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June 02, 2007

Once You Go Liberal, You Never Go Back

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Matt points to a Pew survey showing that the pre-1946 generation now has more liberal views on interracial marriage than either baby boomers or Gen-Xers did twenty years ago.  In other words, the liberalization of attitudes on that issue isn't just a matter of old people with right-wing views passing away, and a more accepting generation replacing them.  It's a matter of time eroding away the prejudices even of the old. 

It's a nice statistic too for those of us who want to see America respect gay people's right to marry.  The psychological roots of the prejudices inspiring the conservative position on both issues are fairly similar, even if antigay prejudice comes with a clearer theological cover story.  If time can wear away one prejudice, it can wear away the other, and I'm always happy to see the two prejudices linked in public discourse.  I'm not usually one to push the "Obama as transformational leader" meme, but if he were interested in doing so, he could make some powerful points in favor of full-fledged gay marriage.  He is, after all, the child of a marriage once forbidden in some places by prejudice, and he could powerfully link the issues together. 

June 2, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Interesting results, not surprising, given the changes I've seen in some individuals' racism over the years. I'm sure you're right that it will go much the same way with same-sex marriage.

I don't know what Obama thinks about it, and don't expect anything too bold during the campaign. But there are a surprising number of blacks who don't take it well when analogies are made between black civil rights and gay rights. I think it's mostly due to prejudice, because there are some fitting parallels.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 2, 2007 4:13:45 PM

You don't have to look much further than gays in the military to realize these things are more liquid than we think. When Don't Ask Don't Tell was made law, a sizeable majority as I remember were against gays in the military, and now not only is a sizeable civilian population for lifting the ban, but a majority of the military is as well. This can't be the result of that many homophobes dying off.

Posted by: akaison | Jun 2, 2007 4:26:55 PM

Re: African Americans having a problem with the comparison

Those who have this problem are a) selfish b) devoid of any understanding of history and c) really letting their homophobia show.


a) The civil rights movement was not about African Americans. We were the by product of the ideas, but that's not what it was about. It was about equality. MLK didn't say I want only blacks to be equal. He said all men.

b)Much of the tactics of the civil rights era were from other movements that preceeded it. MLK borrowed heavily from Ghandi. Would we think it odd if an Indian said to MLK 'hey, I'm offended you are using my tactics. I got a copyright on that process." It sounds just as in bad taste here, or as we like to say in the community, it sounds like the "I got mine" mentality. It also ignores that many of the civil rights leadership of the time were supported by gay men such as Bayard Ruskin- one of the chief architects behind the march of Washington. I could go on with this history, but the point is clear that they aren't being anything near correct in their assertion.

c) Lastly, there is homophobia based loosely on what they think the Bible says on the subject. Of course, they are willing, and here, I am talking about the preacher saying this garbage to overlook the sins of real consequence to the church, but that's another story. I find that white people often let African Americans get away with homophobia because of racism in our society. Meaning, because they feel guilty that racism exists, they excuse the homophobia. This is unacceptable. Two wrongs do not make a right. Most of the arguments made are often along this line "There are racists in society, so anything I say however tenuated from race should be okay because there is racist." I don't accept those kinds of arguments, and nor should anyone else.

If you want to deal with racism- deal with racism. But don't dress one form of hatred up as somehow okay so long as its blacks against gays, which by the way is stupid because there are a lot of black people who are gay.

Posted by: akaison | Jun 2, 2007 4:43:52 PM

I WAS BORN IN 1946. I HAVE NEVER HAD A PROBLEM WITH INTERRACIAL MARRIAGE. I'VE NEVER HAD A PROBLEM WITH GAYS. IF ONE OF MY SONS TURNED OUT TO BE GAY, I WOULD LOVE HIM AS MUCH AS EVER. I AGREE WITH DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL. THERE ARE EXCELLENT, NON-HOMOPHOBIC REASONS FOR THE POLICY IN A MILITARY SETTING. I ALSO WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE THAT MARRIAGE IS ONLY BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN. THE BEST ENVIRONMENT TO RAISE CHILDREN IS IN A HOME WITH A MALE FATHER AND A FEMALE MOTHER. THIS MAY SEEM JUDGEMENTAL, BUT SOME TRUTHS ARE SIMPLY IMMUTABLE.

Posted by: RONDROZ | Jun 2, 2007 5:27:33 PM

Let us hope that the passage of time will also erode some older folks' tendencies to write in all caps.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jun 2, 2007 5:45:57 PM

Apparently being a homophobe means you got to put it all in CAPS. We can read you BETTER if you write like the rest of us.

Posted by: akaison | Jun 2, 2007 5:57:37 PM

Oh, and whether you believe in gay marriage or not- I hope you believe in the Constitution. You know that same DOCUMENT that allowed interacial marriages when folks like you didn't think they were okay- you remember that right?

Posted by: akaison | Jun 2, 2007 5:58:56 PM

SO, NEIL, CAN I ASSUME YOU SUPPORT THE SUBSTANCE OF MY POST EVEN IF THE FORM IRRITATES YOU?

Posted by: RONDROZ | Jun 2, 2007 6:00:58 PM

Bush, this week: `We are a compassionate nation'

Sometimes

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jun 2, 2007 6:16:11 PM

OK,OK--I'll avoid all caps in deference to all you gerontophobics!

Posted by: RONDROZ | Jun 2, 2007 6:18:12 PM

Of course people's attitudes change. They change as a result of personal experience. Take me. I'm a conventional middle-aged man who thought that gay marriage was just silliness until I learned that a young woman I worked with and admired was going to be married in an Espiscopal ceremony - to another woman. That was ten years ago, and it made me rethink things a bit. I decided that perhaps same-sex marriage wasn't as silly as I'd thought. But it took a few more personal experiences with committed gay couples who want to be married, plus the pictures of the hundreds of happy couples being married at City Hall in San Francisco, before I came around to believing that gay marriage wasn't only not silly, it really is a person's right.

Posted by: Bloix | Jun 2, 2007 6:22:27 PM

The Muslims whose cause you espouse (pardon the irony) with so much fervor because they are anti-American will, no doubt, be equally as thrilled as you with concept of gay marriage. Oh wait, they hang gay teenagers from cranes and push walls over gay couples? I guess thats ok--at least they're anti-American--and thats all that really matters, right?

Posted by: John Thompson | Jun 2, 2007 6:33:07 PM

I ALSO WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE THAT MARRIAGE IS ONLY BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN. THE BEST ENVIRONMENT TO RAISE CHILDREN IS IN A HOME WITH A MALE FATHER AND A FEMALE MOTHER.

Because as we all know, you can't get married without having kids, and you can't have kids without getting married.


there are a surprising number of blacks who don't take it well when analogies are made between black civil rights and gay rights.

The analogy is not a great one. Black people were enslaved, then "freed" but still lynched with impunity in many parts of the country, etc. etc. - a denial of fundamental natural rights. Gay people's main complaint is that they can't get married - which sucks, granted, but it's not even in the same ballpark as the way blacks were treated in 1960.

Posted by: Jason | Jun 2, 2007 6:36:03 PM

Gay people's main complaint is that they can't get married - which sucks, granted, but it's not even in the same ballpark as the way blacks were treated in 1960.

And how were gays treated in 1960?

Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 2, 2007 6:42:27 PM

I think children also impact their parent's politics. I know that I had a significant impact on moving my parents to the left, which was largely a question of tapping their hearts, which were always very big, and getting them to view broader public policy questions in that light. The first generation of truly out gay people have had a huge impact on everyone I think -- myself included. When you realize a friend, neighbor, work colleague, or relative is gay and that you like/love/admire them, I think it is very hard to cling to a homophobic world view.

Finally, the homophobia in the African American community is disturbing and real.

Posted by: Klein's tiny left nut | Jun 2, 2007 6:47:01 PM

And how were gays treated in 1960?

Well, better than blacks for the most part, but how is that relevant anyway? Isn't the alleged analogy between the way blacks were treated then and the way gays are treated now?

Gay people do not want to play the "Who is more oppressed?" game. They will lose every time.

Posted by: Jason | Jun 2, 2007 7:03:42 PM

Isn't the alleged analogy between the way blacks were treated then and the way gays are treated now?

No. The gay rights movement has pretty much coincided with the civil rights movement more broadly, if a little later in some respects. Stonewall was in 1969. Same-sex marriage is a current issue (hardly the only one) that is seen as one more hurdle, not as the beginning of gay rights. It's not a matter of who's more oppressed. It's a matter of oppression, prejudice, outmoded institutions and other things the various parts of the civil rights movement have in common.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 2, 2007 7:16:12 PM

It is not really about gay marriage in any event--it is a way of getting society's full, normative acceptance. The percent of gays who get married in some Scandinavian countries is quite low--2-3%. If gay marriage became legal in the US, there would be a flurry of marriages, refecting pent up demand, and then we would reach a norm similar to those other countries.

And Jason, please don't take sentences out of context in an effort to score facile points.

Posted by: RONDROZ | Jun 2, 2007 7:18:48 PM

Like you, K-nut, I think I played some role in moving my father to the left on this issue.

SO, NEIL, CAN I ASSUME YOU SUPPORT THE SUBSTANCE OF MY POST EVEN IF THE FORM IRRITATES YOU?

No.

it is a way of getting society's full, normative acceptance

That's certainly one of the dimensions of the struggle. So much the better for gay marriage.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jun 2, 2007 7:43:14 PM

"THE BEST ENVIRONMENT TO RAISE CHILDREN IS IN A HOME WITH A MALE FATHER AND A FEMALE MOTHER. THIS MAY SEEM JUDGEMENTAL, BUT SOME TRUTHS ARE SIMPLY IMMUTABLE"

Um, errr, but:

1. if it's immutable, why were households in most ancient societies a man with multiple wives?
2. if it's immutable, why were most children (at least in the wealthy classes) in pre-modern Europe raised first by wet nurses and then by governors, tutors, monastery schools or boarding schools with comparatively little interaction with their parents?
3. if it's immutable, how does the modern nuclear family compare with the more traditional multi-generational family with numerous non-related slaves/servants living in the same dwelling?
4. we could even argue that homosexuality was far more common traditionally than it is today. In Renaiisance Florence, 25% of the men had been arrested or cited for making sexual advances at young boys.

Posted by: burritoboy | Jun 2, 2007 8:10:38 PM

There is a big difference between interacial marriage and gay marriage.

I think most blacks are against gay marriage. You would think, given blacks history in this country, that they'd be for gay marriage if it was truly a civil rights issue. But they are not.

By the way, I am pretty sure there are a lot more liberals turned conservative, once they grew up and started thinking, than vice versa.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jun 2, 2007 8:48:49 PM

By the way, I am pretty sure there are a lot more liberals turned conservative, once they grew up and started thinking, than vice versa.

It doesn't really work like that. Rather, with age, the ideas you held that were considered radical left-wing loony become considered mainstream, and you suddenly notice that the young people around you are holding all of these radical lunatic liberal ideas that are just too radical for your mainstream views. Also, your views that used to be "mainstream" when you were young start to appear arch-conservative and reactionary as the years go on, and your surrounding social circle is going to start nudging you leftwards. These things aren't inevitable of course, and the future is not a fast-moving inevitable march towards "progress," but Martin Luther King, Jr.'s take on it was that "The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice," which I think describes the situation pretty well.

The guy who was advocating gay civil unions back in the 80s and early 90s was being really, really transgressive. Now, less so.

Posted by: Constantine | Jun 2, 2007 9:06:46 PM

BURRITOBOY

Responding to your numbered paragraphs:

1. Family structures in ancient societies had one basic commonality, a man or men on the one hand and a woman or women on the other. Monagamy was one of those types. Judeo/Christian societies almost always are monogaomous-but again with a man and a woman. That structure ultimately prevailed as part of western civilization.

2. The wealthy, even today, subcontract aspects of child rearing--and not necessaily to good effect-much of raising children is work. So they subcontract because they can afford to do so. However, the subcontractors must share the same standards/goals as the parents.

3. Multigenerational is probably superior--but again, families today are wealthier, as well as more transient, less agrarian, smaller, etc.

4. And the Spartans had institutional pederasty. But, again, I think most would agree that child/adult sex is not a good thing.

The biggest problem today is that single mom households result in more poverty, less child achievement and more criminal behavior, etc. That's why well educated women marry and try to stay married--and 3 out of 4 do.

Posted by: RONDROZ | Jun 2, 2007 9:20:48 PM

I think there is a difference between evolution of social attitudes on issues like this than pure politcal attitudes across the board. Voting behavior statistics suggest that people don't change a lot after age 25 with respect to party affiliation and general political philosophy. Sometimes there are large events (see the 60s e.g.) that peel off a certain segment from a party's constituency, but there is little evidence to suggest a normal life course in which people become more conservative (or liberal for that matter). And Captain Toke, the idea that "thinking" would make you more conservative is truly laughable. The GOP is virtually the thought free party at this point. You're not even allowed to believe in evolution.

Posted by: Klein's tiny left nut | Jun 2, 2007 9:26:22 PM

It's pretty simple - either you believe all people are equal before the law and in fact or you do not. That is what the civil rights movement was about. Those of you claiming to speak for are deeply offensive and would have been on the same side as the evil that was Wallace and all his ilk.

Posted by: akaison | Jun 2, 2007 9:40:21 PM

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