This Wednesday, a man opened fire in the lobby of the Family Research Council (FRC), shooting a security guard.
I know Barry wrote a nice piece about this earlier this week and many of the pro-LGBT bloggers I read have also condemned the shooting, but I’d like to add my voice to those condemning the shooting. I also wanted to wait until more information was available before I wrote about this incident. I’ve seen several unconfirmed reports noting that the man did so because of the group’s anti-gay or conservative policies. The Christian Science Monitor (a source I generally respect, by the way), describes the shooter as someone who “had volunteered at a community center for gays.”
This shooting is horrifying and deplorable. Full stop.
And, if it was actually motivated by political ideology, I think it is evidence of the toxic, aggressive, and bullying nature of the way LGBT rights are often discussed and “debated” in US society by those on all sides of the issues.
When we call it a “Culture War,” do we expect it to happen without guns?
I don’t, in general, buy into the notion that “both sides are just as bad” when it comes to questions of LGBT equality. But, I do think many voices, especially some prominent voices, demonize, bully, and caricature those who oppose LGBT rights in a way that is dehumanizing.
Look. I get it, I really get that groups like Family Research Council hurt us as LGBT people.
In my very first post at Family Scholars Blog, I advocated for a greater awareness for how our rhetoric and incivility disrespects the human dignity of our political opponents and, ultimately, hurt our cause. Yet, when I have made such pleas, several gay men (and it’s always been men) have ordered me to get off my “high horse” (are men who advocate for civility regularly ordered to do this?) for noting that when we meet hostility with hostility we legitimize its use.
For, I’ve found that stepping out of line and criticizing certain pro-LGBT voices or disagreeing with them has sometimes meant finding myself on the receiving end of hostility that they used to only aim at our mutual “enemies.” I understand the intensity of their anger and the sense of righteousness with which they yield it, but when hostility has been directed at me it has felt scary at times. As though, once a person is put in that little box that’s labeled “enemy,” we become people who’s dignity no longer matters.
I’m not perfect and I never will be. And, I’m not at all letting those opposed to LGBT rights off the hook here. Many folks who oppose same-sex marriage do the exact same thing. And, as a lesbian and a woman, I’ve felt much more fear and disrespect as a result of my interactions with some who oppose LGBT rights than I have in interacting with the supporters of LGBT rights.
In all honesty, I hesitated to even write this post admitting that LGBT people aren’t perfect because I know how such concessions can be used against us. As though, if it’s a lesbian admitting that LGBT people can be mean, it’s some sort of “confessional” that justifies the further mistreatment and vilification of LGBT people as Big Bad Mean Bullies. Another toxic element of these “culture wars” is that it’s difficult to make even the tiniest concession due to our fear about how the “other side” will use it against us.
For instance, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, “about two dozen” LGBT rights groups rejected and condemned the attack. (That number, as of yesterday, is actually 41). I hope that organizations that oppose LGBT rights acknowledge that condemnation.
As of yesterday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has posted 13 updates and pieces of commentary about the shooting, while pushing the message that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is responsible for the shooting due to its labeling of the FRC as a hate group.
This sort of swift, reactionary politicization of the shooting, without appearing to care or understand why the some might see FRC as a hate group, doesn’t help lessen the toxicity of the national conversation. By failing to concede that hate is a real thing that actually exists in the real world not only against opponents of same-sex marriage, but against LGBT people as well, NOM further polarizes this “culture war” and feeds into the cycle of aggression.
My thoughts are with the security guard- Leo Johnson, his family, and all who live in genuine fear of violence because of their political beliefs.
And, I hope those who have prominent platforms to voice their views and rile people up will begin to use them more mindfully, sincerely, and responsibly.