equality is not supremacy

The Point: Supremacy ≠ Equality

Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, Saturday, 22 August 2015. Davis spoke at the rally organized by The Family Foundation of Kentucky. The crowd of a few thousand included churchgoers from around the state. Davis has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for denying marriage licenses to gay couples. She says her Christian faith prohibits her from signing licenses for same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Yesterday, Brian Beutler laid out a case for why Kim Davis should face jail for contempt of court; the article for The New Republic recalled:

What was rendered as a call for pluralism, though, was really a counterbid to keep the old formula: when disputes arise between same-sex couples and religious people like ourselves, the state should side with us.

Today, Ms. Davis, the Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, was ordered to jail by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning; Steve Benen reminds, for msnbc:

Just so news consumers are clear, if you hear that Davis was jailed for her opposition to marriage equality, this is incorrect. She was taken into custody because she deliberately, brazenly ignored a court order. Davis was bound, not only to perform her official duties, but also to follow the law. She refused and is now in contempt of court.

This is important. But what neither Beutler nor Benen ever quite cut to―indeed, the larger discourse seems to avoid―is the basic functional reality. And perhaps there is a reason for this, but it comes down to something like we shouldn’t have to spell it out so simply, which is clearly insufficient since this really is the moment, and really is the argument.

Equality is equality. Functionally speaking, what Ms. Davis demands is that her “equality” requires her “superiority” and others’ “inferiority”. In theology, one of the practical limitations of God is inherent contradiction; even the Almighty cannot, by the classic example, fashion a square circle.

By definition, supremacy is not equality.

The functional reality that these Christian conservatives need to deal with is that equality is equality. This has been going on for a long time. As we have considered of Ms. Davis, the underlying device is the same as the library book argument. It’s also the same one we heard about pop music in the 1980s; the one that brought us the little black and white warning labels on heavy metal and rap albums. It is a traditional plea of the privileged, that another’s rights stop at the convenience or inconvenience of the privileged; one’s rights are violated as long as another’s are intact.

This is the functional reality: All Ms. Davis is asking is that her equality allow her supremacy.

So whatever one might say in rejoinder to Mr. Benen’s reminder, Mr. Beutler’s recollection of recent history is accurate:

Back before the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, when it became clear that same-sex marriage would one day be the law of the land in most, if not all states, conservative culture warriors abruptly changed tacks. After organizing for years around the notion that states and the federal government should refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, they decided the time had come for everyone to be accommodating to one another—as if liberals were suddenly making unfair demands.

But liberals were doing no such thing. For generations, when disputes rooted in discrimination against gays and lesbians arose between parties, governments would generally side with discriminators. Liberals were simply demanding that moving forward, the presumption should be turned on its head—beginning with the states themselves, a great many of which refused to recognize same-sex marriages.

Conservatives responded by issuing pleas for mercy, and embraced the concept of pluralism, to wield as a cudgel against gay rights activists. Same-sex marriage might prevail legally and politically, but opponents should not thenceforth be treated like bigots or pariahs or scofflaws.

What was rendered as a call for pluralism, though, was really a counterbid to keep the old formula: when disputes arise between same-sex couples and religious people like ourselves, the state should side with us.

Thus it is worth reminding explicitly: What he is describing is the old formula of supremacism: In order to be equal, Ms. Davis and other Christians should be able to demand and enforce inequality unto others.

Whatever anyone else tells you about freedom and conscience, simply remember that functionally speaking, supremacy and equality simply are not the same, and cannot be reconciled as such. Kim Davis is about to become a martyr and legend; let us always remember why.

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Image note: Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, Saturday, 22 August 2015. Davis spoke at the rally organized by The Family Foundation of Kentucky. The crowd of a few thousand included churchgoers from around the state. Davis has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for denying marriage licenses to gay couples. She says her Christian faith prohibits her from signing licenses for same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Benen, Steve. “Kentucky’s Kim Davis jailed, held in contempt”. msnbc. 3 September 2015.

Beutler, Brian. “Throw Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis in Jail”. The New Republic. 2 September 2015.

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The Politics of Victimhood (Wannabe Wax Wix Mix)

Rick Santorum speaks during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Let us start with Steve Benen, and note that there really is nothing unfamiliar about the situation he describes.

First up from the God Machine this week is an aggressive push from likely Republican presidential candidates to characterize social conservatives as a “victims” of a secular American government.msnbc

If this seems like a cyclical problem, it’s not your imagination. Four years ago, Newt Gingrich delivered one of my favorite quotes of all time, warning that if conservatives “do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America,” his grandchildren might one day live “in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists.” The contradiction was apparently lost on him.

Four years later, it’s Rick Santorum reading from a similar script ....

No, really, this is nothing new. But it is worth noting, because in truth it seems somewhat strange that the point doesn’t come up more.

Whether insurrectionist paranoia or craven, misguided, and exploited self-indictment, we should not be surprised; this is no different than pop arguments about how men are the real victims of rape and sexism, or whites the real victims of racism, this is hardly new. It seems like a perverse Munchausen envy, as if societal majorities become jealous at the attention and care shown their victims.

To the other, what about this isn’t self-evident? Benen makes a good point about contradiction; one needs not even make sense in order to gain support among the evangelical crowd, unless, of course, we accept the supremacist notion that they all look the same. After all, if “atheist” means “non-Christian”, then Gingrich’s complaint about a secular atheist society dominated by radical Islamists suddenly makes sense.

And this is sufficient―or, at least, it should be―to make the point about what it is these would-be victims actually fear.

As to the latest? Benen simply notes Rick Santorum lamenting that, “We have now the secular church that is being imposed on this country and anybody that defects is subject to persecution and prosecution.” We might suggest the spattering sputter from the Pennsylvania Republican is complete excrement and he knows it, but that latter is unclear. While it is observable that these elements are pitching tantrums on behalf of supremacism and bigotry, it is not entirely clear that they remain so possessed of their faculties as to be capable of recognizing the problem.

Remember, any bully losing his privilege will lament lost rights.

Evangelical Christian faith is not inherent victimhood, but these people seem to really, really want to suffer. But here’s the thing about human sympathy toward victims of injustice: That sympathy diminishes when you do it to yourseslf.

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Benen, Steve. “This Week in God, 4.25.15”. msnbc. 25 April 2015.

One of Those Important Things

Ninamori eats a popsicle.  (Detail of FLCL episode 5, 'Brittle Bullet')

So this is how it goes: Ms. Thomas’ right to expression of conscience is at least as protected as the bigots demanding “religious freedom” in order to discriminate. Still, though, look at the outcome. Religious supremacism and the right to bully people? Apparently we need a Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect supremacism as if it was equality. But, hey, being gay? Offensive. The idea of human rights for women? Offensive. These things, apparently, need to be suppressed. You know, as a matter of freedom and equality.

When 8th grader Sophie Thomas got her class picture this year, she was shocked to see that her t-shirt had been photoshopped. The actual shirt has one hand-lettered word on it: ‘Feminist.’ The picture shows her wearing a plain black shirt.

Sophie wasn’t about to take that lying down. She posted a picture on Instagram of herself in the t-shirt, along with this message:

“HELLO EVERYBODY! I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS PICTURE ISN’T GREAT, BUT THERE IS AN ISSUE AT HAND. I WORE A SHIRT WITH THE WORD “FEMINIST” ON IT. OUR SCHOOL TOOK A PICTURE OF OUR GRADE TO HANG UP IN THE SCHOOL. TODAY, I FOUND OUT THEY BLACKED OUT MY SHIRT. I WENT TO OUR PRINCIPAL AND SHE CLAIMED IT WAS “OFFENSIVE” AND SHE “DIDN’T WANT IT IN THE PHOTO”

THIS FRIDAY, APRIL 17TH 2015, IS THE DAY MY PROTEST TAKES PLACE. EVERYONE PARTICIPATING WILL BE WEARING A SHIRT WITH A PHRASE LIKE “I DESERVE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION” OR “FEMINISM ISN’T OFFENSIVE” OR ANYTHING THAT YOU BELIEVE FITS! PLEASE MAKE A SHIRT AND JOIN US AND HELP TAKE CARE OF THIS ISSUE. PLEASE REPOST AND SPREAD EVERYWHERE USING THE HASHTAG #IDESERVEFREEDOMOFEXPRESSION THANK YOU!”

That certainly got people’s attention — not only among students in this little town of Batavia, Ohio, but also in the media- nationally and internationally.

(Montesano)

And as we are wont to say, things only go downhill from there.

But this is what it’s really about. Supremacism is not equality, and we really ought to reject any sort of community standard that would suggest otherwise.

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Image note: Eri Ninamori eats a popsicle. Details of frames from FLCL episode 5, “Brittle Bullet”.

Montesano, Deborah. “8th Grade Feminist Is The Winner In Dispute With Narrow-Minded School Officials”. Addicting Info. 17 April 2015.

Farcical

Detail of promotional image from Ark Encounter.

Some fascinating questions should not be so … er … fascinating. To wit: Can one’s equal rights be violated by the proposition that equality is not supremacy?

Catherine Thompson of Talking Points Memo frames the latest iteration of the question:

The saga that is the construction of Ark Encounter, Kentucky’s proposed “creationist theme park,” plowed on Tuesday as the project’s coordinator vowed to sue the state for discrimination.

Ironically, it was the project’s proprietor, Answers in Genesis, refusing to agree to hiring practices that wouldn’t discriminate on the basis of religion that led Kentucky tourism officials to yank about $18 million worth of crucial tax incentives for Ark Encounter in December.

Answers in Genesis said in a statement Tuesday that the decision to reject its application for the tax incentives “violates federal and state law and amounts to unlawful viewpoint discrimination.”

“Our organization spent many months attempting to reason with state officials so that this lawsuit would not be necessary,” Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham said in the statement. “However, the state was so insistent on treating our religious entity as a second-class citizen that we were simply left with no alternative but to proceed to court. This is the latest example of increasing government hostility towards religion in America, and it’s certainly among the most blatant.”

This is a theme conservatives have echoed for years. The general idea is that by some device, the very concept of equality means that some people must be allowed superiority.

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