Saturday, March 13, 2010

Conversation III: Beautiful Words

I drew some fire a while back for focusing on the tenor of a debate rather than tackling the debate itself (in the context of a debate about race), to which I responded that the thesis statement of this blog is that culture is a conversation, and the ways we have our cultural conversation about deeply important issues has gone deeply awry.

So, here's something via Andrew Sullivan:

(By the way, my favorite thing about this video is the out-of-context thumbs-up that YouTube uses as its still frame)

Three points about this video:
  1. This conversation prompts not only a frank discussion about homosexuality and natural law, but actually a beautiful discussion of homosexuality and natural law. The quality of Andrew Sullivan's response is tender, and rendered beautifully. Beyond that, it is also insightful -- even though I agreed with Andrew Sullivan about homosexuality being equal to heterosexuality, its relationship to Catholicism is not one I could previously appreciate. Now, obviously, as an Athiest (but not a New Athiest, defined at as "Intolerance of ignorance, myth and superstition; disregard for the tolerance of religion."), I disagree with a lot of Andrew Sullivan's interpretations of Catholicism, and he still creates a lot of contradiction and tension within his beliefs, but at the same time, everyone is full of contradiction and tension. It isn't always a bad thing.
  2. The question, as posited by the questioner, is insulting. He tries to diffuse it as an insult, but at the end of the day, "I love my husband = I love the Golden Gate Bridge" is precisely the ignorant insult that refuses to accept homosexuality as being, at nature, no different from heterosexuality--that demands homosexuality be different, in some way, from heterosexuality. Somewhere behind it is lurking the whole "If homosexuality, why not beastiality? Why not polygamy?" canard--so in a way, the Golden Gate Bridge analogy is only insultingly silly, not insultingly foul. But the point is, by taking the question in good faith even though it is offensive, Andrew Sullivan gets the opportunity to really, truly provide an answer, and I think we're all richer by it. Now, this doesn't mean that all homophobia should be treated with politeness and acceptance -- some people can be comfortably told to fuck off and die -- but if a question is put forward in a forum that provides for a meaningful response, we all profit by that meaningful response. The questioner may not be budged in his thinking; but the listener may be.
  3. Lastly, this sort of exchange is precisely the sort of exchange that cable news and print media both, for different reasons, completely fail to capture. YouTube is, perversely, the perfect forum for spreading this kind of well-reasoned argument. In Cable News, you could see all of the factors and really hear the conversation... except these days, CNN and MSNBC couldn't possibly sit quietly for seven minutes to hear an entire conversation out without talking over both participants to shout their objections and talking points. And FOX News would clearly not even begin to engage. Print articles rarely provide transcripts -- they'd just pick out what they feel are the "right" quotations. Which would destroy the entire flow and the question and answer, the tone, and everything else that makes it impressive. I think the only other venue I get to hear a topic this well discussed would be on National Public Radio.

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