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A Smart Protest

This commentary is the opinion of its author and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

August 17th, 2008

Too often issue politics becomes partisan. The problem morphs from a protest against the objectionable views of some Republicans or Democrats into a protest against their party registration.

And far too often activists within our community have fallen victim to such a mindset.

I understand why. It’s far easier to apply a label and assign enmity than it is to listen, consider, and reason why someone may differ with you on some issues. Besides if we pick a side we get to view ourselves as heroes and the “others” as the evil enemy.

It’s the exact same motivation that drives anti-gays.

But it isn’t particularly effective in winning debates or effecting change. And when the outcome is important, we don’t have the luxury of making enemies. We have to build our arguments around shared values, compelling evidence, and an appeal to decency rather than messages of enmity and war.

Which is why I am so very pleased with the approach that Fred Karger and Californians Against Hate took towards a fundraiser organized by the San Diego Republican Party Central Committee for the anti-gay marriage amendment, Proposition 8.

Surely it must have been tempting to stage a protest that would villianize the evil Republicans. And most assuredly some gay activists when planning such a protest would come bearing signs that said ‘Republicans are Haters’ or with a big red circle and a line through the letters GOP.

But Fred recognized that many Republicans in California are open to a message of inclusion and decency and an appeal to vote “No” can be received positively… if they have not already been made the enemy. So he took another approach.

He and his protest team presented signs that spoke of the amendment and of marriage, but not of party affiliation. And he presented those attending the event with a list of quotes from notable individuals who have spoken out against bigotry – all Republicans: Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Barry Goldwater, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Congressman Clair Burgener, and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.

When Karger spoke to San Diego 6 he emphasized that the amendment is not something that should be supported by rank and file Republicans but that rejecting discrimination and bigotry is a value that Republicans can proudly share.

“This is truly the fringe element of the Republican Party,” said Californians Against Hate Founder Fred Karger. “These people are out of step with the Republican Party.”

“We hope to inform those attending about the rich history and philosophies of so many Republican leaders who fought for equality and against discrimination and hate,” said Karger

This is, I believe, a very smart approach. It may not change the opinions of any attendees but it does establish that opposition to this amendment is welcome from all voters of any party.

Comments

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KipEsquire
August 18th, 2008 | LINK

As George Will recently said about gay marriage: “Certain social problems tend to go away as generations go away.”

Rob
August 18th, 2008 | LINK

…and that’s exactly the way to do it. Non-threatening, non-confrontational, somewhat Gandhi-like.

dlm
August 18th, 2008 | LINK

And to take this a step further, we liberals need to be willing to admit that not all of our folks are always right about their approaches to those who think differently.

It is so easy to point an evil finger at Republicans not seeing the four fingers pointing back at ourselves.

Believe it or not, the liberal thinkers have a large group to the way left that are every bit as hateful, spiteful, and out of control as the far right. Sometimes we just do not want to see that or admit it.

Sportin\' Life
August 18th, 2008 | LINK

Cumbaya, cumbaya.

Effective protest tactics are a distinct issue from “partisanship”. And, in my opinion, this country needs way more partisanship–and party discipline–from the Democrats and the left across the board. I guess we’re using different definitions, because for the life of me I can’t understand how “issue politics” can be anything other than partisan. People take sides and then maneuver and fight to advance their policy preferences. The parties are, and should be, defined by policy preferences.

The GOP platform specifically calls for discrimination against LGBT people, while the Democratic platform specifically rejects (not emphatically enough, sometimes) such discrimination. How can the issue not be partisan? And the truth is that the entire national GOP electoral strategy is based on bigotry (of many flavors). That’s why Rush and Billo make the big bucks spouting idiocy on the airwaves.

The only reason anyone feels the need to lecture the gay community at large about not “hating” Republicans is because gay Republicans have accomplished absolutely nothing within their party, have by and large left it, or have re-closeted themselves. There’s no one left to do the work that needs to be done within the party, understandably, so we all collectively get blamed.

I love this protest and think it struck exactly the right tone, but I don’t understand at all the argument that has been extrapolated from it here. It makes no sense, and to the extent that it encourages delusions about what the modern GOP is and what it stands for, it’s wrong and counterproductive.

Sportin' Life
August 18th, 2008 | LINK

…a large group to the way left that are every bit as hateful, spiteful, and out of control as the far right.

Statements like this simply cannot be taken seriously without evidence. And there really isn’t any.

I’m sure any number of mean blog comments from DailyKos could be produced, but the truth is that hateful, spiteful, out of control people on the right actually hold elective office and determine policy at all levels.

johnson
August 18th, 2008 | LINK

Bravo–spot on response. Civil, Positive and Respectful.

El Rose
August 18th, 2008 | LINK

Ghandi was opposed to same sex marriage.
Have your relationships but stop trying to call something that can never be marriage—marriage!

Timothy Kincaid
August 18th, 2008 | LINK

El Rose,

Unsubstantiated claims are not allowed on this site. Please provide evidence that Ghandi was opposed to same sex marriage.

Rob
August 18th, 2008 | LINK

El Rose;

I live in Canada, and as such, do in fact have a marriage. And as much as you may find it hard to believe, the sun still comes up in the morning, it sets in the evening, no one else’s marriage failed because of mine, no one was struck by lightening.

Ann
August 18th, 2008 | LINK

I agree that the Californians Against Hate approach is a good one, in general. However, my hackles rise a bit in response to the name of the group and the use of the name on the protest signs. I don’t think that the majority of people (as opposed to the folks who run Focus on the Family, the National Organization for Marriage, etc.) who have voted to deny gay people the right to marry are motivated by hate. Fear and lack of knowledge? Yes. Straight up hatred? No. Consistent with the notion that “Republican” is not necessarily synonymous with “anti-gay marriage,” “anti-gay marriage” is not necessarily synonymous with “hater.”

Rob
August 19th, 2008 | LINK

Ann,

While I don’t disagree that many who are anti-gay marriage are not motivated by hate, it is a trigger word. Perhaps “Californians against Fear” might be a better approach, however, I don’t think “Californians against lack of knowledge” is going to go very far.

And the sad truth is, that most of the driving force behind Prop. 8 are not driven by a lack of knowledge, they are driven by fear and hate.

Timothy Kincaid
August 19th, 2008 | LINK

Rob,

Perhaps I’m feeling cynical this morning but I suspect that the motivation of most who will walk precicts or contribute money to Prop 8 are motivated by obedience to religious authority. Many probably are not all that homophobic in their personal interactions but believe what their church tells them is important.

The second tier are motivated by a sense of group identity. They are self identified as “Conservatives” or “The Right” and they are cooperating in group-think. Again, many are probably not haters (other than to the extent they hate those outside their group) and if their political affiliates decided that gay marriage was a value to defend, they’d be on the other side of the issue.

Even the church leaders and political leaders are probably not as motivated by fear and hate as they are by political machination (with the possible exception of the Pope). For many of them it’s a matter of power and influence.

But what they are appealing to is a base sense of fear and hate dwelling somewhere within the voting populace. They will appeal primarily to fear (“oh, the children, the children”) in this campaign. It will be their most utilized tool. And whenever possible, they will appeal to hate (“deviants, sinners, pedophiles, etc.”)

Rob
August 20th, 2008 | LINK

Timothy;

Exactly my point. And those leading the campaign will use disinformation (what a great Reagan era word) to feed the fear, and yes, in some cases hate of those who blindly follow.

I think one of the most important tactics to take is to personalize the issue, and I’ll share a little story to illustrate.

When SSM was a hot-button issue here in Canada, my sister had an interesting, and turning conversation with a member of her church choir who was dead-set against the whole idea of SSM. She pointed in the direction of the organist (a young gay guy, who was well liked by all) and said,

“Do YOU, not them, not the government, but YOU want to be responsible for telling him that he’s not allowed to ever love someone the way you love your husband? That he’s never allowed to proclaim it, that he’s never allowed to share a story about what he did with his spouse on the weekend, the way you do every week? Do you think you should have that right and that power?

The response was “of course not… he should be allowed to be happy, I didn’t realize that it would hurt him.”

Simplistic perhaps, but I think many who oppose SSM see the gay community as a big faceless “them” as opposed to real life, everyday people who really aren’t that different after all.

Jason D
August 20th, 2008 | LINK

It can be difficult to get people to accept the personal side of this.

My mother has that problem with her side of the family. On one of her many visits to Tulsa, she’ll hear some family member spout something ignorant about gay people and she’ll turn around and remind them, “Jason’s gay. You’re talking about your own family.”
The response is usually head-shaking and “oh no, Jason’s not like *them*, I didn’t mean Jason, he’s family, I wouldn’t say that…”

Some people just cannot let go of their prejudice, so they create little exceptions in their head for people they like.

I’ve noticed that in some of the crazy rants I see online. Someone will go off on “The Gay Agenda” but throw out something to the effect of “not all gay people are like _____, but we must still stop the homosexual activists/agenda/problem.”

If not all of us are *like that*…then what’s the issue?

Curtis
August 21st, 2008 | LINK

I think another thing this protest accomplished is that it made Charles LiMandri’s neighbors more aware of what he is doing. It is easy to raise money for a proposition that will take away human rights when no one around you knows what you’re doing. Now many of his neighbors know about his involvement. I think there will be personal and professional consequences for his actions.

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