kellysearsmith (kellysearsmith) wrote,

A Facebook friend (who happens to be a gay man in love and in a committed relationship) and I were celebrating a recent victory for same-sex marriage, when a friend of his (not shared) posted the following comment:

"But who gives a fuck really? You guys wanna be gay? Well be fuckin gay! Who cares! Our country needs to focus on more important shit than your gay marriages"

I have read this kind of argument before across the internet. Why should same-sex marriage, the case goes, be on anyone's agenda when there are so many more immediate issues with which we should be concerned? The economy, gun violence, healthcare, education, you name it. I'd be the first to agree there are other serious issues on the table, but also think that same-sex marriage rights are one of them.

Here's what I wrote in reply to "But who gives a fuck really?"

"I would say that the following are the reasons why, views expressed not just by me but by many wise people over the course of modernity: We usually dismiss the social justice due another only when we have the luxury of justice for ourselves, and when we do that we not only become guilty of a clear moral wrong and violation of a community bond (evolutionary psychology has shown in animal studies that other social animals share a basic, instinctive sense of fairness, and that this sense of fair play helps to create a bond among groups that helps to ensure mutual survival), but we also do so at our own more immediate peril (the breakdown of social order over time, or even more suddenly in moments of crisis).

Democracy has widened the scope of social justice and should, must, continue to do so. Earlier in our recent history, it brought social quality and justice to people like you and me. In the 19th century in Europe, for example, most men couldn't vote, let alone women or people of color. Only men of birth and great property had any political voice, and they used it to their advantage. In those bad old days, people had to subscribe to a state religion in England and elsewhere, or not be permitted to marry, to attend university, etc. Today, many of us have have the privilege to live diversely without legal and sometimes social prejudice on this and other points because the people who came before us, many of whom had privilege, felt that others deserved it too.

So, on this point, Helen Keller: "Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained."

And if that basic argument for social justice doesn't move you, then the desire for a stable and peaceful society may, this from Frederick Douglass: "Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." And to make Douglass's point come home, I say look at Islamic extremism, which rises up from the street but is often led by men of privilege who are outlaws within their own country's system of privilege. Rather than blaming that system, they turn on the West as the scapegoat. That point being that keeping a group of people less than, poorer than, and more ignorant than is a seed that bears ill fruit.

That is why we should give a fuck."

But the cool thing here isn't that I saw wrong thinking and was able to blow my danger whistle loudly in its face. The cool thing is that this commenter was moved to explain he wanted people to be able to live and let live. If same-sex couples want to shack up, they should just do it. They don't need a law for that. Thus flying in the face of the reality that civil rights have had to be protected by law, yes, even in modern, pluralistic democracies, and that the border of what is included and excluded from legal protection is contested for important reasons.

The even better news is that in the end the commenter was also moved to like my post. There may be hope for him yet :).

Tags: civil liberties, civil rights, diversity, inclusion, same sex marriage, social justice, tolerance
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