Monday, May 15, 2006

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Over on the (newly-redesigned and very slick) Independent Gay Forum, Steve Miller is discussing how, as people age, they tend to become more conservative -- and the impact that might have on the fact that people of the up-and-coming generation are more gay-tolerant than any others.

Steve's controversial postulate is that association of gays with "left-liberalism's big-government, redistributionist social agenda" could potentially turn these young folks against gays. His commentors have generally returned with the "nobody is thinking of welfare or public school", which I do believe is a valid complaint.

However, the gist of Steve's argument is dead-on, in my opinion; namely that what tends to turn people against the idea of anything is when it's imposed on them by fiat.

In our government, the structure is set up as a reaction to a monarchical form of government; through the election process, particularly in the executive and legislative branches, the government is "by the people and for the people". However, what we also have is a branch -- the judiciary -- which by design is meant to hover above the fray and not be directly subject to the whims of the masses. Judges are encouraged to be unknown to the public, to avoid making appearances and statements, and to reject input on their decisions from the general populace. Simply stated, they don't ask your opinion -- they give you theirs, and that's final.

As any manager of employees or projects can tell you, people support that which they help to create and resist that which they do not. Think about how we react at work or at home when we are told to do something or to carry out orders that we feel are completely arbitrary. The natural response is to look for flaws and holes -- or, put differently, reasons not to do something. Worse, these natural responses are usually based, not on the idea itself, but on one's perceptions of it -- which more often than not are not rational and/or factually-based.

Given that knowledge, should it surprise anyone that people would be inclined to distrust and oppose judicial decisions? Would one not expect that people who feel put-upon by the judge's unilateral action, even though they may not oppose it per se, act to limit the judge's power?

My experience with the sodomy law in Texas was very similar. Most people didn't know it existed, and if they did, thought it was kind of dumb, especially since it was so rarely enforced. But the thing they thought was even dumber was the courts telling Texas how to run itself -- exactly what happened in Lawrence v. Texas. What could have been handled directly with a legislative change was instead ramrodded through -- and the backlash left gay rights in even worse shape than before.

What the information portends is that there likely will be a sea change in attitudes towards gays politically over the next one to two decades. It's come about and will continue because thousands of gays throughout the country have been willing to present a view of gays that isn't anything like what "gay activists" (or, ironically, the antigay forces) wanted people to see -- namely, that gays are normal people just like everyone else.

This change isn't because of ACT UP desecrating churches, or gays throwing used condoms, or NGLTF and HRC forking over tens of millions of dollars to the DNC's homophobic leaders and candidates. It isn't because of "gay leaders" making hundreds of thousands of dollars by peddling gays as cannon fodder for unpopular leftist groups. Most importantly, it absolutely isn't because "gay activists" have avoided voters and gone shopping for non-hostile courts to impose their will on a disgruntled public.

Keep doing those, and we'll stay spinning in place.

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