Monday, September 18, 2006

Vote No!

In about six weeks the good people of the Commonwealth of Virginia will vote on one of those constitutional amendments “to protect the sanctity of marriage.” Well my own marriage feels relatively sanctified … or something, without such language, but it does make me wonder why some folks feel compelled to write such things. As thrice-married Rep. Bob Barr was famously asked when he proposed the federal defense of marriage act some years ago, “which of your marriages are you defending?”

Why is this the current front line on the culture wars? Martin Luther King observed that many “say that war is a consequence of hate, but close scrutiny reveals this sequence: First fear, then hate, then war, and finally deeper hatred.”[1]

Following King, one might suggest an even broader sequence: first fear, then hate, then injustice – and then war or codified bigotry or institutionalized economic injustice.

The fear of terror – certainly grounded in experience – has so easily become a hatred of the Arab-Muslim world fueled by prejudices and willed ignorance that combine to make the path to war all too easy for our nation to follow. And now we can see so clearly the spiraling cycle of deeper hatred.

The fear of gays and lesbians – grounded in ignorance and fueled by bigotry – becomes a hatred that makes the path to constitutional amendments all too easy for our nation to follow. And I do not even want to imagine the spiraling cycle of deeper hatred these politics of fear will engender.

The fear of the outcast, the marginalized, the homeless poor – grounded, perhaps, in our own deep-seated economic fears – becomes a disdain functionally indistinguishable from hatred that blames victims for their plight and makes the choices that lead to greater injustice seem inevitable. And deeper hatred will continue its spiral.

So vote “no” on all of these fear-filled proposals, and strike a blow for fearless hope.

[1] This version of the quote comes from Quotable King, Steve Eubanks, ed. (Nashville: TowleHouse Publishing 2002) 72.

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