis around the world. The mothers are crying “Save my child,” and it is time for us to hear that cry and let it change our hearts and with changed hearts together lead this change in the world.

“St. Louis, this is our moment. And we know that this is not a child that will be healed instantly. The tasks are many, the obstacles are large and the journey will be long. But we are the Body of Christ and, with God’s help, together we will get the job done.”

Amen to this. Thus far, the police and the justice system have not been hearing the cries of the people. And in many cases they have conspicuously not been listening, either. Not in Ferguson, Missouri, and, sadly, not in many other towns and cities across America. For black Americans, the police are not automatically the reassuring presence on the street that they are to most whites – in fact, quite the opposite.

The protests taking place now would not be happening on their current scale and intensity if the death of Michael Brown was not just the latest of a litany of tragedies – and perhaps even injustices, depending on the outcome of this investigation – to disproportionally befall black victims and black communities. Looting and violence are reprehensible, but the situation in Ferguson does not exist in a vacuum, and it is not fair or intellectually honest to haughtily condemn them exclusively as failures of personal responsibility and ethics without taking the context of deprivation and repression in which they are happening.

That is not to say that a better, more peaceful path is not there for the taking. The police captain whose empowerment to take over control of the ongoing Ferguson situation from the hapless (and very culpable) St Louis County Police initially caused such a lull in the violence and bitter feeling showed the way with his early remarks:

“And we all ought to be thanking the Browns for Michael. Because Michael is going to make it better for our sons to be better black men. Better for our daughters to be better black women. Better for me so I can be a better black father. And, our mothers, so they can be even better than they are today. Lets continue to show the nation who we are. But, when these days are over and Michael’s family is still weeping, still on their knees praying. No matter what positive comes out, we still need to get on our knees and pray. We need to thank Mike for his life. We need to thank him for the change that he is going to make in America. I love you, I stand tall with you and I’ll see you out there.”

The difference that good leadership – and one man – can make is telling, and is encapsulated in this quote from a local resident, given last Thursday when hopes that the crisis was easing were still high:

But the presence of Johnson was clearly the difference between Thursday and the four nights of turmoil that preceded it.

 “I love this man so much,” said Angela Whitman of Berkeley. “He’s been here since the beginning,giving us encouragement and letting us know we’ll get through this.”

Conversely, the fact that the residents of Ferguson are not yet “through this” shows the limitations of good leadership and one man. Putting a local police chief – with black skin and roots to the community – in charge was a good first step, but it does not make up for the woefully slow response of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Nor does it make up for the fact that America’s libertarian political cheerleaders paused so obviously to test the waters before finally jumping into the fray.

The parachuting in of a black police captain does not make up for the many blatant violations of civil liberties – and the dignity of Ferguson protesters – inflicted by the overequipped and underprepared St Louis County Police in the preceding days. It does not make up for the flagrant inequalities in the American justice system, which incarcerates and punishes a huge number of young black men, stamping an indelible black mark on their records and making it even harder for them to ever break free from their circumstances and achieve the American Dream. And it does not make up for the false but universally known fact – reinforced over and over again, in lessons from cautionary tales like those of Trayvon Martin and now Michael Brown – that in America, a black life is worth far less than a white one.

One way or another, the protesters will eventually leave the streets of Missouri. So will the riot police, the clouds of tear gas and the world’s media filming it all. Michael Brown’s family will continue to grieve. These facts are certain, predictable, unchangeable. What remains within the power of people to influence is the legacy of this latest tragic black death on a city street. Will there be a meaningful and lasting change in police tactics, and a broader change in the way that the police seek to interact with – and reflect – the communities that they serve? And will there be a recognition that on America’s present trajectory, Michael Brown’s death was every bit as inevitable as that of the next person shot down without justification or consequences?

It takes a lot to change the culture of a local police department, let alone the judicial system of an entire nation. And for all the good that the players in Ferguson can do to bring these issues to our attention and make us face uncomfortable facts as they seek to reconcile and come to terms with what has taken place, it is usually at the state and national level where any lasting, widespread changes are enacted.

Unfortunately, this means that it is left to the slow-moving and cautious Missouri governor Jay Nixon, the vacationing President Obama (himself hamstrung in his response after failed interventions in the Trayvon Martin shooting and other incidents) and a host of national politicians who are more inclined to use the pain of Ferguson, Missouri for their own ends than to solve a common problem. With this predictable cast list, there seems little hope that we will not be reassembling in a few months’ time to beat our breasts over the next police shooting, mass shooting or other act of wanton violence.

But still, we must hope. And in the absence of any meaningful national leadership, the people of Ferguson, Missouri must lead the way themselves in turning a case study in “Community Policing – How Not To Do It” into a model of outreach and reconciliation for the rest of America.

For the sake of everyone, black and white, city and county, this dark chapter in American history must not be endured for nothing.

  

Statue of Reconciliation Coventry Cathedral Britain

  

Cover Picture: Fourth of July Parade in Ferguson, Missouri – NOCO magazine

Middle Image: Police in riot gear advance through clouds of tear gas in Ferguson

Closing Image: Statue of Reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, UK

  

The Morning After In Arizona

Andrew Sullivan’s reflections on the vetoing of SB1062 by the Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer. We are in agreement, with one significant exception – Andrew sees no issue with discrimination against gays (or any other minority or class of individuals) in the private realm, only the public realm where government is an actor. While I admire his magnanimity in being willing to shrug off the hate and intolerance of certain fundamentalists, I cannot agree that this is the right approach. It is all very well to favour “maximal liberty”, but taken to its (logical, not extreme) conclusion, this would open the door for arbitrary refusal of service to anyone on the grounds of anything masquerading as religious conscience.

The Dish

[Re-posted from earlier today]

Here’s the money quote from Jan Brewer’s veto statement last night:

Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated … Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination.

As I’ve mulled this over and over, I have a few straggling thoughts. Against the bill: it had two terrible features. The first was the breadth of the religious liberty invoked. The real innovation in Arizona was the extension of religious liberty claims against other citizens, rather than against the government itself. That’s a big leap, and trivializes religious liberty in some ways. No individual can coerce, even with a lawsuit, the way the government can. The second is the environment in which this bill was…

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Triangulating On Gay Rights

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A surprising piece today from Andrew Sullivan, in which he distances himself from certain aspects of the opposition to the anti-gay discriminatory legislation currently working its way through the usual-suspect state legislatures.

Sullivan, gradually sensing victory in his long struggle and seeking (perhaps overly so) to be magnanimous in the face of it, writes:

The truth is: we’re winning this argument. We’ve made the compelling moral case that gay citizens should be treated no differently by their government than straight citizens. And the world has shifted dramatically in our direction. Inevitably, many fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews and many Muslims feel threatened and bewildered by such change and feel that it inchoately affects their religious convictions. I think they’re mistaken – but we’re not talking logic here. We’re talking religious conviction. My view is that in a free and live-and-let-live society, we should give them space. As long as our government is not discriminating against us, we should be tolerant of prejudice as long as it does not truly hurt us. And finding another florist may be a bother, and even upsetting, as one reader expressed so well. But we can surely handle it. And should.

I have read and re-read this paragraph multiple times, and this argument both surprises and concerns me. Boiled down to its essence, it is frankly disturbing – in essence, Sullivan is saying that discrimination in the private sector should be allowed and that a blind eye should be turned, and that we only have real cause for concern if gays (or presumably other minorities) face discrimination at the hands of the government.

Sullivan is also willing to play along with the fairly innocuous example of the gay couple approaching a florist to cater their wedding. It may well be the case that such a couple, spurned by one business, will be able to find an alternative provider in their town. But equally, it may not. There may be only one business of its kind in the vicinity, or there may not be the time or money to go on a Nativity-style trek through town trying to find a spare room at the inn.

More seriously, the business in question may be more important than providing flowers for a social occasion. What if it is accounting services? Or social care? A funeral home? Or medicine? Would it be permissible to deny services to gay or lesbian couples in one of these fields? If so, which ones? And what would be the logic behind such a consideration?

Sullivan’s desire to reach out to the viscerally anti-gay hold-outs in society (and if your beliefs prompt you to deny service to someone based on them, they are visceral) comes at the expense of the logic of his own argument. Sullivan remains fully cognisant of the danger of using religious freedom arguments to permit discrimination:

But the wording of the bills in question – from Kansas to Arizona – is a veritable, icy piste for widespread religious discrimination. And that’s for an obvious reason. If legislatures were to craft bills specifically allowing discrimination only in the case of services for weddings for gay couples, as Erickson says he wants, it would seem not only bizarre but obviously unconstitutional – clearly targeting a named minority for legal discrimination. So they had to broaden it, and in broadening it, came careening into their own double standards. Allow a religious exemption for interacting with gays, and you beg the question: why not other types of sinners? If the principle is not violating sincere religious belief, then discriminating against the divorced or those who use contraception would naturally follow.

This awareness only makes Sullivan’s desire to reach an accord with those who want to enshrine discrimination in law all the more bizarre. Sullivan seems to want to have it both ways – to point out the impossibility of the “religious freedom” bills, while also holding out an undeserved olive branch to the fundamentalists and proclaiming his unwillingness to force them to stop discriminating.

Sometimes it is appealing to float serenely above the fray and call for moderation and respect. Most of the time, it is probably the right course of action. But sometimes it is not.

The people currently trying to enshrine anti-gay discrimination into law want nothing more than to hoodwink the public into fretting about an imaginary future where beleaguered mom-and-pop businesses are forced at shotgun to commit acts in violation of their religious beliefs, acts that risk sending them straight to the pits of hell.

They want to recast the ignorant, the hateful and the prejudiced in the role of the plucky underdog hero, humbly attempting to live their simple lives according to their God-fearing values, but being thwarted and dictated to by the arrogant metropolitan elites. This image is sensationalist and false.

And the last thing that these cynical people deserve is the sympathy and respect of Andrew Sullivan or anyone else who has fought so hard to end discrimination.

Citing Religious Freedom To Excuse Discrimination Will Come Back To Bite

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If your religion requires that you attend church every Sunday, you have the right to do so, and no government should ever strip you of that freedom. And if your religious beliefs compel you to speak out publicly on social issues, that also should be your absolute right, provided that you are not inciting violence against anyone else.*

But if the free exercise of your religion requires that you don’t serve gay people at your place of business because you disapprove of their lifestyle choice, that is just called being sanctimonious, and has nothing to do with piety and everything to do with being judgmental – incidentally, a character trait that some major religions frown upon.

And yet this is exactly the type of behaviour that would be sanctioned under a raft of discriminatory legislation working its way through a number of state houses throughout America. MotherJones reports on this new social conservative backlash:

Kansas set off a national firestorm last week when the GOP-controlled House passed a bill that would have allowed anyone to refuse to do business with same-sex couples by citing religious beliefs. The bill, which covered both private businesses and individuals, including government employees, would have barred same-sex couples from suing anyone who denies them food service, hotel rooms, social services, adoption rights, or employment—as long as the person denying the service said he or she had a religious objection to homosexuality. As of this week, the legislation was dead in the Senate. But the Kansas bill is not a one-off effort.

Republicans lawmakers and a network of conservative religious groups has been pushing similar bills in other states, essentially forging a national campaign that, critics say, would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Republicans in Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation. And Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader “religious freedom” bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.

One gets the very strong sense that the principle of “religious freedom” is being used by the proponents of these bills as a cudgel with which to hit people that they don’t much like.

We can also safely strike out the word “religious” and replace it with “Christian” without affecting the real intent of the legislation, because you can bet your life that supporters of the Kansas bill would go insane if the same law that they support was cited in defence of a Muslim waiter who refused to serve pork sausages to a customer. In fact, ten new campaigns to “keep Shariah law out of America” would be launched before you could utter the phrase “hypocritical, discriminatory nonsense masquerading unconvincingly as a principled defense of religious freedom”.

In short, these bills are exactly what we have come to expect from a religious and social right wing in America that believe the founding fathers established America as an explicitly judeo-Christian land and that the Constitution is nothing more than an appendix to the Bible.

Dan Savage pulls no punches in delivering his verdict on the spate of new discriminatory legislation:

I don’t remember where I read it but this is a good idea: these laws should include a provision requiring business owners who wish to access their “protections” to publicly post signs in their windows and on their websites that list the types of people they refuse to serve. That might prompt some hateful Christianists to think twice. Because then they wouldn’t just be losing the business of the odd gay couple they got to turn away in a fit of self-righteous assholery. They would also be losing the business of straight people who don’t want to patronize businesses that discriminate against their gay and lesbian friends, neighbors, and family members—and others who worry about where empowering religious bigots could ultimately lead.

Not a bad idea at all. Savage may propose it only in jest, but perhaps, if these odious bills are to be passed over Democratic opposition, they could be sabotaged with amendments to include just such a poison pill clause. You want to arbitrarily turn away gay people from your business establishment? Well sure, go right on ahead – but make sure that you post a big sign out front listing all of the types of people whose lifestyles you frown on and consequently refuse to serve. And while you’re at it, post the same list prominently at the top of your company website, just to make absolutely clear which potential customers you are willing to welcome and which ones you will shun. After all, a well-functioning market requires perfect information.

In seeking to usurp the protections of the First Amendment and bastardise them in service of their cynical anti-gay agenda, supporters of this pro-discrimination legislation are starting down a dangerous road. Having only recently put the Jim Crow era behind them, some people seem only too eager to dust off the old “No Colored Allowed” signs and repurpose them for the war against their next target.

Of course, even if the pro-discrimination bills do successfully make it through the state legislatures and get signed into law by the Governors (many of whom have national political aspirations of their own), and even if they survive their inevitable challenge all the way up to the Supreme Court, the legislation would almost certainly be destroyed in the fiery crucible of broader public opinion, most of all among young people with whom the Republican Party has enough of an image problem already.

One of the main problems is the fact that there are no real logical or enforceable limits to “religious freedoms” being proposed. One can easily picture Newt and Callista Gingrich forlornly walking the streets of Washington D.C. in the rain, being turned away from one fancy restaurant after another because the proprietor’s sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit adultery and call it a sin. Of course, under no circumstances could the proprietor ever entertain the idea of serving a customer whose life story did not perfectly comply with the teachings of Jesus Pat Robertson, and if the new legislation is passed he would now have the weight of the law to back him up.

A prohibition on stealing was important enough to be included among the Ten Commandments, so perhaps we can also expect huge lines building outside places like Starbucks as the already overworked employees complete the mandatory criminal records background check before serving you your tall non-fat vanilla spice latte with extra nutmeg.

We are able to laugh at these ludicrous examples of the laws being applied to their bizarre extremes because although the attempt to push new legislation is troubling, it is really nothing more than the death throes of an old way of life where persecution and ostracisation of people because of their sexuality is excused and permitted. The legislation represents a collective shriek of indignance and self-pity from people who are finally starting to realise that they have irretrievably lost the argument, and will soon have to change their own behaviour rather than bully others into suppressing their real selves for fear of causing offense or inviting persecution.

As Andrew Sullivan said of the Kansas bill:

It is premised on the notion that the most pressing injustice in Kansas right now is the persecution some religious people are allegedly experiencing at the hands of homosexuals.

Such a notion is plainly absurd. Certain bigoted Christianists may have convinced themselves that they are being persecuted because they are no longer allowed to inflict their worldview and moral code on others, but there are now too few Americans willing to show up to their pity party to be of any help. Playing the victim card will not work outside the confines of their own shrinking closed network of intolerant people. Sullivan continues:

It’s a misstep because it so clearly casts the anti-gay movement as the heirs to Jim Crow. If you want to taint the Republican right as nasty bigots who would do to gays today what Southerners did to segregated African-Americans in the past, you’ve now got a text-book case. The incidents of discrimination will surely follow, and, under the law, be seen to have impunity. Someone will be denied a seat at a lunch counter. The next day, dozens of customers will replace him. The state will have to enforce the owner’s right to refuse service. You can imagine the scenes. Or someone will be fired for marrying the person they love. The next day, his neighbors and friends will rally around.

If you were devising a strategy to make the Republicans look like the Bull Connors of our time, you just stumbled across a winner. If you wanted a strategy to define gay couples as victims and fundamentalist Christians as oppressors, you’ve hit the jackpot. In a period when public opinion has shifted decisively in favor of gay equality and dignity, Kansas and the GOP have decided to go in precisely the opposite direction.

Instead of full-throated encouragement from the Republican national leadership in support of what the state parties are doing in their name, there is nothing but a conspicuous silence from the likes of John Boehner and Eric Cantor. Nothing from the congressional leadership and precious little from the conservative blogosphere either – tumbleweeds abound. There is a reason for this.

There exists a group of people whose behaviour is so odious and disgusting that it should not be spoken of in polite society; those involved in promoting it are amoral subversives perpetrating foul deeds which constitute an affront to God and to civilisation itself. Such people can barely be described as Americans, and certainly don’t deserve acknowledgement from Washington or protection by the law.

Unfortunately for the Kansas GOP, through their actions they are now that group, not the gay people they so love to persecute.

 

* Should be, but sadly is not currently the case in modern Britain, where the rights of the ultra-sensitive and the politically correct not to be offended supersede the right of the people to free speech.