The specks in our eyes

via Huffington PostDid I say Monday? Sorry, I meant Tuesday. Let’s talk about the intro to Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind.

So what did you think?

Haidt sets our scene as a political war zone, torn apart by the hyper-partisan climate in Washington. He echoes Rodney King in asking, “Can we all get along?”

I’ll start off by asking you – Should we?

Haidt talks a lot about our evolutionary tendency towards teams. We use our powers of reason to defend our teams. We overcome our selfish, competitive “primate minds” and use our “hivish overlay” to accomplish great things for our own teammates, or to utterly destroy members of other teams.

LGBT people ought to know a thing or two about teams. Our history has been molded by the communities from which we’ve been excluded, and the strong queer communities we have built as alternatives. Our ‘otherness’ has provided the self-righteous connective tissue for political parties, high school cliques, businesses, sports teams, and of course – religions. These groups grow stronger by rallying against a common enemy and working to eradicate it. And throughout recorded history, LGBTs have been a very common enemy.

Haidt defends religion, calling it “not a virus or a parasite,” but rather “an evolutionary adaptation for binding groups together.”  That can be difficult for LGBTs to accept. Not only have we been rejected from the group, the group has done its best to kill us. Failing that, they’ve worked to shame us to the extent that we kill ourselves. There can be tremendous temptation to use the opposing teams’ tactics. There is a primal urge to attack politicians the way they have attacked us, to destroy religion because of the injuries done to our family. And there can be little doubt that our community grows stronger by engaging in the same kind of us/them, for/against mentality of our antagonists. Look at what Anita Bryant did to unite our community. Or the Mormons behind Prop 8.

The scale is different – LGBTs are generally specks compared to the logs of the conservative and theocratic – but there are enough to go around for everyone’s eyes. Understand, I’m not implying that gangs of queers are prowling the streets, bashing or killing innocent Republicans. LGBT tactics are characteristically non-violent, at least in the physical sense. But our movement has thrived and progressed using the same black/white, us/them, friend/foe dichotomy employed by our ancient adversaries. They’ve set the terms of the game, but we’ve learned how to play it. Our predecessors were more than justified in picking up these tactics. It was a matter of basic survival. Where do we go from there? At this point in the development of our movement, do we reconsider? Or do we double down?

I’m going to open it up to comments now – it isn’t cut and dry, and I’m hoping to hear what you think.  To kick us off, let’s talk about those tactics: think about protests. Stopping traffic and interrupting events. Glitter bombs and pieing. Personal attacks and public shaming. Labeling our opponents, big and small, as bigots. Outings, vendettas, boycotts, and the rest. And let’s talk about strategy – what is most likely to advance our cause? Make us stronger? Help us win equality?

Haidt, like King, asks, “Can we all get along?” I’m asking, “Should we?”


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