Friday, September 11, 2015

The Bigotry Industry and Its Diminishing Returns

Kim Davis and Annie Wilkes. Wait, no. Annie Wilkes and Kim Davis. Or is it...

One of the best things about the social media era is people's ability to identify with groups of like-minded people and take down other individuals and groups they believe to be immoral. We see some piece of shit like Kim Davis (the Kentucky county clerk who refused to process same sex marriage licenses) trying to impose her beliefs on others and deny them their civil rights and we can unite against her.

One of the worst things about the social media era is people's ability to identify with groups of like-minded people and take down other individuals or groups they believe to be immoral. People see a person like Kim Davis standing up for her beliefs in the face of an unjust, immoral government, and they can unite in her defense.

This happens all the time. Some horrible person does something horrible, the internet and the majority of society at large is outraged. We get them fired or jailed. We shut down their business. We make their life miserable for a little while. A few days (sometimes hours) later, a group of people comes to their defense, claiming it is actually their rights being violated.  Davis is being championed by some as a Civil Rights hero, on par with Rosa Parks. Certain Republican presidential candidates have flocked to her side. Mike Huckabee said God came down in the form of Kim Davis

Damn, God, you couldn't choose a more flattering vessel?

As an American, you have a right to be an asshole, but not if it impinges on other people's rights. That's a very basic principle. Your rights and beliefs are no more important than anyone else's. Kim Davis has a right to feel any way she wants about marriage. She can claim she is defending the sanctity of marriage despite being on her 4th marriage. She has a right to be an idiot and voice her opinion. She does not have a right to deny other people's rights. This is not a case of "an unjust law is no law at all" and the fact that someone would think to compare her to Martin Luther King is disgusting. She is upholding the unjust law that we, and the Supreme Court, overturned; the one preventing gay people to get married.  Davis has every right to disagree with it, campaign against it, and protest it, but as a civil servant, it is her duty to follow through with it. Do your job. And don't take a job you know you might object to. If I'm Muslim or Jewish, I'm not going to work on a pig farm. 

That sort of sounds like I'm comparing gay marriage to slaughtering pigs. Not cool, man. Point is, if you feel that strongly about something, don't take a job that will require you to go against your beliefs. 

The reality of this situation is that Kim Davis was happy to become a martyr for her bigoted, misguided cause. She knew she would receive plenty of support. This was her one chance to do something meaningful with her life, even though it was illegal, hateful, and essentially pointless. How else could she make it on tv and come out to Eye of the Tiger and meet presidential candidates and receive thunderous applause from hundreds of people?
This is far from the first time a horrible person has been hailed as a hero. Davis is essentially Pennsatucky in Orange is the New Black, the hillbilly who killed abortion doctors (after having several abortions of her own) and became a hero of the Pro-Life/Anti-Choice crowd.

Anti-Choice Christ.

Memories Pizza in Indiana caused a national outrage when they said they wouldn't cater gay marriages. People bombarded the store with calls, emails, and probably angry letters and tweets or something. We made life so very difficult for their little business. 

So difficult that 29,000 people chipped in and raised damn near a million dollars for their bigoted little business. 

No matter how you feel about Mike Brown and Darren Wilson and Ferguson, it's hard to justify raising over half a million dollars for a guy for killing an 18 year old, particularly when that guy was already in a Union that paid his legal fees and was on paid leave after the incident.

There will always be a diverse array of ideas in the world, including hateful ones. Any activism for one side of a cause gets balanced out or overpowered by the other side. Progress is always met with resistance. Hate is powerful, and hateful people are usually the loudest and most persistent. 

Although it is an unintelligent, backwards way of thinking about the world, bigotry can be clever, too. This new ploy of claiming "religious freedom" is definitely a clever response to the changing social atmosphere, but it should be called out for what it is: an excuse for bigotry. Kim Davis, or Mike Huckabee for that matter, is no Martin Luther King. Or Martin Luther for that matter. Huckabee is trying to score political points and Davis is trying to score a payout from gofundme or a future speaking tour at megachurches all over the country.

So what do those of us with a modicum of empathy and humanity do? Stop calling out bigotry? Every time bigots get called out, some will rush to their defense, yes, but that just lets us know who the other bigots are! Despite great progress, we have a long way to go, and calling out the ones holding us back is the only way we will move forward.

In Kim Davis's case, the group Survivor is threatening to sue for unauthorized use of their song, so maybe this time the asshole won't get her payday. She has become a martyr, though, and that is enough for most of these bigots. They finally feel like they matter.

On a larger scale, though, what it really means is they don't matter anymore. Their bigoted way of looking at the world is becoming less and less common, which is why she became such a big story in the first place. That's actually a sign of progress.

If a few bigots benefit from their outrage inducing hate, we are still better off as a society for calling them out. Even though she has become (the ugliest) poster child for her outdated cause, the people's lives she was interfering with are happier now, and that's all that really matters.

William Smith, Jr. and James Yates after finally getting married in Rowan County, Kentucky, on their 6th attempt.

I Love You All...Class Dismissed. 

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