Almost every day on Twitter, I see people getting into arguments about LGBT issues. Most of the time, I see these arguments because I follow a lot of LGBT activists who tweet a lot of support and positive messages. These people then get harassed by trolls, and I’m pretty likely to stumble across the argument. It usually ends with me silently blocking the troll and going about my business, because I don’t want to get involved in the argument itself.
Sometimes, however, I read certain trending hashtags, like tonight’s #SCOTUSMarriage tweets. I scrolled through those tweets for awhile, favoriting and retweeting some of the tweets with uplifting and celebratory messages, and blocking anyone who had anything bad to say about marriage equality. Though while I was on my blocking tirade, even though I didn’t engage any of the trolls, I noticed a couple of patterns.
Probably 90% of the people I blocked tonight had either an American flag in their avatar or Twitter banner, or something in their bio that declared them as Christian, Conservative, or a “Patriot.” And it got me thinking about group mindsets, the way they foster negative attitudes under the guise of morals, and how those attitudes are still a source for a lot of very real danger and discrimination against a lot of people.
I’ve written before about how organizations can “normalize” certain immoral behavior, making it seem as if it’s perfectly acceptable. One point I made was that “When a group disguises discrimination behind their “ideals” and their “mission,” it makes it far too easy to convince people that this sort of thing is “normal.”” In other words, if a group, such as a church or political party, claims that they’re following a mission to bring God’s morals to America or to protect the nation from destructive influences, they can end up doing a great deal of harm while hiding behind those missions. People will continue to support these groups because the mission sounds like such a good cause.
Think about it. If someone asked you if you would support a movement to help make the country a better, more moral place, you’d say yes, right? If someone asked you if you would want to protect our nation and its people from harmful influences, you’d also say yes. Words like “protect” and “moral” and “our nation” are meant to stir up all of these unifying, patriotic feelings. They give people a sense that they’re in the right, that they’re pursuing a good, justifiable course of actions.
Except that the alleged “threats” that are supposedly “harming” our nation and its people are really nothing more than different ideas, diverse viewpoints, and much-needed changes to our laws and government. Someone who looks at an issue like the fight for marriage equality, and does so from a neutral standpoint, using critical thinking and careful analysis, should certainly see that the SCOTUS decision is the morally right one. People deserve equal rights to marry whoever they want to, and those rights are protected under the 14th Amendment. The ruling simply confirms this under the law.
And any time I see someone fighting against marriage equality, they always claim to be defending something that isn’t actually being harmed. Some Christians claim the ruling is a violation of their religious rights, even though it has no impact on them or their lives. Some Conservatives claim this will harm the integrity of the nation, though they don’t have any evidence whatsoever to support the idea of this supposed “harm.” But because these people see themselves as defending something that is important to them, they will never listen to reason. They don’t think of themselves as bigots, or homophobes, or people who are attacking the rights of others. They think of themselves as good, moral people who are defending their point of view.
And that’s really sad. Because no one should confuse defending themselves with attacking someone else. It seems like a lot of these people could become the good, moral people they are trying to be, if they just opened their eyes and understood that their actions are harming others.
It’s like a parent who punishes their child for rebellion by enforcing stricter and stricter rules. The parent may think they’re doing what’s right, by trying to protect their child from harm. But as a result, they don’t see the harm they’re doing by taking away a human being’s freedom for self-determination. Even more so if the “harm” is completely imagined, such as if a parent wants their child to go to college, but the child wants the freedom of becoming an artist and traveling the world. In their focus on the things they think of as important–financial stability, a career, and an academic education–the parent isn’t seeing the things that their child finds important–creativity, diverse experiences, and personal growth.
And the thing is, those closed-minded ideas are still out there. The ruling in favor of marriage equality is a great step forward, but there’s a lot of issues that still need to be tackled. Things like more diversity in books, movies, and other media. Violence against racial minorities and people from nonbinary genders and orientations. Discrimination and judgment against people who don’t fit the norm that most of society expects.
The Supreme Court may have given everyone the right to marry, but there are still a lot of places where transgender individuals don’t have the right to use a public restroom. And there’s still a lot of people who have to hide who they are, for fear of being attacked by “good moral Christians” and “proud patriotic Americans” who see anything outside of their binary, heteronormative world as a threat to their lifestyles.
And I don’t know what to do about that.
And it scares me.
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