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[personal profile] flewellyn
So, as just about everybody has probably heard, United States judge Vaughn Walker overturned the bigoted and small-minded Proposition 8 in California, which rebanned same-sex marriage. I need not link to news articles on the subject, I'm quite sure everyone can find them all over the internet.

Nor do I need to announce that the right-wing hate machine is already screaming and crying over the supposed evils of this ruling, denouncing it as "overturning the will of the people" and "legislating from the bench". Of course they did. And of course there was the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth about immoral behavior and blah blah blah biased judge blah blah blah family values and all that crap. I'm not posting to rehash all of that.

One thing I did note about the objections, however, is something I've seen repeatedly from the fundamentalist conservative camp on all kinds of issues of social justice and equality. Look at the tirades that the bigots unleash, and you'll find a common thread: they repeatedly will say something along the lines of "This is not normal!" Or "they're trying to make it seem normal!" Or "You can't pretend that that should be normal!"

Normal. Normal normal normal. It's like a watchword with these people. They cling to it like a security blanket. If something is normal, to them, it's good. And if it's not normal, it must be forced to conform or eliminated.

Now, that's nothing new, I know. It's long since become a cliche among progressives to respond with "What is normal, anyway?"* But, honestly, I don't think that's a useful response. Because honestly? Normal as a concept does exist, and have meaning. Statistically and colloquially, it means the most typical set of behaviors or traits in a population. It's true that everyone is different, but commonalities exist, patterns and trends emerge, and we can indeed see that some things, some ways of being, are more common than others. And people know this.

So, when progressives say "What is normal?" or "There's no such thing as normal!" in retort to these people who so fetishize conformity, it's not really much of a retort.

I think it would be more useful, instead, to say to the people who harp on normality, "Why is normal good? Why is the most common way of being, the right one? Surely you're not suggesting that morality is a matter of majority opinion, are you?" The difference here is, rather than deny the existence of something that clearly exists (the concept of normal), we are instead questioning a connection which is not at all clear.

There is no logical reason to suppose that the typical, and the good, are at all related; in fact, the existence of institutional racism, sexism, classism, religious bigotry, and other hierarchical biases indicate to me that what is normal in society is quite often harmful.

The people I find who harp on normality as a good in itself, I note, are often Christians, or profess to be. At least in this country, that's predominantly the case. In such cases, I might remind them of a short passage from their holy book, namely Exodus 23:2: "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil."

* I usually respond with "It's a small town in central Illinois, next to Bloomington. My sister was born there." While this is irrelevant, it does point out the absurdity.

Date: 2010-08-05 03:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nimbrethil.livejournal.com
Unfortunately I know quite a lot of people who do believe that morality is a matter of majority opinion and that that's the way it should be. They're already answering the question of why is normal good by the claims of how it hurts traditional marriage, etc. And absolutely I think we need to stay away from suggesting that there is a "right" way of being at all. Asking that question just lends credence to the idea that there is a lifestyle that is wrong, and we've played that game long enough.

I think the focus needs to be on attacking the idea of harm, i.e. refuting the lies that homosexuality leads to or can be in any way correlated to pedophilia or bestiality, and of course the absurdity that it will somehow be detrimental to women or "straight" marriages. And of course the notion that it is harmful to the welfare of children. These are the mainstays of the morality argument, and have been dressed up in a veneer of rationality for long enough that even non-theists can fall for them.

Date: 2010-08-05 08:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] valkyriekaren.livejournal.com
I've never got my head around the 'hurts traditional marriage' argument, I have to say. To the point that I can't even begin to twist it around into anything like logic in my head.

Date: 2010-08-05 07:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] darph-bobo.livejournal.com
Largely, I think it's zero-sum people; they're of the view that there can only ever be so much of a thing thus allowing it elsewhere must detract from. The theory works for some things (certain physical goods) but runs off the tracks when it comes to matters such as happiness.

I did once see someone state they opposed same sex marriage because, "I have something they can't have."

This is the hilarious part...

Date: 2010-08-05 11:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vaslittlecrow.livejournal.com
It was a Reagan appointed conservative judge, a known bigot, who made the ruling for reasons other than normalcy. Lack of logical evidence supporting those who oppose gay marriage is what killed Prop 8.


Ironic and appropriate, ain't it.

Date: 2010-08-05 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naivivivian.livejournal.com
I think the most painful whiny comment I heard was a woman on CNN who was complaining about it. She started her tirade saying it was a decision made by a biased judge, and the interveiwer asked her FOUR TIMES why she thought he was biased, and eventually she answered with "I don't know why he's biased but he's obviously biased" which was not what he was asking and she damn well knew it. She came across like she assumed everyone who disagreed with her was therefore "biased". It was funny because after that they made a point of panning out on the studio camera to make clear that while her opposition was in the studio, she was not.

Date: 2010-08-05 04:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucretiasheart.livejournal.com

"Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil."

Amen!! You're my hero, Flew! And I completely agree with your position and have for YEARS-- NORMAL is not the ultimate goal!! Normal does not equal good. Nor does it equal "better than abnormal." It's just what it is-- a higher statistical probability, and has no implicit holy endorcement attached to it.


Date: 2010-08-05 07:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nimbrethil.livejournal.com
Only problem with that is that they would interpret the multitude doing evil as those of us who are pushing for equal marriage rights. They *do* follow that commandment, just not the way we'd prefer.

Date: 2010-08-05 08:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucretiasheart.livejournal.com
Yeah, that's the problem with that tricksey bible-- too many possible interpretations and possible justifications for evil. Which is why I proudly don't follow it.

Born again Heathen!! =^D

Date: 2010-08-05 08:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flewellyn.livejournal.com
They fundamentally misunderstand the nature of evil.

Nothing clever to add, so...

Date: 2010-08-05 05:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] motodraconis.livejournal.com
Moto likes this.

Date: 2010-08-09 01:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whirlwitch.livejournal.com
For Bible verses, there's also Romans 12:2, "and be not conformed to this world". Normalcy and conformity are not seen as positive traits in the Bible, because the Jews were a minority among a bunch of larger nations, and the early Christians were a radical fringe even for that minority.

Date: 2010-08-10 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] happiestsadist.livejournal.com
This post is absolutely wondrous.


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