Back Of The Bus?

Proposition 8’s opponents seem to
be quite intent on riding the Alienation Express all the way into the last stop
on the railroad of irrelevance. However, having already commented on their disgraceful behavior, it seems redundant to condemn their most recent antics without some level of reflection
as to the reasons for their behavior. By that I do not mean the question of
what they hope to achieve (they obviously want the bill overturned), but rather
why they have chosen these specific tactics.

The answer seems self-evident on
one level. In reading the article which was most recently posted about
Proposition 8’s opponents, one has difficulty not being reminded of the actions
of two notable lobbies; one historical and the other contemporary. To see which
groups I am referring to, think of the tactics Proposition 8 opponents are
using: Engaging in mass boycotts so as to bankrupt the organizations that are
intent on denying them their so-called “rights”, while simultaneously
producing lists of businesses and private individuals who have donated
money to the pro-Proposition 8 cause. Obviously, the boycotts are meant to
invoke the Civil Rights coalition of the 1960s, and the Montgomery bus boycotts
specifically, but what might the publishing of names and addresses signify?
Intentional or no, this behavior is reminiscent of anti-abortion groups that
publish the names of abortion-providing medical professionals on their Web
sites.

Leaving aside the irrelevant
question of whether one agrees or disagrees with either of these movements,
they both have one thing in common. They are (or were) both dedicated to the
idea of expanding civil rights for previously disenfranchised groups. It would
be unnecessary to dredge up quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. proving as much,
but if articles like this are any guide, the pro-life movement considers itself
very much to be part of the same legacy. Even as Martin
Luther King Jr.’s niece
has joined the pro-life cause because she sees it
as part of her uncle’s struggle, the idea that pro-life activists see
themselves as heirs to the Civil Rights movement is beyond question.

I shall not consider the question
of whether such a comparison is unnecessarily self-indulgent. That is
irrelevant and up to the reader to decide. What is relevant is that whether the
comparison is accurate or not, the fact remains that if such a comparison were
accurate, it would provide the group utilizing it with a great deal of
rhetorical firepower, as well as some level of license to take more extreme
protest measures. (After all, whoever stands in the way of the heirs of civil
rights will almost certainly end up on the wrong side of history). As such, an
incentive clearly exists for all sorts of groups to try and frame themselves as
continuing the fight for civil rights.

This incentive is not a bad one,
rhetorically, but it becomes dangerous at the point where a group such as the
pro-life movement (or the opponents of Proposition 8) believe so strongly that
the comparison is true that they mistakenly believe that everyone else also
believes it is true. If such a belief enters the collective unconscious of a
political movement, then a very dangerous implication also begins to grow,
which can best be laid out in the following syllogism (with Movement X
signifying the group who believes the comparison):

Proposition 2: Movement X = The
Civil Rights movement

Proposition 3: Therefore, Movement
X is on the correct side of history

Such a syllogism is logically
correct, but morally dangerous because most activists who believe themselves to
be on the “right side of history” therefore believe that whatever
excesses they go to can be excused by virtue of the fact that they are, a
priori
, on the right side of history. Such a belief can and often does lead
to ruthlessness, political tone-deafness and alienation of one’s allies, all of
which appear to dominate the current anti-Proposition 8 movement. This is
unfortunate, because whatever ideological vision one holds, Proposition 8 is
not a settled question and should not be treated as such. The seeds of backlash
are being sowed, and the opponents of Proposition 8 should take some humility before
it is too late and they are crushed.

Perhaps most dangerously, the
proponents will then have the authority to write the history books.