Pyrrhic Politics

By Jeff Laird

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Flowers and actors. Cartoons and China. Donald Trump. All useful examples of a six-word adage that needs to be shouted from the top of our digital-and-literal lungs:

Be careful what you wish for.

For my entire adult life, I've counted among my friends persons who identify as homosexuals. The same is true of many others who staunchly support the modern LGBTQ lobby. I don't approve of that lifestyle, or that moral position. I don't condone hate, either, and those who've discussed the issue with me know that. All the same, my view means some of these people I consider friends don't return the sentiment. That's irrelevant to the point at hand, which — for now — has little to do with sexuality in and of itself.

So, with respect to those who are not friendly to LGBTQ activism, what follows is not meant for you. Not viscerally, anyway. The general idea is universal, and needs to be practiced by everyone. But in the here and now, I'm wholeheartedly appealing specifically to anyone connected to the same-sex and alter-sex community.

Stick with me: this is not a discussion of sexual ethics. Nor is it moral, spiritual, religious, or biblical diatribe. You and I fundamentally disagree in those areas, and we aren't going to agree any time soon. That's not the point I'm trying to make, right now. This is about one thing and one thing only: our shared rights. What I'm advocating is a stance which I feel you can legitimately support. My appeal, given in love, concern, and impassioned urgency, is this:

Be careful what you wish for.

Nobody should be more worried by current trends in American politics than those concerned for the civil rights of LGBTQ people. Why, you may wonder, when it seems every social and legal turn is another victory for the rainbow flag?

Because cannons are only safe when you're standing behind them.

Because mob justice is only "justice" for whoever controls the mob.

Because shredding common sense, civil rights, and plain old logic in order to get your way, today, is a short-sighted and dangerous game.

Sooner or later, the cannons turn around. Eventually, the mob picks a new scapegoat. What's happening now is not an advance of freedom: its watching your own boat burn, and celebrating because you hate the rats on board.

First example: flowers and actors. I had a conversation with a semi-professional thespian some months ago, regarding whether businesses who normally serve homosexuals should be prosecuted for not servicing same-sex ceremonies. In his view, this was discrimination. "Tolerance" was part of the price Christians pay for doing business, he thought.

My response was to ask how he would feel, as an actor, if the government forced him to use his talents in support of something he found reprehensible. In his case, the pro-life movement. Without a hint of irony, he claimed a responsibility — indeed, a right — to ensure his creative expression wasn't used in association with ideas he thought were immoral. He had refused such jobs in the past, and would continue to do so.

Confronted with the logical and moral hypocrisy of that stance, all he could do was twist and dodge. Bakers and florists, he claimed, were "public," his services were not. I pointed out that selling tickets to a multi-night show was the equivalent of a baker putting cookies in the display: the "public" customer takes it or leaves it, no association implied. Making a commercial was the equivalent of a custom wedding cake, or floral arrangements. It's direct use of your expression. If expression's not protected for one artist, it isn't protected for any artists.

Why, I asked, was only his expression worth protecting? Was he so short-sighted? So illogical? Apparently so, since all that really mattered to him was the end result: homosexuality wins, Christian bigots lose. Cut. Print. That's a wrap. The ends justified the means.

Be careful what you wish for.

Second example: cartoons and China. Disney recently threatened to boycott the state of Georgia, if it approved a religious freedom law. The law was criticized even by religious conservatives for being too weak. It specifically said that preachers and churches could not be forced to service same-sex events, or hire employees who disagreed with their religious beliefs. In response, Disney and others menaced the governor with a boycott.

In defiance of his own constituents, the Governor vetoed the bill. While doing so, he actually said — with a straight face — that he wasn't going to bow to "threats" or act on "inflamed emotion." I guess multibillion dollar corporations wielding boycotts don't "threaten," but conscientious objectors are scary. How brave.

Please don't miss the profound nonsense involved: Disney used freedom X to protest a law protecting freedom X. Specifically, Disney exercised its moral and legal right, to decline business, if said business made them feel they were condoning actions or attitudes they felt were order to condemn a law specifically aimed at protecting the right to decline business, if said business made people feel they were condoning actions or attitudes they felt were immoral. That's hypocrisy writ large.

Even better (worse?): this year, Disney will open a new park in China. The same nation which recently passed a law forbidding the depiction of homosexuality on television, since it's a corrupting influence. Someone's moral high horse just threw a shoe.

So we have a Governor, and a multibillion-dollar company, totally unapologetic about rank, gut-busting hypocrisy. Why? They know nobody (per se) really cares. All that matters to the modern American mindset is whether the table is tilted "our" way, or theirs. And as long as the rules are in "our" favor, who cares what damage happens to those on the other side?

Even worse, few realize how cynically shallow these acts of "bravery" are. Think tides can't turn? Alliances can't fail? Ninety-nine percent of the corporations and politicians who wave rainbow flags do it for the same reason other businesses wave crosses: people are suckers, and superficial approval is all they really think about.

Ten years ago, these pro-SSM corporations were on the other side of the fence. So were most politicians — including the leading candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination! So was popular opinion. Disney's reaction isn't merely crocodile tears, it's outright lies. If Disney was that passionate about the plight of the gay community, they'd have put the kibosh on Shanghai Disney the instant China passed that law. If PayPal actually cared about homosexual rights, they'd pull business from places like Saudi Arabia, where homosexuals are actually put to death, instead of absurdly sniping at North Carolina.

Be careful what you wish for.

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Published 4-11-16