Being both a logophile and a verbal processor, I am rarely at a loss for words. I don’t claim they are always coherent, and sadly, they are not always printable, but as a rule words are reliably available to me. Yet here I am, speechless and wordless.
And I can’t quite decide whether to laugh, cry or rage as I struggle for words. In case you hadn’t heard, the marital travails of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (R, S.C. and Argentina) stem from the fight for marriage equality. His wife says, “Gay marriage wrecked my family”. Her marriage was “perfect until these laws started passing around the country”.
Then I realize: it’s a joke. Satire, or attempted satire. The not-so-funny thing is, though, thousands of people were fooled. And why is that?
Because it could be true. Because it sounds just enough like the venom the anti-woman, homophobic, anti-family, anti-choice people prolifically spew out that it could be a genuine news story. So, what if it were? What if Mrs. Sanford et al. really did blame the marriage equality movement for their troubles? How would we respond?
Well, first of all, with empathy, of course. After all, I know the feeling: My parents’ marriage was perfect until California passed a recycling bill. Then, kaput. Wait – maybe it was when Congress passed the Hyde Amendment forbidding the government from paying for abortions for low-income women. Well, whichever it was, their relationship just didn’t stand a chance once those laws started passing. I want a refund on my childhood, or at least on what’s bound to be years of counseling. Just bill Nancy Reagan: it must be something Ronnie did, either as Governor of California when I was a kid, or as President.
But no, this story was a joke, not a true attack. This time. Nonetheless, its similarity to the vitriol we hear and read every day should be a reminder that we can’t just absorb it in silence, trying to take the high road. Sometimes THAT’S the road to hell -------- or at least to the failure of our movement.
We simply must stop treating these attacks as irrelevant, and start responding to them as the insidious evil they are. The relentless vilification not only of LGBT persons, but also of the liberal and progressive movements, requires us to begin articulating our moral and family values and engaging in effective communication about them. Because otherwise, once that energy bill passes, who knows what moral decay will occur?