The same sex marriage bill [Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill] passed in the NZ Parliament last night, to much jubliation from its supporters. Like many others, I watched the debate with members of my family live on Parliament TV. It was history in the making.
Lew Stoddart, blogging at Kiwipolitico today (see: Recognising the enemy) quoted from Green MP Kevin Hague’s third reading speech wherein Hague described the vitriol and tactics deployed by some opponents of earlier homosexual law reform and this latest ‘marriage equality’ bill (soon to be legislation).
In a quietly-passionate speech (video here) Hague breaks it down to “[opponents of the bill] believe that we gay and lesbian people are morally inferior. They don’t want to include us as as full participants in New Zealand society.” (about 5’00 in the video) Lew offers his own analysis (please read it), parts of which line up so neatly with my own dismay at hatred-of-the-other/outsider views I thought I’d cherry-pick him (emphasis in original):
Kevin Hague’s measured words and calm delivery obscure a stark and clear-sighted analysis: This is war. The enemy does not regard us as human, and they never will, so we must defeat them utterly. When it comes to GLBTI people, adherents to this creed of brimstone will be satisfied with nothing less than extermination and erasure: they are an existential threat. Although it is often couched in those terms, beneath the veneer theirs is not a rational objection founded in philosophy or pragmatism, in science or honest assessment of tradition; it is simply fear and hatred that burns like the fires they preach. This is not confined to the religious sphere — variants of the brimstone creed exist within secular society, and across a broad ideological spectrum, but they share extremism in common. Much of the discourse around marriage equality, and much of the discourse around related matters, rests on ignoring, minimising or mocking those who stand up for the brimstone creed, but the brilliance of Kevin’s analysis is that he meets them — and it — kanohi ki te kanohi, staring it in the face and recognising it for what it is.
Let me be clear: I supported that proposed legislation and have been pleased by my local MP Maurice Williamson’s outspokenness on the issue. I made a point of discussing it with him in person and encouraged Maurice in his stand (not that I detected he needed any confirmation from me). I also largely agree with Lew in his analysis of the ‘battles ahead’ (read his blog post). And I’m not being argumentative for the sake of it, I promise.
That said, something does not sit right in me with Lew’s declaration of war: We must ‘defeat them utterly’:
All of us who believe in a just society, and an equal society, who believe in a place where ancient prejudices, cultural inertia or the maintenance of privilege cannot justify erasure must fight these battles too. The brimstone creed isn’t just an existential threat to “teh gays” — it is an existential threat to a free and decent society, and we will not have won until we defeat them utterly.
Hmm, Lew, hang on, … can’t those comments be seen as pretty closely resembling the very hatred of the out-group you complain about? Labelling ourselves as ‘believers in a just society’ is a good thing (yay!) but setting a goal to stamp out any opposition to our ‘enlightened views’? What?
They’re sincere believers of another stripe, some of those opponents. They’re fellow citizens, good people. They’re not all raving bigots. There’s always a vocal hard core, on any side of a controversy, and one can’t reliably generalize, tempting as it may be to do so.
It’s one thing to complain about another group’s enmity or lack of empathy … quite another to ourselves display similar levels of the very same qualities, doncha think?
I like Lew — like him a lot — and I respect his views, but (kindly) are we seeing an example of this phenomenon?: “Choose your enemies carefully, because you will become like them.”
UPDATE: Just for context, this video, which I stitched together from hate-merchant Andrew Breitbart’s trailer, is what I hear in the background when I hear people say ‘This is war!’ about political debate: