Saturday, April 04, 2015

We're Americans: We Don't Shut Up. Nobody Can Make Us.

          One of the more-disappointing parts of Indiana's recent RFRA episode was the amount of misinformation, bad behavior and ill-will by supporters of all sides.

     The little pizza joint in northern Indiana that was hounded so badly they closed shop after the owner told a reporter that, while they wouldn't turn away anyone who came in to eat, they figured catering a same-sex wedding was contrary to the tenets of their faith is an example -- at least in that incident, after several days of bad reviews and threatening phone calls, a crowdfunding effort had raised nearly a million dollars to help out the business.

     That illustrates just how strong opinions run on all sides of the issue.  While one side behaved much better than the other in it, there's plenty of vituperation (and flashes of grace and courtesy) to go around; at roughly the same time as the Governor was proclaiming the bill was never intended to be used against LGBT Hoosiers, lobbyist Eric Miller was telling reporters that was exactly why the bill was drawn up.  Meanwhile, state legislature (and a rainbow of invited speakers) hammered out a "fix" and held a crow-eating press conference.  Depending on who you asked, the modified law either goes much too far or falls way short, and that's politics.

     The most depressing notion I heard -- and I heard it from both sides -- was that the other side should just shut up and take their lumps, that they were on the wrong side of history or of God, and most of the mess was due to "outside agitators," the last a flaming echo of the 1960s civil rights turmoil.

     It's also utter buncombe.  I have worked in media in Indiana since 1973 and in Indianapolis since the early 1980s.  Back then, a religious, socially conservative activist showed up in the news fairly often, and achieved minor fame protesting the antics of an over-the-top radio morning team: a guy named Eric Miller.  Conversely, a gay-rights group calling itself  "Justice, Inc." was organizing differently-themed protests and issuing news releases, some signed by Kathy Sarris, who was one of the invited speakers at the press conference announcing the revised RFRA.  "Outside agitators," are they?  They both look like Hoosiers to me.  Sound like 'em, too. (IIRC, they both had issues with the radio morning team, too; not the same issues, of course.)  Neither one is fighting this fight for the fun of it.  This stuff matters to them.

     Neither one ought to be shutting up, either.  This may not be a conflict that is ever resolved.  Carving out broad exemptions from civil-rights laws for churches appears to address the most egregious of government meddling in religious affairs and dates back to at least the 1960s.  It didn't go far enough for some people then and, surprise, it doesn't now, either.  Keeping the debate going at least reminds all of us to tread lightly, to speak politely and to seek resolutions to individual conflicts that all parties can accept.  (You can get courts and lawmakers involved but unlike Solomon, they'll usually go ahead and cut the baby in half.)

     Worse than silence is an echo chamber.  The state legislature and Governor gave us the first version of RFRA in what appeared to be full confidence it was a non-issue.  Smug morons, certain that no right-thinking person could disagree, pestered a small business (one that, f'pity's sake, is about as likely to be asked to cater a gay wedding as I am to get invited to the White House) to the brink of shutting down.

     The other guy holds his crazy notions just as dear as you hold yours.  You're not going to change his mind with a couple of well-crafted bumper stickers or a hundred nasty reviews on Yelp, nor will he change yours.  Accept this.

     Since (at least) the civil-rights laws of the 1960s, businesses open to the public have been treated differently under the law than private homes, private clubs and churches.  You may feel this is wrong -- and maybe it is -- but that's the law.  Fighting against it, you're going to find yourself allied with some very unsavory folks.  --There's unsavory types on all sides of most freedom-type issues and that's another fact it's better to admit to than pretend it doesn't exist.

     But don't come crying to me that the so-and-sos pushing this or that notion ought to just shaddup.  Don't come complaining to me about "should."  I'm not in charge of "should."  I'm stuck here with you in "is."   There are politicians and lobbyists working on "should" right now and if that's important to you, that's where your attention should be.  (Me, I think we're oversupplied with government-issued "should" already, but what do I know?)

     In the meantime, try to remember that 99 percent of the people around you are just people trying to get by.  They are like you: all the colors of dirt, from pale dry dust to red clay to dark loam and everything in between.  They are gay and straight and not-all-that-interested, religious or atheistic or doubting; they are happy and sad, angry and calm, often opinionated; they are clever and dull, amusing or scary or pitiable.  Each one of them has got the same one vote you do and there are no prizes to be won in this life or any other by treating any of them badly.

9 comments:

Bubblehead Les. said...

Sigh! In a World where Half of Africa and all of the Middle East are Shooting and Bombing each other over WHICH version of Islam is THE TRUE RELIGION; where Imperial China has declared that all of the Seas that they can Sail upon belongs to THEM; where the Tzar of all the Russias has decided that he wants to expand his Empire to the West; where South of El Paso most countries are starting to Embrace the "The Glorious Socialist Revolution of Che Gueverra!" (so long as the Ruling Elite gets to fill their Swiss Bank Accounts, that is), we in America are fighting over whether Tom and Dick can get a Wedding Cake!

Yep, I'm living in Heinlein's Crazy Years.

RandyGC said...

I have sadly come to the conclusion that a large and noisy portion of the populace enjoy living in a state of perpetual outrage and offense. They aren't really here for the hunting.

I wish the people that demanding the other side shut up would remember that they are in no way obligated to listen to them. Today it is very easy to either find an echo chamber to avoid other viewpoints or (in my case on occasion) find a space where you don't have to hear either side and can zone out on tunes and good books. But as you said, what is and what we wish for...

At least when you have opposite sides screaming as loudly about a compromise as seems to be the case of the latest IN bill, it is usually a sign that it is at least an adequate compromise.

D.W. Drang said...

I'm thinking that WA's I-594 and IN's RFRA imbroglio should serve as sterling examples of what can go wrong with a law.

In both cases the law turned out to say, or imply, stuff that it's supporters claim is not there.

Wish we could get the 594 mess cleaned up as quickly, but then, this is not a mess that the left and the media (BIRM) oppose.

Roberta X said...

Yep.

JoeMama said...

VERY well said.

"...there's plenty of vituperation (and flashes of grace and courtesy) to go around"

"Keeping the debate going at least reminds all of us to tread lightly, to speak politely and to seek resolutions to individual conflicts that all parties can accept."

"Don't come complaining to me about "should." I'm not in charge of "should." I'm stuck here with you in "is." "

"...99 percent of the people around you are just people trying to get by. They are like you: all the colors of dirt, from pale dry dust to red clay to dark loam and everything in between...and there are no prizes to be won in this life or any other by treating any of them badly."

rickn8or said...

I should have come here first and read this before I spent way too much time and bandwidth arguing with fundies about cake and flowers. (Didn't get to the pizza.)

There are some angry people full of Christian love and tolerance out there. I was called some interesting new-to-me things and some wild accusations made.

But, like beating your hand with a hammer, it feels SOO good when you stop.

Don't come complaining to me about "should." I'm not in charge of "should." I'm stuck here with you in "is."
That needs to be carved in stone also.

Good to be back here among The People of the Gun. All friends. All agreeable.

(How did the discussion on 9mm vs. .45ACP come out anyway?)

Celebrate tomorrow however you're inclined.

Unknown said...

Brava!

Keads said...

Very well said!

Roger Owen Green said...

This rather goes with my General Notion of the Universe, which, essentially not that people ought to shut up as much as, because people don't have to think before they talk (Twitter, FB), it's just too damn loud.