Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gay Marriage, Immigrants, and the Borderlands

Two of the most divisive civil rights issues in the USA today are immigrants and GLBT persons. The two groups may seem radically different on the surface, but take another look.

In reality and in metaphor, both GLBT persons and immigrants live in the borderland, a place defined more by not-belonging than anything else. Both are seen as semi-persons when a person is one who takes ownership of full human rights as given, and lives so fully out in the sunshine as to be average, normative, commonplace.
Both, regardless of talent, potential, merit, or contribution, are deliberately fenced out by the dominant culture’s blanket appraisal of difference.
Thomas Sowell, the prominent rightwing African American political economist at Stanford's Hoover Institution, wrote on this election day that bans on gay marriage aren't about persons but rather about behavior.

Jim Gilchrist and the radical anti-immigrant Minutemen say, similarly, that they aren't focused on persons either, but rather on behavior.

In exactly the way that the Minutemen claim not to be racists, Sowell claims not to be heterosexist.

Both arguments are sheer sophistry.

Let's penetrate the fog.

Is it truly pure coincidence, then, that in both cases, their targets just so happen to comprise only one category of people instead of all people?

If the concern is the behavior "gay marriage," as Sowell claims, then isn't it a fact--despite Sowell's obscenely propagandistic hypothetical that two heterosexual men might marry "to make a point"--that only one authentic, reality-based category of persons is targeted? Yes, of course it's a fact. So then, is that fact a pure coincidence? No. The behavior "gay marriage" is intrinsic to the persons involved. It can't be separated from the persons, by definition: Gay marriage can't happen between heterosexuals or it isn't gay.

If the concern is law-breaking, as Gilchrist and the Minutemen claim, law-breaking also includes rape, murder, robbery, kidnapping, battery, child-abandonment, and drunk driving. Therefore, we should expect to see those who are moved to outrage by lawbreaking be equally focused on all crimes. Actually, we should expect to see far greater focus on the most serious crimes, like rape, murder, and kidnapping. Since we don't, we must ask whether it is truly just a coincidence that their focus is only on poor, brown people from south of the border. No, of course not. In this case, although the behavior can be separated from the person--others can and do enter the country illegally--Gilchrist isn't manning the Alaskan border snaring Russians.

Sowell argues that all law targets behavior, and that some behavior ought to be forbidden. That's true. And then he commits his second sophistry, by equating gay marriage with polygamy and pedophilia. In what precise sense can a marriage between two consenting adults be analogous to polygamy or pedophilia? He'd like us to gambol like little lambs after his demagogue's implication, but let's not. The truth is that, by definition, there is no comparison.

Sowell's third sophistry says more about his resolute bigotry than about anything else. He writes:
"Despite heavy television advertising in California for 'gay marriage,' showing blacks being set upon by police dogs during civil right marches, and implying that homosexuals face the same discrimination today, the analogy is completely false.
Blacks had to sit in the back of the bus because they were black. They were doing exactly what white people were doing-- riding a bus. That is what made it racial discrimination."

Really? OK, let's check. Let's make a couple of word changes and see what happens to Sowell's logic:
Homosexuals have to do without marriage because they are homosexuals. They want to do exactly what heterosexuals do--get married. That is what makes it heterosexist discrimination.

In Gilchrist's case and Sowell's, their outrage is in fact focused exclusively on a specific kind of person, making each man's target not behavior after all, but a single category of people, of perceived offenders.

And everyone knows it.

It's sad that both men try to delude us with dishonest argument, but when one of them is an accomplished scholar, it's also a dis-grace--a falling out of that state of grace that is conferred by intellectual integrity and openness of spirit.

The result, in both cases, if sometimes in different ways and degrees, is brutalization of both target and gunner. What's often overlooked, though, is that those who create or sustain injustice, like Sowell and Gilchrist, are often damaged more severely by their bigotry than their targets are. Without in any way minimizing that kind of dire deprivation--I wouldn't dare--it's not all about jobs and economic security: Would you rather be César Chávez or Tom Tancredo? Would you rather be Rosa Parks or Phyllis Shlafly? Would you rather be Harvey Milk or Dan White?

Not just the nation but all of us everywhere urgently need for bigger and better reasons the energy it takes to fence people out for unjust reasons. I believe that that energy was meant for, and is essential for, true, global, planetary, soul-and-body nourishment. When it’s diverted and perverted, everyone is starved. Not just those in the borderlands.


PL said...

I am gay and undocumented and caught/marginalized in this culture war.

Some of my fellow undocumented students are greatly homophobic. Some of my comrades on the streets protesting for LGBT rights to be restored are pretty nativist.

Over the past week I have had emails telling me that I am a "subhuman piece of shit" -- I really cannot differentiate between nativists and homophobes at this point save for the fact that the homophobes say 'FAGGOT' a lot more than the nativists who tend to demean using the phrase 'ILLEGAL ALIEN' ... Insults from both ends are capitalized, otherizing and hateful. The two camps might as well join hands and share tactics.

Thanks for this piece.

PICO said...

You're welcome. Thank you for a thoughtful, piercing comment.

I'm sorry there are people in this country who don't deserve its blessings. We earn them only by sharing them peacefully.

I don't know you, or where you are, or what you're studying, but if you have any doubt--and who wouldn't, under such assaults--I want you to know that you're golden, precious, and uniquely important. There's nobody else like you in the whole world. Your worth is indisputable. If you occasionally need to be reassured of that, print this and tape it to your mirror, but whatever you do, don't doubt your worth--least of all when mean, hateful, stupid people challenge it!

I want people like you in this country, and I want you to be safe and cherished here, and free to achieve your hopes and dreams.

If you haven't found the blogs Citizen Orange or The Sanctuary, please check those sites. They're very, very supportive.

Are you a writer? Have you written about your experiences and your perceptions. I hope you will.

All best wishes,

PL said...

Hey pico!

Thanks for your wonderful world. Yes, I won't let anyone make me question my self-worth anymore. It used to be a problem when I was younger but not anymore.

I am Associate Editor at the Sanctuary and also blog for A Dream Deferred.


Email -

Look I found something priceless for us ...

"One of the pro-Prop. 8 persons was cited for trying to incite a fight," Campa said.

Police said the man was a member of the anti-illegal immigration group San Diego Minutemen, and told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he was one of several people conducting a counter-protest on Sixth Avenue at Ash Street.

Anonymous said...

This is me -;jsessionid=6B54BF567682967756FAB8BACBC9F06A?diaryId=508

MikeFrizzi said...

There is a little known immigration visa called the eb5 green card. With this card immigrants can enter the country if they open a half a million dollar business and create at least 8 jobs. Even immigrants who enter on this, the most positive of notes, are not allowed to enjoy the free life every American deserves, and either marry a gay partner legally in the US, or, through marriage, bring in their same sex partner from their home country. I feel that in a fw years we will look back on the way we treat gays today in the same way we look back at racism, with shame and disgust at our own closed minded and barbaric attitudes.

Green card Visa said...

I actually think that gay people should be allowed the exact same rights, across the board. I think the green card visa by marriage program should immediately be extended to gay immigrants - but only those who reside in states where gay marriage is legal. Equal rights, across the board

PICO said...

Thanks, Green Card Visa.
Why the limitation to only states where gay marriage is legal? That is clearly not "equal rights."