Part 4—As long it’s over there: If a person opposes same-sex marriage, does that mean that he or she is in the grip of “hate?”
We’d be inclined to say no. For one possible example, consider Barronelle Stutzman, whose situation was described in last Saturday’s Washington Post:
SOMASHEKHAR (4/4/15): Most recently, 70-year-old florist Barronelle Stutzman was fined $1,000 last week for violating Washington state's nondiscrimination law by refusing to create arrangements for the wedding of a longtime customer, a man she has said she considered a friend. A judge also directed her to provide services for same-sex weddings in the future.Stutzman said she regarded the customer as a friend. But she also said that participation in the wedding would be “against my faith.”
The case is now on appeal. Stutzman—who could be forced to pay more than a $1 million in legal fees if she loses, according to her attorney—said she has no intention of backing down.
Is Stutzman gripped by the “hate-filled attitudes” we love to divine in The Others? We wouldn’t automatically say so. So too with Jennifer Williams, who was interviewed by CNN’s Gary Tuchman last week.
Tuchman tramped the back roads of Georgia, looking for evangelical Christian white southern florists. (No Catholics or blacks need apply!) In a small town, he interviewed Williams, who was described as an “observant southern Baptist...flower shop associate.”
By coincidence, Tuchman had journeyed to Jeff Davis County. Presumably, that added to the excitement:
TUCHMAN (4/1/15): Head out toward Jeff Davis County, Georgia and you don't have to look hard to find supporters of the state's proposed religious freedom restoration act. And they aren't afraid to say why.Williams specifically said she doesn’t hate gays. Despite the craftiness of Those People, it isn’t obvious to us that her claim has to be wrong.
If you had gay customers in here to buy flowers and they said, “We want you to come to the commitment ceremony, bring the flowers,” marriages not allowed in the state yet, would you do it?
WILLIAMS: No. I couldn't.
TUCHMAN: Jennifer Williams is an associate of this flower shop, an observant southern Baptist who says she regards the Bible as the rule book for her life. She doesn’t believe refusing service to a gay couple is discrimination.
You talk about the Bible and how important it is. I mean, the Bible talks an awful lot about love and loving your fellow man.
WILLIAMS: Right. It doesn’t mean that I love them any less, because I don’t. I pray for them. I hope—
TUCHMAN: But if you don’t serve them, it’s not like you’re—
WILLIAMS: It is not that I hate them. I don’t hate them.
For ourselves, we aren’t observant southern Baptists. We aren’t even Catholics, a group Tuchman chose to pass over.
Back in the day, we stopped being Catholics at the same time everyone did—the first Sunday we were in college! We don’t have religious views, and we don’t oppose same-sex marriage.
That said, is it obvious that people who do oppose same-sex marriage are “bigots” driven by “hate?” We’re going to say it isn’t. We’ll even give a pass to Pope Francis on this matter, as we did with Obama and Hillary Clinton before the pair recently flipped!
Others within our tribe have better eyes for the hate. But uh-oh! As has been true through the annals of time, they’re only able to spot the hate in the other tribe!
They can’t or won’t see it within our own tribe. Consider this essay by Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir.
O’Hehir had all the advantages. His mother was a well-known poet and a Mills College professor. After growing up in the Bay Area, he graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1984.
These advantages may have equipped O’Hehir to write his fascinating essay about the episode he called “pizza-hate-gate.” His essay illustrates a key point:
It’s easy to see or imagine the hatred in The Others. Often, though, we humans refuse to see the hatred when it exists within our own tribes.
Flawlessly, O’Hehir executed this ruling principle of tribal loathing. He wrote about the episode in which the owners of a small-town pizza shop were descended upon by members of our own tribe, complete with death threats, relentless name-calling and so many phony orders of pizza that the business had to shut down.
To many people, this behavior by some in our tribe will perhaps seem less than attractive. Tricked by the headline on O’Hehir’s piece, we actually thought that he might comment about this behavior:
“Secrets of the hate-pizza revolution: Indiana’s dreadful culture-war week”
So read the headline at Salon. In truth, it had been a dreadful culture-war week, and dreadful culture-war episodes tend to help the plutocrats.
In these endless episodes, we in the 99 percent split ourselves into tribes, hurling insults at each other as we do. When we 99 act that way, the one percent are glad!
From that headline, we assumed that O’Hehir might discuss the imitation of hate which emanated from our own tribe. If you read his lengthy essay, you’ll see no such thing occur.
In fairness, O’Hehir had plenty of insults for the O’Connors. In a textbook piece of liberal loathing, he described people like the O’Connors as “a bunch of dumbass zealots in a flyover state.”
In his second paragraph, he mocked “their defiantly heterocentric pizzeria.” In that same paragraph, he referred to “the combination of ignorance [and] bigotry” which had produced Indiana’s new religious tolerance law.
O’Hehir was having no trouble seeing the hate Over There. In paragraph 4, he displayed the greatest complexity of thought he would manage:
“It’s easier to mock those who seem stupid and evil than to consider how they got that way, whether their deranged understanding of the world holds any truth, and what the long-term consequences of their alienation and bitterness are likely to be,” the thoughtful liberal wrote.
In context, that was almost uplifting. Is it possible that the O’Connors only seem “stupid and evil?” Might their “deranged understanding of the world” possibly “hold some truth?”
That last formulation seems hard to parse. But that’s as close as O’Hehir came to imagining anything in the O’Connors that doesn’t come straight from the beast.
Good God! The O’Connors had been assailed all week, in ugly, stereotypical ways. A teacher had threatened to burn their shop down. She was under review by the local police.
But even after all that, O’Hehir made an odd presentation. To all intents and purposes, he simply never mentioned the ways the O’Connors had been assailed. Instead, he stressed the fact that he couldn’t understand why people came to their defense!
O’Hehir was deep inside his own textbook loathing. Under the circumstances, this passage illustrates two key parts of this prehistoric practice:
O’HEHIR (4/4/15): Tea Party legislators in Indiana... represent an entrenched, exurban and politically active white Christian minority that feels deeply uncomfortable with nearly every aspect of contemporary American society, and that increasingly understands itself as a disenfranchised and persecuted identity group…Why that group is so deeply invested in the right to deny pizza to gays I don’t claim to understand—it’s another symbolic erosion of an imaginary grade of American normalcy that only existed in commercials, or something like that. But many members of that tribe correctly identified the O’Connors as kin, and embraced them after they went through the pillory of social media.The tribal player will always be proud of his own massive ignorance. He will boast about his inability to “understand” people who aren’t exactly like him. He’ll praise his cluelessness about the world which exists outside his own tents.
If you’ve been following this bizarre story, you already know that the conservative counterattack took tangible form in a GoFundMe campaign originally intended to raise $25,000 for the O’Connor family. It was finally suspended on Friday after raising a grand total of $842,637, nearly all of it in small individual donations. (Purely on the level of strategy, shouldn’t they have pushed onward to $1 million?) That’s both heroic, or mock-heroic, and deeply pathetic. It’s a sum much too small for actual politics, but a needlessly large one to fling at the proprietors of a pizza parlor for reasons no one can explain.
In this instance, O’Hehir stresses his inability to understand the O’Connors’ position, which he mockingly describes as a “deep investment in the right to deny pizza to gays.” Bizarrely, he even claims that “no one can explain” the funding support which sprang up after they closed their restaurant.
Strange, isn’t it? Religious leaders from the pope on down instruct followers that same-sex marriage in an offense against religious principle.
In spite of this rather well-known fact, O’Hehir remains completely puzzled by people like O’Connors! It isn’t that he doesn’t agree with their beliefs. In the purity of his befuddlement, he “doesn’t claim to understand” them, thus making it sounded like he's tried.
He does know where to aim his tribal complaints. As he continues, he says the O’Connors are working from a “deep pool of alienation and bitterness in heartland white America.” Eventually, he says this:
O’HEHIR: Now the bewildered O’Connor family gets to reopen their pizza parlor or take a permanent beach vacation or buy a time machine back to the pre-gay 1950s. But their disaffected and self-ghettoized Caucasian tribe will be with us to years to come, and is likely to wield disproportionate power into the indefinite future. As long as those people feel neglected and unheard—derided by their enemies on the left, alternately pandered to and frozen out by their supposed allies on the right—they will remain a toxic and destructive force in American politics.The O’Connors belong to a “self-ghettoized Caucasian tribe!”
Can we talk? A substantial majority of black Americans don’t support same-sex marriage at this juncture either. But O’Hehir is a skilled tribal player. When he starts slinging his insults, no Catholics or blacks need apply!
O’Hehir grew up with all the advantages. This seems to have produced a classic tribal hater. He’s amazed by all the hate he sees or imagines among The Others. But he can’t see the hate in himself, or in others within his own tribe.
The pitiful state of O’Hehir’s commenters helps show where this leads. Near the end of his comment thread, one brave soul tries to note that giant numbers of people all over the world are still opposed to same-sex marriage.
A reader responds in the predictable manner of our liberal loathing:
“Only a hillbilly fool would have made a statement like ‘we will not cater a same-sex wedding reception.’ ”
Now the O’Connors are hillbilly fools! When pseudo-liberals drive wedges that way, the ruling plutocrats cheer.
We suggest you read O’Hehir’s essay for one specific reason. Read it to see how easily we can see or imagine the “hate” in The Others while completely ignoring the hate which exists over here in our tribe.
We've divided and conquered ourselves this way ever since we crawled from the slime. Tomorrow, we’ll take a break from all this:
We’ll show you what Dr. King said.
Tomorrow: “The love ethic of Jesus”