A friend my husband attended law school with posted an article on Facebook this morning. He was lamenting the fact that people from the liberal side of the marriage equality debate did not treat people who disagree with them with respect. He was disappointed that civil discourse seemed impossible.
The article he posted appeared on The Daily Signal and was called, My Exchange with Two New York Times Writers on Marriage Equality and Civility by Ryan T. Anderson. In the article Mr. Anderson opens with this:
Can people respect each other and treat one another civilly even while disagreeing about marriage? No, according to New York Times domestic correspondent Josh Barro. As The Daily Signal reported, on viewpoints that Barro considers “anti-LGBT”, he thinks that “we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.”
The problem is that much of what Barro considers “anti-LGBT” is simply pro-marriage and pro-common-good.
This was my response.
I think what ires people so much on the pro marriage equality side is that no one is asking the people on the other side to give up what they already have but merely to extend to others the benefits and responsibilities that come with marriage. What I think people on the pro traditional marriage side fail to recognize is that in supporting that position they are effectively denying that LGBT persons are equal to them and that their love for and commitment to their spouse is just as valid. I humbly submit that if someone told me that my marriage was somehow less valid than someone else’s and decided to purposely fight against allowing me to enjoy the rights and responsibilities that go along with it that I would not exactly be in the mood to extend to them the respect they “deserve”.
I for one always try to treat those I am debating with dignity and respect and try to disagree agreeably. However, do we think the slaves owe respectful dialog to masters? Do we think interracial couples owe respect to KKK members? Do we think Jews owed respectful dialog to the Nazis? Do we think abused persons owe respectful dialog to their abusers? When an LGBT person is denied the right to be in the hospital with their spouse, when they cannot be buried next to one another at a national cemetery, when they can be fired in many states just for being gay. When they are constantly told by people who fight against their right to marry or to live their lives with the same freedoms, rights and responsibilities of heterosexual americans. I think after a while you get tired of having “respectful” dialog. According to the dictionary respect means:
“a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”
synonyms: esteem, regard, high opinion, admiration, reverence
Although I think treating someone with respect even when you disagree is honorable, asking someone to treat the person who sees them as less human and worthy of fewer rights with esteem is a tall order. What I find interesting is that the very people whose position is one of disrespect are the ones demanding that their position be respected.
It reminds me of this recent article on Formerly Fundie
The article on Formerly Fundie is called, So Listen– It’s Not Religious Discrimination Just Because You Can’t Discriminate. And in the article Benjamin L. Corey states,
“It’s not discrimination when we are prevented from doing the discriminating. It’s not persecution when we are prevented from doing the persecuting. It’s not bullying when we’re told that we can’t bully others.”
I would take that one step further and say in this case, it is ironic that people want LGBT persons and their allies to treat them with respect while debating an issue that on its face is disrespectful to LGBT people. No one on the pro marriage equality side is saying that anyone on the pro traditional marriage side has to change their position, merely that they must afford the same rights to every citizen of the United States. Time after time, courts are ruling in favor of marriage equality. They are doing it because that is what our Constitution demands.
How can you respect my opinion if you believe I am wrong? You can’t. How can I respect your opinion if I believe you are wrong? I can’t. What I can respect is your right to your thoughts and beliefs given to you by the Constitution. When people demand to be respected it is often because they are upset that the other person believes their position to not merit that respect. If you do not think my arguments or opinions have any merit I do not expect you to respect them. If you think I am wrong I expect you to try and convince me. I think what people actually mean when they demand respectful dialog is that they want you to agree that their position carries equal weight. I’ve got news for you. I do not believe all positions are equal. If you’re being honest, you don’t either. I think that is why debates on these topics get so heated. All positions are not equal. Some things are right and some things are wrong. We may disagree about what those are. But one thing is for sure, if we are being truthful, none of us truly respects an argument we believe is oppressive to ourselves or others. That is really what is at stake here. We have two sides who believe their rights are being infringed.
To quote rob bell from part 44 of his What is the Bible series on tumblr,
“…this freedom works both ways. We’re free to affirm truth wherever we find it, and we’re also free to deny that which needs to be denied. If it’s wrong or unjust or twisted, we call it whatever it is. This includes religious things, pastors, and of course things that go on in churches under the name of Jesus.
(Some people are crazy and they make no sense. They don’t help you grow and they spread all kinds of hate and they’re toxic. Don’t listen to them.)
Some things that are labeled Christian aren’t true, and some things that aren’t labeled Christian are true. Some atheists say lots of things that are true, and some Christians are full of shit.”
One last thought, demanding respect (a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements) from someone who adamantly believes you are trying to deny them human rights equal to your own seems a bit brazen.
14 thoughts on “R*E*S*P*E*C*T find out what it means to me.”
Perhaps inadvertently, you misrepresented what Ryan said. He favors equality. He asked, what is marriage? He asked for the principal upon which you might reasonably distinguish marriage from the rest of the range of types of reationship. He was answered with the assertion that marriage is whatever the Government says it is. But that destroys the pro-SSM complaint and destroys the pro-SSM proposed remedy. If that answer is correct, then, the man-woman law cannot be wrong and would not need to be justified. Yet the SSM advocates complain that the man-woman definition is wrong because, they insist, it cannot be justified.
Also, your accusatory blogpost is built on mistaken assumptions. But, if you were to respectfully examine the issue in light of the common sense observation that sometimes the law can get stuff wrong and sometimes it can get stuff right, then, you would begin with the pre-law question, what is marriage? That would mean a reasoned application of explicit principals that would test your proposed answer to that basic and obvious question.
Instead, your brazen refusal to respect Ryan (and his view) is asserted mistakenly and ends-up undermining your own claim to have judged others fairly and undermines your own demand that you (and your view) be judged fairly. We all can do better to dial down the name-calling and to dial up the reasoned content in the discourse. That’s the point of Ryan’s call for mutual respect.
The side arguing for bigotry is inherently disrespectful, no matter how polite they think they’re being. I will not say “Thank you” because they didn’t explicitly call me a “faggot”.
If you respect me, treat me as an equal… and I guess we’re done, since whether I should be treated as an equal was literally the whole debate.
Ms of a Woman quotes Anderson lying, so I daresay he’s not being terribly respectful (and it’s super common among the anti-gays, too–did you know they call themselves “pro-marriage” while arguing against marriage? I know it’s crazy, but they actually do!). And you say he favors equality when… he doesn’t, obviously?
Considering that his position is that I’m inferior to himself and need to be disrespected under the law, his call for mutual respect is hypocritical and disingenuous.
Mutual respect? I’m all for that. Treat me equally and with respect, and I’ll stop arguing with you at all–since that’s all I’m arguing for in the first place.
Exactly what lie? Exactly what right?
And you are mistaken. It is possible to respect an argument with which you’d disagree. You do this by examining that argument and giving it a favorable reading, seeing it in its best light, and testing it with principals of sound reasoning.
It is a mistake to assume that stating your conclusion is an argument in favor of your conclusion. It is a mistake, when assessing another’s argument, to insist on principals, or on rules of argumentation, that you do not hold when your own argument (or in your case your own conclusion) is asessed.
The person can be respected, as you noted, while one disagrees with the person’s argument. If you skip past, or misrepresent, that argument and assume your conclusion and use that assumption as the excuse to be disrespectful of the person, then, you would compound your errors.
And this series of errors is on display among the advocates of SSM on a routine basis. You do not live up to your own stated standards and yet claim to be holding others to those standards.
These are just errors yoiu can correct at anytime. Start with a principaled answer to the basic question, what is marriage?, defend it without recommitting the same errors, improve your reasoning, and take the oportunity to live up to your stated standards. This is what Anderson has invited all sides to do.
I NEVER said anything even remotely resembling suggesting that it’s not “possible to respect an argument with which you’d disagree.”
I said that if the goal of the argument is to ensure that the law still recognizes that I’m inferior to you, you’ve already proven that you don’t. And the “argument” that I’m unworthy of equal treatment is not worthy of respect.
I do not respect your disrespect.
So… that misrepresentation was remarkably disingenuous. I’m clearly being more polite to you that you are to me.
Try to imagine it: You have to spend a portion of your every day defending your right to live in peace–from people who whine that you’re not showing them enough respect.
Would you feel respected? If you didn’t have the same rights as others, would you believe that the people DEMANDING you remain second-class (actually, most of y’all are quite pissed that we attained second class at all) respect you?
You don’t get cookies because you didn’t use the word “faggot.”* If you respected me the “debate” would never have existed, because equal respect is all that’s asked for.
You’re not the opposing team complaining about my poor sportsmanship, you’re a person who’s trying to do me harm who’s whining that I wasn’t polite enough while asking you to stop–it’s not like I even hit you back.
Stating your conclusion as an argument is really y’all’s game. “We can’t change the definition of marriage!”
First of, a thing is defined by what it is. “NO FAGZ” isn’t actually part of the definition. Gay people can use exactly the same definition of marriage as straight people–making a commitment to your relationship and joining together as one to take on life together.
It’s always amusing to see anti-gays trying to come up with a “definition of marriage” after they scream about it. They either say “Marriage is a man and a woman!” (Really? That’s the WHOLE definition? I walked through a room with several women in it an hour ago–I had a lot of marriages!) or say something like what I said with “between a man and a woman” shoved in somewhere. It’s clearly not part of the meaning and you could just… remove it. Or sometimes they forget to staple the “NO FAGZ” part to it and they just say something that clearly applies to all of us equally. Oopsie.
Secondly… Uh, why can’t we change it? The definition of marriage has changed quite a bit over time. Even if we WERE changing it, which we’re not, you’ll have to come up with something better than… well, nothing. No reason given.
Anderson NEVER invited anybody to be respectful. It was all a (quite disrespectful, actually–look at the tone of superiority he uses regarding his opponent!) chance to complain about how the bigots are the REAL victims. He didn’t want gays to respect our attackers; it was an attempt to make us look bad.
He certainly didn’t want you to respect US–that would mean saying that we DO deserve equality under the law after all.
Now here’s a question: Why should I do this at all? Why do I owe you a response, let alone respect for your disrespect?
*Incidentally, the anti-gay bigots who whine about how they’re not getting enough respect for expressing their hatred politely often forget to pretend to be polite. For example, your incredible rudeness and condescension in the midst of a libelous diatribe in which you never actually get around to making an argument for WHY I should except unequal treatment.
Or go ahead to the original article. Read the comments. You’ll see the word “faggot” actually IS there. Can’t even pretend to be polite for five minutes while pretending to complain that y’all’re the polite ones…
No cookie. (And it’s really your loss, because I make a mean cookie.)
1. I agree with you and with Anderson that equal treatment is called for. You don’t disagree wit either of us on this point.
2. I agree with and with Anderson that a think is define by what itnis. You don’t disagree with either of us on this point.
3. You stated your definition in brief and then stated that the definition has changed quite a bit over time.
Could you please reconcile your point 3 with your point 2?
For example, ifmarriage pre-exists its definition (and remember we agree on that), then, do you claim, as a statement of undisputed fact, or perhaps a disputed conjecture, that the core or essence of this type of relationship has not changed and that your definition accurately describes what marriage boilsdown to — its unchanged essence shorn of the variable aspects?
Note the “for example” is offered to facilitate the discussion and not to place words in your mouth. The limited goal is to agree on a common understanding — an accurate representation — of your thinking that produce your stated definition. This goal is to avoid misrepresenation.
Marriage has, for example, referred to polygamy in the past, and to quite unequal relationships. The modern idea of marriage is quite unlike that.
You already know this. Pretending not to know this is an attempt to make yourself look foolish–that fails and demonstrates that you are a liar–so I’m not sure what it’s purpose was.
Your blob of vocabulary doesn’t actually seem to mean anything.
If your goal was to avoid misrepresentation, you would perhaps avoid doing it quite so blatantly as “And you are mistaken. It is possible to respect an argument with which you’d disagree.”
You do NOT agree with me concerning mutual respect. Those are your words, but they are demonstrably false. You are a LIAR. Demonstrably so.
For example, you’re claiming that you want mutual respect in a “debate” about my worth as a human being.
The most favorable reading I can give your “argument” is that you are an utter fool parroting nonsense you’ve heard without thinking about it whatsoever. You’d still have to be extremely malicious, though, since your goal is still to do harm to others.
And frankly, I’m not sure I can buy that favorable reading–I’ve explained that disrespect is not a form of respect and you just ignore it. That’s not foolishness, that’s some kind of strange deception (well, it’s still foolish–who do you think you’re going to deceive? Me? Yourself?).
I suggested you try empathy. Consider what it must be like to be one of your victims. Consider whether you want to be treated the same way you treat the least of these people.
I’m going to guess you didn’t do it.
Which begs the questions: First of all, why do you think I owe you this defense of my right to exist? I asked that before, and you didn’t answer. And secondly… if you ignore everything I say, what is even the point even if I did owe it to you?
I listed points of agreement and sought our common understanding of your view. That good faith effort serves to demonstrate that I have not ignored — and choose not to ignore — what you have to say.
You said: “First of all, why do you think I owe you this defense of my right to exist? I asked that before, and you didn’t answer. And secondly… if you ignore everything I say, what is even the point even if I did owe it to you?”
You have the right to exist, of course. See the points of agreement. We can add this clarification as 1b, if you wish. And also add 1c, we each have the right to respect as a person. The more we explore, the more we learn there is more common ground.
You said: “Consider whether you want to be treated the same way you treat the least of these people.”
See the agreement on equal treatment, including 1b and 1c.
You said: “[Y]ou’re claiming that you want mutual respect in a “debate” about my worth as a human being.”
We agree on the points I listed and that surely demonstrates respect for you as a human being. You need not defend what we already agree on.
You said: “The modern idea of marriage is quite unlike [polygamy]. You already know this. Pretending not to know this is an attempt to make yourself look foolish–that fails and demonstrates that you are a liar–so I’m not sure what it’s purpose was.”
Polygamous practice entails a series of man-woman relationships. So your example does not show that the man-woman basis of marriage is a variable but rather that it is a constant between polygamous practice and monogamous practice.
I’ll add another potential sub-point of agreement as item 2b, there are variable features even as there are constant features across the anthropological and historical records. Nonetheless, marriage is a thing defined by what it is rather than the other way around.
We can assess the treatment of marriage in law and in culture based on what marriage is. This is how we can reason to a conclusion that the law (or the culture) has it right or has it wrong. If, instead, you insist the law is always right, then, you remove the basis for challenging the law as somehow being wrong. The law does not decide the matter, not for those who have challenged the man-woman requirement, so you really do need to go back to what marriage is and then assess if the law is close to that or too far from that.
Focusing in the substance of the actual disagreement usually means mapping out the areas of agreement and then, perhaps, trying to reach agreement on what the disagreement is all about. That means achieving agreement, as best we can, on a common understanding of each other’s thinking.
It may mean we agree to disagree, in the end, but first we need to have accurately represented each other’s view and, thus, the actual disagreement. Otherwise agreeing to disagree would be premature. In the meantime, you might discover that I am not the monster you have accused me of being. Maybe you feel that is too big of a risk — challenging your accusations and being found mistaken. I dunno.
Still no answer to why I should have to debate my own rights, I see. Nor any justification for why they should be denied in the first place.
No surprise. Inability to answer that is why y’all’ve switched to “Gays are meany-heads! =(” instead of actually debating the topic.
You say that you respect me. You demonstrate that you do not.
Imagine if I punched you in the face while screaming “I’m not punching you in the face!”
Does the fact that I said it alter reality so that it is so? No, I have still punched you in the face. I am a face-puncher; saying I am not only means that I am also a liar.
Reality does not change because you have denied its existence. And pretty much every word you write is disingenuous–and you STILL don’t actually respond to a word I said.
If you actually agreed with your stated points of agreement, you’d be arguing FOR equality… and yet you’re not. Gosh, it was just SO hard to spot the lie there.
Incidentally, I already mocked the stupidity of treating “A man and a women!” as the entire “definition of marriage.”
You want me to be treated unequally under the law. This is a violation of the Constitutional principal of equal treatment.
You want to impose your religion’s rules on me. This is a violation of the Constitutional principal of the freedom of religion (yes, this remains true even though certain conservatives love to scream the words “Freedom of Religion!”–they do have actual meaning beyond that).
Your “religious principal” is that I am inherently inferior to yourself and need to be treated as such; this isn’t much of a religious principal as it has nothing to do with YOUR OWN principals, but more to the point it is also a violation of the moral principal of treating others as you wish to be treated (something I said and you evaded).
It’s perfectly easy to map the actual disagreement when “debating” with anti-gays (and I’ve done it several times already), but much more difficult to get them to accept the map because dishonesty and disingenuous verbiage are so very par for the course. My thinking is easy enough to ascertain: I think every person is a person, and should be treated as such. Yours is… you don’t really say. You shout “I agree with that!” concerning the only point of debate. But if you agreed… what are we debating? The thing is? We both know what it actually is. And we both know that the other knows. (That’s not respectful, btw.)
You don’t want to say it because you think it makes you look bad. And it does make you look bad–it looks like what it is.
Let’s see, challenging my accusations… Okay, I think you want to deny equal human rights (that you take for granted) to a minority population because… you want to deny equal human rights (that you take for granted) to a minority population. Hmm. Looks like my accusation ran straight into the definition; my “accusation” is no more an accusation than accusing water of being wet. I’ve responded to your own words–a respect you’ve not paid me. I comment only on your own demonstrated behavior. You’ve only accused me of being impolite while debating my worth–and you’ve really got to come up with something that PREDATES the “debate” about my inherent worth so that you can justify it in the first place.
Now what about you: Care to challenge your own accusations? Because I already suggested you consider what it’s like to be one of your own victims, and you evaded it.
And you pretended it was your own idea, like I’d forget. Why is that kind of thing so common among your ilk, anyway?
You said: “I already suggested you consider what it’s like to be one of your own victims, and you evaded it.”
You feel victimized by the disageement on what marriage is. However, if I am correct about what marriage is, and you are mistaken, then, you really are not a victim — not of me nor of anybody. If, I am incorrect about what marriage is, and you are correct, then, equality would mean treating the one-sexed type of relationship that you have in mind as the same as the union of husband and wife.
Examine the points of agreement. There is yet a bigger agreement toward which a fair discussion might build.
For now, consider that there might be more agreement already: based on the type of relationship you have in mind (the thing that defines that type of relationship) we probably do agree that equal treatment across the board is the right conclusion.
Of course, you might also anticipate, as do I, that we’d disagree on what marriage is and on what the type of relationship you have in mind is. Before you rush to accuse, I don’t mean this in a disparaging way because respect does mean, I think, seeing each thing — marriage and what you have in mind — as it is and treating each for what it is, accordingly. I don’t think the two are the same thing, mind, and so treating one as if it was the other would not be respectful. You might not agree — and that’s probably a key to the discussion and your feeling victimized. But reasonable people can and do disagree on stuff like this all the time. Perhaps this issue is too over-heated in the public square but I am trying, sincerely, to take a less-heated approach here with you. I do feel we are both capable of this.
You said: “Still no answer to why I should have to debate my own rights, I see. Nor any justification for why they should be denied in the first place.”
The issue is not your right to marry because I agree you can marry if you choose to do so. We do agree that equal treatment is due.
While we agree that “marriage is a thing defined by what it is” — your words by the way — you and I are at odds as to what that thing is.
That is where the dispute is located.
Do you have a right to exist? Yes. Do you have a right to equal treatment? Yes. Are you due respect? Yes, as a human being or person.
On those points we agree, surely, even while we’d disagree on what marriage is. Yet you are complaining that you do not believe me because … we disagree on what marriage is.
Equal treatment forbids treating people differently — arbitrarily. Equal treatment forbids treating people the same — arbitrarily. You grasp this, I think, because you asked me to justify my view and my support for marriage as the union of husband and wife. I am merely patiently establishing areas of agreement to which we can hold each other accountable. I think you do grasp this, as well. I give you more credit than you’d give me.
Your certitude is on display. Good. That might mean you have a very good justification for your proposed definition of marriage based on the thing that marriage is.
The definition comes from what marriage is, we agree. Marriage is not defined by whatever whim comes upon you, Anderson, or me. Marriage has a reality that is independent of the law. We know this because you and I (and Anderson) agree that to assess the justness of marriage law one needs to identify the thing that is defined by what it is. We cannot arbitrarily state a definition, right? It must be justified, right? Do you agree on these basic points from which discussion follows?
I hope so. In other words, I hope that you can agree that sometimes the law gets marriage wrong and sometimes it gets marriage right. Given your insistence that the man-woman requirement of marriage law is wrong and that enacting SSM is right, you have demonstrated that you understand what have said on this point. So, yes, I hope you will acknowledge agreement on this point.
Inexplicably, you feel I do not respect you even as I have affirmed the basic points you thought I had opposed. And even as I have sought further points of agreement that we can affirm together. My respect for your argument — or at least the potential that your certitude is born of a good argument in favor of your view — is demonstrated by approaching this issue by working toward eachof us presenting our argument based on our points of agreement.
You said: “But if you agreed… what are we debating? The thing is? We both know what it actually is. And we both know that the other knows.”
First, you have misreprented my view — probably inadvertently and not out of malice toward me — on basic points of agreement. You give the opposite impression, frankly, with your rhetoric and yet I do think you are well-intentioned rather than intentionally hurtful.
Instead of assuming me a liar, try to hold me accountable to those points of agreement. And, at the same time, welcome being held held you accountable by others on those points. You raised those points as very big concerns of yours. Agreement is a boon and not a loss, surely.
This is how people might reason together over other issues at least as contentious and emotional as this issue of what marriage is. Do you propose a better approach — other than me agreeing with your conclusion because your conclusion is your conclusion and I should follow you around that circlular path? So far, no, you haven’t but you do hint that the maybe be more substance to your view and thinking on these things.
You said: “I think you want to deny equal human rights (that you take for granted) to a minority population because… you want to deny equal human rights (that you take for granted) to a minority population.
1. I do not take the right to marry for granted as is evident by my seeking to examine your view and your thinking on what marriage is — the thing that defines marriage — so as to assess to what you claim a right. The word, marriage, is not something that you, Anderson, nor I can claim as a label to slap on anything we arbitrarily choose. It is aptly aplied to the thing — as you clearly put it — from which a definition comes. The thing is first, the definition follows, the law follows.
2. I want to affirm equality across the board. Minority or majority, that is not the measure of what makes marriage, marriage. Perhaps that is yet another point of agreement.
3. That sentence I just quoted, which you claim to be a slamdunk, is circular. And it does not permit you to be held to your own point about equal treatment and the rest. It just gives you a free pass to plant your foot and pivot in a circle. I do think you would do much better than that, given your certitude.
You said: “You’ve only accused me of being impolite while debating my worth–and you’ve really got to come up with something that PREDATES the “debate” about my inherent worth so that you can justify it in the first place.”
I affirm your inherent worth as a human being or person, as noted already.
And, as your own comments have strongly suggested, you understand that the thing that defines marriage pre-dates, at least conceptually if not chronologically, any discussion about your inherent worth.
So can we proceed to discuss the thing that marriage is and from which a definition might be justly drawn?
Apologies for the typos.
Correction: “2… a thing is defined by what it is.”
Also: “or perhaps as disputed conjecture”.
I’m going to require a better apology.
I have not said you have been impolite. Showing respect goes much deeper than surface politeness or agreeing to go along just to get along. You probably understand that much, too, even before I stated it now in response to your comment. So I am stating the obvious, I think, that jumps out of your comments here. That said, there is something to be said in favor of at least starting with superficially good form and working optimistically toward deeper mutual respect.