Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Double Standard for a Latina

I just read this article in today's New York Times: "Sotomayer Says Identify Won't Distort Her Positions."

"Judge Sonia Sotomayor insisted on Tuesday, in the face of sometimes skeptical questioning from Republicans, that she would never allow her background or life experiences to determine the outcome of a case if she were elevated to the Supreme Court."

Two questions and an observation:

1. Has a white man ever been asked if he would allow his background to determine the outcome of a case?

2. Is it even conceivable that a white man would be asked if he would allow his background to determine the outcome of a case?

3. Worse: a white man has claimed that his background affected and would continue to affect his decisions. That man was Justice Sam Alito, who said during his confirmation hearings:

"But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, 'You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country...'

"When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account."

(Hat Tip Glenn Greenwald)

Imagine those words coming out of Sonia Sotomayer's mouth. Imagine the Republican furor.

So when a white man says his background will affect his decision making as a Justic, that's an asset for Republicans. A Latina, on the other hand, is forced to disclaim such a possibility.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Willful Stupidity of Anti-Gay Prejudice

This post began as a response to a series of comments on my FaceBook page, where I posted a video of Rachel Maddow interviewing Rep. Patrick Murphy, an 82nd Airborne Iraq war veteran, winner of the Bronze Star, and Congress's point man for the repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy. You can find the full text of those comments here, and a similar exchange with a woman who conflated gays and child molesters, here.

After writing my response to the anti-gay commenters, I realized what I'd written would serve well as its own post. Here it is.

You know why these discussions can be so sterile? Because the people who talk the most and listen the least are the ones with the most nonsensical, ill-considered opinions. I guess this makes sense, in a way. After all, if you know deep down that your opinion will be exposed as nothing but ignorant, empty prejudice in the face of evidence, logic, argument, and even common sense, your best strategy will be to ignore such things any time you encounter them in favor of throwing up an unending stream of thoughtless bullshit.

So, Brentt and Colin, you ignored my request to substitute the word "blacks" for the word "gays." Here, let me do it for you in your own comments:

"It all comes down to following orders. If you can't abide by having to serve in an all-black unit and not being able to serve with whites, then you deserve whatever comes your way, and it makes me happy to see it... Just because you're black doesn't mean you get special treatment so grow up, man up and follow the rules... All I am saying is that in order to maintain professionalism in an all volunteer military, you volunteer once, and then do what you're told to do after that. It doesn't mean you have to like it, you just have to do it... Just because they are black they are exempt from the rules? I think not."

"I think all the blacks should be put into their own regiment. That would give them a way to show their true merit and defend or avenge their black buddies in battle."

How does that read to you? It's exactly what you're arguing.

Brentt, your thoughts on the discriminatory nature of DADT also ignore previous comments -- again, presumably because you're not reading them. As others here have said, and as even the most elementary common sense ought to suggest to you, DADT is indeed discriminatory because it only applies to gays. The only way you could miss a point so obvious is if you're motivated by something other than reason.

Here, let me clarify by substituting the word "straight" for the word "gay" in your comment:

"If any of you try to make this a debate about discrimination, you'd be wrong. The military is not saying that you can't be straight and serve in the military. They are only saying that you can't ask anyone if they are, or tell anyone that you are. It's perfectly fine for you to be straight and serve in the military and has been for 15 years or so when President Clinton enacted this policy."

Do you see it now? A law that allows one class of people to acknowledge their sexuality and punishes another class of people for acknowledging their sexuality is inherently, obviously, discriminatory. If you want DADT to apply across the board -- such that anyone who acknowledges his or sexuality, straight or gay, will be discharged -- then it won't be discriminatory. Otherwise, by definition, it is.

Really, to miss a double standard so blindingly obvious, you'd have to start with the premise, conscious or unconscious, that gays are in some way illegitimate. Which I guess is where you're coming from and is unlikely something you can be reasoned away from if you're sufficiently motivated to adhere to your view.

"So, the question here is this: Is the Military ready for homosexuals to openly serve?"

But I already specifically addressed this exact question in one of my comments above, in which I referenced Truman's desegregation order, the Civil Rights Act, and the attitudes of the military and society at large. I argued, in fact, that this is not "the question," nor should it be, nor was it or should it have been then. Now you're raising the question again as though for the first time, suggesting that for you, it *is* the first time, because the most charitable explanation I can devise for why you would ask the same question that has been responded to previously without even noting the existence of that previous response is that you're not reading the comments to which you purport to be responding. And because you haven't responded to a single one of the arguments Rep. Murphy lays out in the video interview I linked to, and because many of his points contradict your own, I imagine you haven't watched the interview, either.

Discussing -- if that's the right word -- an interview you haven't even bothered to listen to is odd behavior. I wonder what would motivate it.

Your conflation of sexual assault with homosexuality is borderline insane and regardless, has already been addressed in other comments here. Sexual assault and other forms of assault are and should be illegal, in the military and elsewhere. Assault has nothing to do with homosexuality or heterosexuality, and the fact that you would argue otherwise again suggests that your views are motivated by something other than reason.

As for your conflation of sexual orientation with marital affairs, this is as worthy an argument as your conflation of sexual orientation and sexual assault. Once again, if you can't understand the difference between orientation and behavior -- about the same as the difference between being left-handed, on the one hand, and a left hook, on the other -- something is going on inside you, and it isn't reason.

Your suggestion that most gays are just malingerers who are using their gayness as an excuse to get out of the military is similarly revealing. The only evidence you cite is that you have "seen many people" do so -- as though someone as prejudiced as you could be counted on to adequately account for someone's motivations -- and you ignore the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Rep. Murphy points out that over 13,000 military personnel -- over three combat brigades worth -- have been discharged for being gay. And you assume that a significant percentage of that number were malingerers? Based on a few people you claim to know? Without offering any other evidence for your opinion? Tendentious would be a charitable way of describing your views.

If you really believed your "they're all malingerers" theory, and you really wanted to stop the malingering you assume is so widespread, you would support ending DADT. But you don't -- leading me, once again, to wonder what's really motivating you.

Your fear that straights might freak out if they knew there was a gay in a communal shower is also strange. First, there already are gays in the showers, and good order and discipline seems to go on. Is your point that good order and discipline can be maintained if straights know there are gays in the shower, but not if straights know who some of these gays are? I guess you're arguing then, as Col. Jessup might say, that straights "can't handle the truth."

Well, what was your previous advice for gays? "Man up and follow the rules." I could be wrong, but I have a feeling most soldiers devoted enough to serve and brave enough for combat can handle knowing some of their comrades, equally devoted and brave, are gay. But don't take my word for it: watch the Rep. Murphy video you're pretending to discuss and see what he has to say on the matter.


I promised in a previous post to do an article on how to argue. I haven't forgotten and in fact have outlined some of the points I want to make. But the new book, a sequel to Fault Line called Inside Out, is due at the end of the month, and I've still got a ways to go, so I'm trying to keep my blogging semi-under control.

Pending the article on how to argue, I'll just say this: if you want your argument to be persuasive, and if you hope to be taken at all seriously, at a minimum you have to: (i) familiarize yourself with what's being discussed, whether it's an interview, an article, or the comments of other posters; (ii) respond to points that other people are making, ideally by quoting their exact words; and (iii) understand the difference between opinion and evidence and use the latter to bolster the former.

Final point: for anyone who wants to hear from me a little more frequently, I've been posting updates on Twitter. I confess when I first heard of a 140-character-per-post social networking medium, I thought it sounded silly. It's actually interesting, useful, and productive, though it can be a hell of a distraction, too. Anyway, if you're on Twitter, follow me, and I'll look forward to seeing you there.