[Rant] We are allowed to be angry

I’ve been reading about Americans for Truth About Homosexuality(“a group that spreads lies about homosexuality” to quote Hemant Mehta) and their “Truth Seminar” in which they preach blatant lies and falsehoods to people who already agree with them.

The previously mentioned Hemant Mehta, or the Friendly Athiest, put up a post about how he’d pay the registration fee for folks to attend the seminar and write about what was spoken of there. Two people attended and wrote up what happened, covered in the reports here:

Day One
Day Two
Day Three

While AFTAH was holding their seminar inside, there was a protest being staged outside by several gay activist groups. The report from their perspective can be read here.

Now that I’ve covered all my link bases…

So, the actual reports of what happened inside are pretty much what you’d expect. God hates fags, so we should hate fags. Well, God LOVES fags, but hates them too, and we should…love…to hate them. Into being straight. Yeah. And gay relationships are all abusive! And they all have HIV. And…and…children! Won’t someone think of the children? Gays want to take over our country, you know. It’s unclear what their objective is once they take over the country, but they still want to. Marxism. No, shut up, it’s totally related. Transgenderism = hilarious! And Christians who support gay people aren’t Christian enough. Hardcore!

It’s all nothing new.

So I will pass on talking about AFTAH itself, and rather, talk about our supposed supporters.

First off, let me say that I appreciate what the two covert atheists did by going in to take notes. They sat through a lot more bullshit than I would have been able to. And I’m thankful that they gave their reports of what went on.

But there was a lot of stuff written into those reports that I had problems with, and wanted to bring up and discuss. I don’t blame the writers for feeling the way they did, but there were a few things that I see come up all too often in discussions about social issues — primarily issues in which one social group or another(or an intersection of social groups) is being oppressed. By allowing these things to pass unmarked, we allow these misconceptions to grow and multiply.

The issue of which I speak is often referred to on the internet as “concern trolling”. It is when an individual or a group tells someone that “their argument would be more convincing if they weren’t so angry about it all the time”. The idea is that people are more receptive to hearing about viewpoints that conflict with their own if the speaker is moderate and calm.

And…this is true.

When I’m trying to convince someone that what I’m saying is correct, I try to stay calm and collected and state my facts in a coherent manner.

The fallacy comes in when the concern-troll makes the assumption that all people want to be convincing at all times. I don’t always want to argue calmly and collectedly with people. Especially not when they’re people like Peter LaBarbera, who’s never going to be convinced with petty facts that he’s incorrect. He’s convinced himself that gays are wrong and bad and immoral, and he looks for biased studies done by Christian Universities or Conservative Groups to back his belief up. No amount of calm is going to change his mind.

And, to be honest, I don’t particularly think he deserves calm. There’s this idea that bigots deserve our time and attention, and that they’ll all come around eventually. Not only is it not true that they’ll all eventually come around(some folks will, in fact, take their hate with them to the grave), but I think it’s particularly galling to tell an oppressed group that they’re no allowed to be mad.

When someone says that gay people were all molested as kids, I’m not allowed to be mad.

When someone says that we’re all infected with HIV and maliciously want to spread it because we’re devoid of “God’s love”, I’m not allowed to be mad.

When someone holds a seminar, a god damned seminar, in order to teach bigotry and hatred of gay men and women, and even gay kids, I’m not allowed to be mad.

Oh, well, I’m allowed to be mad, I’m just not allowed to express it. The onus is on me and mine to suppress our anger and speak to these people as if they’re deserving of our time and patience. I don’t think concern trolls understand that they are further oppressing an already oppressed group. Not only are they not helping, they are actively telling people that they’re not allowed to speak, or, if they’re allowed to speak, they’re not allowed to express how they feel. Newsflash: That is oppression.

Now, I respect people that do manage to keep their cool and talk rationally. I applaud them and their attempts to speak to people who hold such blatantly oppressive views, but just because some people are capable of that, and want to do that, doesn’t mean that all gay people have to shut up and sit down.

And make no mistake — that is what is being asked of us when we’re told that we’re “not being helpful” and that we’re “too angry”. People are telling us we aren’t allowed to raise our own children! We have a right to be angry! Responding to someone like that with “Well, that’s how you feel” legitimizes their views. Instead of firmly and rightfully calling that hate speech, it says “Oh, well, it’s just a difference of opinion.”

Speaking of, this is a quote from someone who was at the protest against the AFTAH. To reiterate, this someone who is on our side:

When I asked him what he’d say to the kids, he said he’d tell them to study all sides and come to their own conclusion. “I would not insist that they see my own way of thinking or believing, I don’t think that’s right, but I think the important thing is that they do their own research.”

On the outside, it’s hard not to agree with him. I mean, after all, asking people to do their own research and come to their own conclusions is a good thing, right? But this neither-here-nor-there statement does something else: it says that the opposition is of a fair and reasonably minded perspective. These are just differing opinions, right? It’s not like this is a situation where one group is being openly oppressed by the other, all while our friends and allies tell people to “make up their own mind” about what is or isn’t oppression.

To be absolutely clear here: I do not believe that people should be forced into thinking anything. AFTAH has the right to have their ignorant views and even preach those ignorant views. But they are ignorant views, and telling me that I can’t call them on that is pretty ballsy. To make an analogy, America allows for the existence of hate groups like the KKK, and, indeed, supports their right to free speech, so long as it doesn’t encourage active violence. I believe that America is right for allowing that free speech. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop calling the KKK a horrendous hate group that spreads fear and lies and it doesn’t mean that I think I should stand back and “let people do the research and make up their own minds” on the KKK if someone asks me what my opinion of them is. If my nephews ask me what the KKK is, I will not mince words about what horrible people they are.

This wishy-washy mindset allows hate groups to maintain their power, because the people who oppose them think that they’re being “mean” if they criticize those groups. People need to stop dancing around the issue. Call a hate group a hate group. Firmly denounce them as unacceptable(please note that unacceptable and illegal are two different things). The more that people do this, the more it becomes clear that the majority of Americans do not accept hate as a value, and they don’t have room for it in their daily lives or culture.

But most of all, if you can’t do this, if you’re unable to take a firm stand on this issue, please do not tell an oppressed group that they’re not allowed to be angry, or that their anger isn’t “helpful”.

I’m not angry to help you.

I’m angry because because I’m being denied my fundamental rights.

Crossposted to Chick Flicks.

August 12, 2010 · Beau · No Comments
Posted in: Queer Issues, Rant

Leave a Reply