Despite the fact that I don’t get a large number of actual comments, I am forced to go to a lot of trouble to keep the comments feature turned on. I get more spam than many readers might imagine. It pours in, day in and day out, and it consumes many hours of my time. I have almost reached the point where I will have to require commenters to be signed in and all that garbage — not because I want to do that, but because the spammers are making my life too complicated, and I just don’t have time to deal with them.
But this post is about another problem. Maybe it’s more a misunderstanding about the nature of comments, but I’ll try to address it.
A commenter named “Raj” seems to think that I have some sort of a duty to answer essay length comments — one of which stated numerous views with which I disagree. I have no duty to allow, read, or respond to any comment at all or in part. That I made a couple of observations in no way obligates me to explain anything, as this is not a debating forum. I wrote my post and “Raj” (whoever he may be) left a comment. I can say whatever I want, or nothing at all. I don’t know where anyone would get the idea that I have to respond at all — much less matching detail for detail. Raj or anyone else can post whatever they want in their own blogs, and just as I would not be obligated to leave comments or respond to their posts, neither would they be obligated to allow me to comment or respond to any comment I left.
I might as well take this opportunity to say again that I think much of what passes for debate over same sex marriage is silly name calling, and that I do not think it is bigotry to disagree over what represents a drastic change in the law.
I would defend to the death the principle that adults have a right to engage in consensual sex of whatever sort they desire. However, I have a major argument with the idea that sexual interests define people as members of any group entitled to rights beyond the right to sexual freedom and privacy. I don’t believe homosexuals are a separate or distinct class of citizens entitled to recognition, because I do not believe that sexual tastes constitute a form of human identity. (Any more than food preference, or styles in clothing, hair color, or ways of taking a leak.) Once sexuality is defined as an “identity,” in my view it limits freedom by defining people according to what they do with their genitalia, and it leads to invasion of people’s privacy and dignity. Already, we are seeing a division over “outing” — which itself is a wholesale violation of privacy based on identity politics, which has grown like a cancer in this country. (I think all hate crime laws are wrong, and I would never support more of them.)
But, for the sake of this discussion, even if we consider homosexuals to be a recognizable identity group, it cannot be denied that they are already allowed to marry members of the opposite sex, because the marriage laws allow that, and do not question people’s sexual tastes. Some gay activists seek broadening these laws to allow same sex marriage, but as a gay rights issue, such a change is overbroad, because it would allow heterosexuals and homosexuals alike to marry people of the same sex, without regard to sexual orientation. This cannot be seen solely as a “gay rights” issue, because it is an expansion of marriage for everyone. Because of this overbroadness, it is entirely possible to disagree with the idea of same sex marriage without being “bigoted against gays.”
(For that matter, society has also made a determination only adults may marry. Is this “bigotry” against children?)
I think all people have a say in this, I respect the opinions on both sides, and I don’t think it is helpful for either side to to call the other “bigoted.”
Actually, considering the likelihood of political backlash, maybe it is helpful — helpful to the cause of those being called “bigots.”
There are a number of definitions of bigotry (the modern trend often involves identity politics issues), and while I more lean towards a definition that includes hatred, it also means intolerance. That, of course, begs the question of what is intolerance? If I turn off comments because I cannot tolerate them, am I a bigot? Not that I am planning to do that, but a lot of bloggers don’t allow comments, and I don’t think that constitutes bigotry. Certainly, simple disagreement is not bigotry, but at what point might it become bigotry? I think a line is crossed when someone is called names. (“Evil,” “stupid,” “ignorant” and so on.)
But the problem with that definition is that it might mean that calling someone a “bigot” is itself bigotry, which would render any further argument circular and pointless.
That’s why I suspect the word “bigot” is overused as a result of frustration.
As a practical tactic, it’s a good way to end a discussion while reassuring yourself that you’ve “won.”
(While I’m not sure that ideas are debates to be won, I guess that’s another topic. Might it be possible to exchange ideas without debating?)