Ever read one of those comments and you’re agreeing with it, agreeing with it, and then the writer yanks the rug out from under you?
So I was reading this comment from Jessica, on a NOMblog entry about Dan Savage’s speech that some Christian teenagers walked out of (more on that in a moment). A teacher implied that Savage’s comments were bullying, and Jessica wrote:
Bullying, bullying, bullying,
He bullies she and she bullies he and everyone bullies and get bullied.
Bullying has become politicized. That is, everyone is accusing everyone else of bullying. It is the latest tin word, thoughtlessly shot across to the other side’s ranks.
And I am so in agreement. (Perhaps because I had just read this post, by a Catholic blogger who is furious at Savage for “bullying” but sees no problem with his charming habit of calling gay and lesbian folks “brownshirts.”)
Well, I’ll tell you something, I was really bullied, at school, many years ago…
Again, I’m totally with you, Jessica. I lived your pain. I know where you’re coming from.
…and there only way yo cure it is not to have lectures and diversity meetings and talk, the only way to cure bullying is to hang the bullies from lampposts with a sign around their neck, I am a rotten bully and deserve worse.
Any survivor of bullying can tell you this, if you are willing to listen.
Jessica, please get off my side thanks so much.
Anyhow, about that Dan Savage speech. I’d like to post the video here on FSB, but I can’t; however, you can see a video of the relevant portion of Savage’s speech, plus a transcript, over on my blog.
1) Credit to the videographer: That is a gorgeously framed shot.
2) The thing I found most objectionable, on first listen, was Savage’s use of the term “pansy” — an attack Savage has since apologized for, while standing by the rest of his speech (although admitting that his use of the word “*******” may not have been wise).
3) Is there really a case for calling what Savage did “bullying?” I guess it was rude to use the word “*******” — a common swear word used to be “something that is not true” — when referring to someone’s religion. But the actual content of Savage’s statement is an argument. And I have trouble accepting that disagreeing with (some) Christians is tantamount to bullying Christians.
Although there are many Christians with other, sometimes more sophisticated, anti-gay arguments, you don’t have to talk to opponents of lgbt rights much to see that the “I believe it because it’s what’s in the Bible” comes up a lot. It’s legitimate of Savage to respond to that argument.
4) I can see an argument that Savage was wrong — rude, uncivil, and insensitive — to use the word “*******” three times. Savage isn’t an average man on the street; he’s a professional and seasoned speaker, who was invited to speak to an audience of minors. Under those circumstances, it’s reasonable to hold Savage to higher standards than we’d hold folks to in an average political disagreement in a bar.
5) On the other hand, this wasn’t a school assembly with a captive audience. It was a journalism conference that student journalists chose to attend; and as far as I know, all of the students had the option of simply not attending Savage’s speech. That Savage uses swear words while speaking and writing is hardly a surprise to anyone; and future journalists shouldn’t spontaneously blanch and flee because someone uses the word “*******” three times while making an argument they disagree with.
6) I have some doubt that this was a spontaneous walkout; the walkout starts before Savage ever swears, the students in the video are often smirking, and the video is so very nicely framed. If this was, in fact, a planned protest, that wouldn’t delegitimize the protest, so it’s not an important point.
7) When I was a teenager, I swore constantly, except when I was around grownups. Hearing the word “*******” was not a shocker. Are teenagers now different? Are right-wing Christian teenagers different?
8 ) Although I don’t think Savage’s words were bullying, I can see an argument that they were insensitive. The truth is, Christians in the US are used to having their beliefs treated with a great deal of deference and respect; saying that some of the Bible is “*******” probably isn’t the smartest way to get the point across. Savage’s argument — which I think was legitimate — has been lost, because either out of sincerity or out of opportunism, right-wingers are now shocked (or, perhaps, “shocked! shocked!”) that Savage used cuss words while discussing the Bible. Or that he criticized the Bible at all – it’s hard to tell if people are objecting to his tone or to the argument itself.
9) Although I realize the title of this post could be seen as an invitation for a discussion of Dan Savage generally, I’d rather not go there. Let’s restrict discussion to this one particular incident, please.