Thursday, November 04, 2004

In Defense of Matt H.

Chris, I think, makes some good points, but I think he may be confusing a couple of issues. First, an academic conception of "progress" (which, I agree, is difficult to define) and a normative conception of progress. In the academic law school environment "I believe" has little or no value (in Weistartian terms, a measure of persuasiveness -5). After all, that is not a persuasive argument, so we learn to channel into the language of legal authority (theoretically, as lawyers, adopting the norative ends our clients seek while casting aside our own). In that context, "progress" is meaningless, because the law is ostensibly agnostic about what "direction" society is or should be heading. However, normatively, we all have values of where society is or should be heading. I believe that this nation regressed (or demonstrated that it already had) on Tuesday in that we moved away from what I feel are the normative goals we should seek to achieve. That is a normative argument, not a legal or academic one.

Second, education has several meanings. One is the number of letters after one's name or the number/quality of degrees on ones wall. Another, however, is, again, not academic by social. You can read all you want about "gay people" but if you don't know any, they may seem foreign, strange, and perverse. The same is true for different ethnicities, cultures, and even social classes (ala a certain member of the law school who unabassedly "hates poor people). George W. Bush scores pretty highly on my first definition of "educated" (Yale undergrad and Harvard Business School) but, I submit, extremely low on the second. While I think the first type of education is very important (I think I would be a hypocrite if I said otherwise), lacking the second is often a fatal flaw as the ignorant one is often igorant of his own ignorance, and, in fact, frequently consideres himself an expert on the subject.

Matt H's call, I think (although I do not want to put words in his mouth) was to educate people, not by shouting at them and calling them ignorant, or sending them to school, but to humanize the other side of the issue to people. Be open with your anti-gay-rights that you have gay friends that you care about if they make an anti-gay-rights comment. To the extent that you can, help them understand the concern you feel for your friends because of the pervasive discrimination, official and unoffical, they face daily, just for being who they are or expressing their affection for their significant other. The listener will probably not drop to his knees and beg forgiveness for his evil ways, but maybe he'll be more receptive the next time you two discuss it, or think twice about making a rude comment the next time he sees a gay couple on TV or in person. Baby steps.

If that was what Matt H. had in mind, kudos Matt! Moveon.org had a quote from the Rev. Dr. King yesterday that I feel would fit well here: "The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice."