I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Monday, April 02, 2012

Name Calling as Political Debate

I have a story in the latest Intergalactic Medicine Show anthology. If you follow the link, you will find in the customer reviews a one star review titled, "Buy this book to show your support of homophobic bigotry." In the review itself, Card is called vile and hateful, and the review ends with the suggestions that readers might also enjoy "The Adolf Hitler Anthology of Aryan Adventure."

A comment thread then opened beneath this review, where other people call Card and "epic jerk" and "scum," though of course his defenders jump in as well.

Orson Scott Card has become a lightning rod due to articles he's written opposing gay marriage. I've been a fan of Card's political essays for years, and have read most of his arguments against gay marriage. I find that I disagree with nearly all of them.

But, so what? Gay marriage isn't illegal due to Orson Scott Card. It's not even illegal due to George W. Bush or the pope or Clarence Thomas. Homosexual marriage wasn't even a blip on the radar screen of possibilities until about two decades ago. People who oppose gay marriage are standing firmly atop the status quo concept of marriage that has prevailed through most of human history. While I can think of a few cultures where homosexuality wasn't a horrible stigma, I can't think of a single culture where men were openly allowed to marry other men.

I think that there are very good arguments to be made as to why same sex couples should marry. I think society as a whole benefits if we have the legal framework in place to protect homosexual life partners, who work together to purchase property, raise families, and care for one another through sickness, into death. Homosexual couples also seem to have an above average desire to adopt children, and, while I know only a few such couples, those I do know seem to be raising fairly normal children, to the degree that any child can be said to be normal. Finally, the age when gay people would pretend to be straight to protect their families and hide their true identities from thier friends is drawing to a close. The more gay people you discover you're related to, or work with, or friends with, the more you will discover just how ordinary they are, and deserving of a fair shot at the the same happiness straight couples are allowed to pursue.

But, I'm perfectly aware that, in advocating for homosexual marriage, I'm asking the world to accept something new and different. Do I want to redefine marriage? Well, duh, of course. I'm seeking to expand from the long established norm of civilization. Are there risks involved? Quite possibly. One risk is that homosexual couples, so long denied the chance of marriage, will prove exceptionally committed to making their marriages work so as not to give satisfaction to people who say that gay marriage can't work. They could wind up with a divorce rate of, like, 10% while heteros keep rolling along at close to 50%, and embarrass us straight people.

It's a risk I'm willing to take.

So, I'm pro-gay marriage. But, for the life of me, I don't see how calling people bigots, homophobes, and scum advances the same sex cause. Once you start comparing your opponents to Hitler, you've pretty much admitted that you don't understand history, morality, or analogies, and are thus unable to participate in a genuine debate.

The irony is, for all the people pissed off at Orson Scott Card, he's probably done more to advance the concept of homosexual marriage than a million people shouting, "Bigot!" The fact is, in his essays, he spells out his reasoning. He presents his evidence. One might argue that he's dishonest, and searching for a bandaid of logic to slap over his gut-level bias. Who knows? Who cares? The fact is, twenty years ago, nobody was talking about gay marriage. Now, you have prominent conservatives who take the possibility of legally recognized homosexual partnerships seriously, and are thus compelled to take an intellectual stand against it. But, in by the very act of making their arguments, opponents provide a framework that proponents can work with. Anyone who takes the time to write out a long, thoughtful essay on gay marriage is showing a willingness to think about it. Answering their objections, even if you don't change their minds, helps bring clarity to your own arguments, and makes you better prepared to discuss the topic thoughtfully the next time it comes up.

I'll close by saying that, yeah, I know this column singles out people I'll presume to be liberals who are resorting to name calling instead of actual debate. Before anyone brings up Micheal Savage or Rush Limbaugh, yes, yes, yes, I know that the right has plenty of people who engage in name calling. It's a failure across the whole political spectrum, and across a lot of media platforms.

Luckily, I know if you're reading my blog, you're intellectually vibrant enough to avoid such shenanagins. Good job, readers!


Mr. Cavin said...

Yeah! I don't agree with Card about gay marriage, either. Or much else. But I agree with you here. Rank divisiveness is just about the easiest way of closing-off any kind of communication with the very people one should most want to actually influence. But nobody really wants to communicate anyway. These people--your commenter examples, the invective-spewing media characters, politicians--they all compose their talk as a method to rally the like-minded, not to convince anyone to hear anything new.

The best reason to challenge, and hopefully logically dismantle, Mr. Card's ideas about the world (most of them, anyway), isn't really to change his mind, but to demonstrate to the audience that the other side exists. That beneath Card's veneer of ethical motivation there lies only a set of outdated moral commandments. To help get those opponents who are entrenched up on the fence, and pull the fence-sitters off on your own side. Nothing about name calling, bitter accusations, and bad analogies (good one, dude) will accomplish this.

James Maxey said...

I suppose I should be happy that insults pass as political debate in the US. In many parts of the world, bombs and bullets are the primary way to advance an argument. I just feel such a sense of relief when I meet people who can debate topics civilly that I like them no matter what their actual politics.

Loren Eaton said...

I'm glad to see someone isn't name calling in this whole debate. It's refreshing.