Proposition 2 in Texas: Reluctant Comments

Here’s the question I have for those who voted for Proposition 2 in the
recent election here in Texas: How many gay people have you been friends with?
Any family members? Have you ever spent appreciable time with anyone who is
gay? Enough time to understand them in a thorough way? My guess is that answers
in the positive to this question number in the low single digits.

Gay marriage affects very few people, but its emotional appeal is the heart
of the conservative republican strategy to get out the vote. The real agenda,
of course, are the economic policies that get passed quietly while all the noise
is being made about the issues that make us uncomfortable. (Thomas Frank has
done an excellent job of outlining this strategy in What’s
the Matter with Kansas

When I left Texas for graduate school in 1989 I had little experience with
anyone who was openly homosexual. Though I liked to think of myself tolerant
and liberal, I had no direct experience.

The first thing that happened to me upon arriving in Southern California was
to end up living with a gay man in a rent house in Claremont. I was literally
walking the streets looking for a place to live and this guy put me up in a
room in his house. For nine months I took part in parties, dinners, and general
lounging about. Whatever was different from straight culture was learned and
became a matter of course. There was never any issue about me being straight
and him being gay.

I once asked a good friend of mine who is a thoughtful, conservative republican
how many gay people he had known. He couldn’t think of any. Up until that point
he had been against policies benefitting gays and for policies that were detrimental
to them. One night we talked calmly through it for about thirty minutes and
when it came down to it he was just uncomfortable. He didn’t have any practical
experience. He had, if not fear, then wariness. In the end he understood that,
based on his own reasoning and moral sense, that there was no reason
to fear gays or treat them differently than anyone else.

I can still hear him running through the logic for the first time. Open, honest,
and wanting to think for himself, the blinders were being lifted from his eyes.
Before that night his internal sense of fairness and justice was obscured by
the gloss and blur of ideology. That’s one of the functions of ideology,
of faith and loyalty: to make contradictions and troubling ideas invisible behind
a fog of seemingly sensible slogans. It had never crossed his mind because for
that subject, the conservative ideology had stood in for thinking, as shorthand
for actual reasoning. For many people, a highly selective and politicized reading
of the Bible plays the same role.

In my view anyone who hasn’t befriended someone who is gay or has a gay family
member has no basis for voting on a public policy matter that affects gays,
period. It’s much easier to say "gays are bad" (because they have
sex in ways we don’t understand) than to explain a corporate agenda while leaving
out the part about massive campaign contributions and policies that exclusively
benefit the very wealthy. This is why most people regularly vote against their
own economic interests. Culture war strategists mask their family destroying
policies with cynical "pro-family" rhetoric. It’s disgusting.

Gay relationships are not a threat to my heterosexual marriage. The real threats
are conservative republican economic policies on health insurance, retirement,
bankruptcy, education, consumer protection, and the environment. A state with
sky high divorce rates and the largest number of children without health insurance
needs to look elsewhere for the culprit - like to its own leadership.

Liberal Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country. Conservative
Texas has nearly double that rate. In fact most of the red states have much
higher divorce rates than the blue states. And here’s the kicker: born again
Christians have among the highest divorce rates.

I think the biggest sin that many Christians make is to have such confidence
in their understanding of the will of God that they can base specific policy
decisions on it. That is a consumer christianity that is nothing more than a
propaganda tool of conservative politicians.

McJesus wants you to drive a giant SUV and vote Republican, hate gays, and
keep your fucking mouth shut
. And so does Tom Delay and Governor Perry.

The real Jesus said nothing about SUV’s, homosexuality, or republicans.