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Some ruminations on privileged intolerance

It's been interesting to watch the right-wing extremists struggle to manufacture illusions of threatening conspiracies arrayed against them, this past couple of weeks. Most of the claims boil down to hysterical warnings about things "Christians" "will have to live with" as a result of the SCOTUS decision, that are pure fantasy, but still apparently get their following hot and bothered enough to keep the donations rolling in.

But we miss something critical if we're just amused by the antics of "those wacky fundies", something that we ignore at our peril. There is a very real danger lurking under the handwringing hysteria of people like the woman ranting at her phone camera on YouTube, or the couples threatening to divorce in reaction to the existence of same sex marriage. It's funny, and sad, yes, some of these things we have to laugh at because the only alternative is despair, but there's something deeper going on.

This dialogue, if we can even call it that, has never just been about people being opposed to things. It's one thing to be opposed to certain things in your life. If you really, really, really don't want to be married to someone of the same sex, if you're a minister of a church that really, really, really doesn't want to participate in or officiate over same sex marriages, you don't have to, and you never should be forced to. In the same way, if you really, really, really don't want to be married to someone of a different race, if you really, really, really don't want to use contraceptives, if you really, really, really don't want to have an abortion .. you don't have to, and you shouldn't be forced to, these are decisions that impact your life directly and you have the right to choose what best suits your principles. Some of these choices might have consequences (not wanting to use contraceptives might make it difficult to use STD barriers and other things that might protect your health), but those consequences are part of the risk/benefit process, and not something anyone else should dictate to you. You choose the course of your own life.

The dialogue isn't really about that. It's never openly stated that the real discussion is over whether these things exist at all, but that's written between the lines of almost every "conservative" article on the subject. The right wing speaks in code .. it has for decades. The "conservative" faction has been aware on some level for a long time that if it actually says what it means, it will be too obvious what it is agitating for. But the reality behind this ongoing argument, in fact the reason it still is an argument, the reason this beast keeps raising its head, is that they're not really talking about their own choices. They've made their own choices for themselves, they've doubled down and restated their personal choices over and over, they've made it very clear that they're opposed to these things. The reason for that is that the real beef they have is that other people are doing these things, and they want to make them stop. It's not about their own choices at all, it's about controlling the choices and the lives of others around them.

If you aren't convinced, there are too many clues around not to notice. One of the most glaring ones, to me, is the almost universal opposition among the right wing to anti-bullying initiatives in schools. This is something that wouldn't even really make sense otherwise: people as vocally "pro-life" and "pro-child" as "conservative Christian" activists claim to be would seem to be the ones most likely to be on the front lines fighting against bullying in schools. It's clearly damaging in the long term, far more than has been assumed in past years, and it would seem that people who are "pro-child" would be against bullying in schools. The reality is that a significant part (not all, admittedly, but more than most people would be comfortable with) of the bullying is religiously motivated and directed at GLBT kids and those from non-traditional religious backgrounds, in addition to run-of-the-mill racist harassment, and it's not too hard a conclusion to draw from that that many of these parents have kids in school who are very likely to be the thugs doing the bullying in the first place, for reasons they at least tacitly approve of.

Another clue is the disturbing evolution of hard-sell religious proselytizing in the guise of "mental health" services, and the complex and largely unrecognized shadow-economy that allows it to avoid censure by legitimate medical certification organizations. (Trigger warning for this article, it's intense and the author pulls no punches, and it describes some neopentecostal-linked health-care abuses in graphic detail.) The part of this that gives me chills of fear is the knowledge that we aren't that many decades removed from a time when it was considered totally acceptable to throw nonconformists (along with rebellious women and poor in general) into mental hospitals and forget about them, or worse, try to "treat" them (with therapies like ECT and powerful psychotropic meds that all too often created genuine mental health issues) to make them "normal".

The question that struck me this morning is this: In the hypothetical situation that the people agitating against racial minorities and same-sex relationships and just about anything else "unconventional" in this world suddenly had their dream come true, waking up into a world where everyone was white, straight, and Christian .. do you really, honestly, think they'd stop being hateful and violent?

I don't. Not for a moment.

In that world, the parameters of who was "unacceptable" and needed to be punished/shamed/intimidated/coerced/harassed into compliance would simply narrow. With the easy targets gone, they'd simply turn their hate toward the harder ones. In the end, it would be dangerous to be even the slightest bit different from what they approved of, because the hate and the violence are what drive them. They are people looking for excuses to attack and hate and punish. Even the "biblical" principles they claim to follow are simply protective coloration; the reality is their desire to control the world (like they did, for a fair part of the 20th century) and punish anyone they disapprove of. None of them would ever admit that to you. But it's too nakedly obvious in their actions.

And I am glad they lost this round. But I'm not resting for a moment expecting them to simply give up.