Sneerer, Heal Thyself

Dan Savage, with some thoughts on author and journalist Brian Mann’s new book Welcome to the Homeland, which focuses on his relationship with his brother Allen, who, unlike the metro Brian, is a “mega-church-going, straight-Republican-ticket-voting rural” guy:

[I]n an alarming scene in the book Mann’s brother jokes with his young children about shooting liberals. Liberals, his brother maintains, are like deer. Too many of us, oughta be picked off one by one, shot. Like vermin.

Hm. Despite being a member of the urban elite—ooh, smell me!—I don’t teach my kid to think of rural folks as animals, nor do I joke with him killing people like Allen and his children.

…Which brings us to something that sticks in my craw about this sneering-urban-elites vs. angry-rural-rubes thing. The rubes run around screaming their rube heads off about all the godless heathens in the cities and how we’ve destroyed their country—”theirs,” mind you, not “ours.” According to the Allens, we urbanites are a pack of latte-sipping sodomites, sophisticates, softies. We’re also open America-haters and closeted Osama bin Laden fans. Unlike rubes, we have no values. No respect. No faith.

So… uh… who exactly is sneering at whom?

…I, for one, am sick of being told I have to be polite to people who insist that I’m a sinful abomination and seek to make my life miserable. I’m not one of those pansies that wants to argue with religious folks about their beliefs. Hey, the fundies think I’m going to hell—great, fine, whatever. I’m going to hell with the Catholics, the yoga instructors, the adulterers, and the atheists. Shouldn’t that be enough? Eternal punishment? But somehow it’s not enough for folks like Mann’s brother. They have to punish me here on earth too.

At bottom it’s really not about respect for their values. It’s about insisting that everyone adopt their values. When we say, “We hear you, homelanders, but we think you’re wrong,” that’s makes ‘em mad. That’s what kills ‘em. That’s so insecure that they take our rejection of their oppressive, retrograde political agenda as somehow personally disrespectful—particularly of their religious beliefs. They only way to appease an Allen is to live like one.
Absolutely right. This is exactly what I’ve said before: “And their definition of winning is one that liberals will never understand. Winning is not simply having control of all three branches of government, nor is it having the power to impede the steady march of progress that has seen liberals win battles from ending slavery to granting gays and lesbians the right to marry in Massachusetts; they will not be happy until we say they are right. Only complete and total acquiescence to their ideology will satiate them…

“My rights end where yours begin. It’s such a simple but powerful concept, yet it is anathema to Conservatives, because it necessarily excludes their desire to control and force their dissenters to succumb to their will. It isn’t enough that they can change the channel when Queer Eye for the Straight Guy comes on; the show must be taken off the air altogether. It isn’t enough that they can put up Nativity scenes in their churches and in their homes and on their lawns; there must be one at City Hall, too. It isn’t enough that their children can pray and learn about creationism at home and at church; they have to be able to do it at school, too, and so must all the other kids, irrespective of their families’ views. It just isn’t ever enough.

“And that is their vision of America—a country where their views are imposed upon everyone. (Differences among their own ranks, making this implausible even were all Liberals to disappear, do not register.) Only having rid the country of minorities, gays, feminists, evolutionists, atheists, pacifists, abortionists, stem cell researchers, the poor, the needy, the infirm, immigrants, environmentalists, animal rights activists, non-Christians, and anyone else who disagrees with them could they be happy. Or such is their claim. But without anyone upon whom to pass judgment, I wonder how long such contentment could possibly last.”

The problem we have here is, once again, projection. I don’t have any designs on forcibly making every American live the way I do, but that’s of what I’m routinely accused by the people who are. As are we all. And that perception is pervasive throughout our culture—the media regularly delivers a steady stream of thinly guised assertions that liberals will “ban Christmas” and are hostile to religion full-stop, as opposed to being hostile to people who use their religion as a justification for legislating discrimination, and the GOP is deeply dependent on the promulgation of such fears. There’s a clear distinction between making abortion or same-sex marriage available to the people who want or need it, and criminalizing the same so that it’s not available to anyone, but our ideological foes flatly refuse to see the difference.

I am optimistic, however, that “the middle” is beginning to, and has grown weary of their fanatical need to control the rest of us.

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