12 June 2013

Who Hates The Sin But Loves The Sinner?

Zack Ford posed the Question of the Year (or Pride Month, anyway) in his recent Think Progress article.

Actually, he didn't so much pose a question as he juxtaposed two different responses to the same sort of crime.

Back in August, a security guard was shot at the Family Research Council.  Floyd Corkins II has been convicted and will be sentenced in July.  

Of course, nearly everyone who paid attention was outraged.  Among the leaders in condemning the crime a coalition of LGBT organizations, including GLAAD and SAGE.  They strongly condemned the violence and wished a full recovery to the victim.

On the other hand, last month someone claiming to be the Newtown gunman hurled homophobic slurs at Mark Carson and chased him to the Papaya King restaurant on West 8th Street and Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village.  There, the gunman shot Carson point-blank in his face.  At Beth Israel Hospital, Mark Carson was pronounced dead on arrival.

Two weeks ago, I volunteered in the Anti-Violence Project's outreach in front of that very restaurant.  People who live in or frequent the neighborhood seemed shell-shocked; I and my outreach partner were explaining to tourists and others who don't spend a lot of time in the Village that, in some ways, the neighborhood is less safe than others for LGBT people.  Just as hunters go to the swamp or woods or wherever they can expect to find whatever they're hunting, haters--often fueled by volatile combinations of testosterone and alcohol (Trust me, I know of whence I speak!)--go to the Village and Chelse and other places where they know they'll find LGBT people to harass, beat or kill.

All the time my partner and I were handing out flyers and collecting signatures and e-mail addresses, I was bracing myself for someone to make a comment or hurl an object.  I guess nobody "read" me or my partner, a lesbian who readily "passes" as straight, because neither of us encountered any bigotry.  (And, oh, my partner in "crime" is black.)  

I now have a theory as to why we lucked out:  Haters are almost always cowards. And, for better or worse, most aren't as tone-deaf as those who called Newtown residents to enroll members and solicit donations weeks after the mass shooting there.

Instead, the haters expressed themselves through their silence.  Not one conservative organization--including any that claims to be "Christian"--denounced Mark Carson's murder.  At least, they were silent about it until Daily Kos blogger Mark Wooledge produced an image critical of anti-gay movements and it went viral. 

When conservatives finally commented on Carson's killing, they watered down their condemnations, as Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage did,  by saying that it wasn't connected to the debate about "redefining" marriage--which, of course, caused some people to associate the two. He also took pains to say that opponents of same-sex marriage are "equally persecuted."  Or else, in their condemnations, they compared Carson's death to the Newtown tragedy. The only connection between the two is that a gun was used; the motives of the shooters were entirely different.  What happened in Newtown is indeed a tragedy, but it cannot be usefully compared to Carson's death any more than the Holocaust can be compared to the Third Passage.

In other words, the conservative groups who finally condemned the violence did so only to advance their own views about marriage and the family.  Other conservative groups and commentators--that is, the ones who bothered to say anything--were less charitable.  A few even praised the shooter for getting rid of another "abomination".

In contrast, the LGBT groups who condemned the shooting at the Family Research Council made no mention of the group's views--some of which include outright homophobia--and attempts to stop the "redefinition" of marriage.  I'm not here to suggest that LGBT people are better than than the religious (or simply far) right:  Why would I do a thing like that?  

Seriously, I think the difference in responses can be explained this way:  At least some members of LGBT organizations have been the victims of hate crimes, some of them violent.  And, most of us have, at one time or another, experienced discrimination in employment, housing, education or other areas, or have simply experienced bigotry and hatred (as with people who want nothing more to do with us when they learn that we are L, G, B or T).  On the other hand, I think it's pretty safe to say that almost no conservative has been the victim of a hate crime--at least, not a crime motivated by someone's hatred of his or her conservativism.  I also think we can pretty fairly assume that many have never experienced any sort of discrimination against them as a result of their political and social views.  Higher education (at least in certain segments) might be one of the few areas in which being a conservative could hurt their chances of hiring or promotion--and then only if they express their views openly.

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