Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Christian Post on April 30, 2015.
While I was at the Supreme Court for the hearing on same-sex marriage, a daughter of former Senator and current presidential candidate Rick Santorum got up to speak at a podium in front of the large crowd in front of the building. Immediately, a young man behind me began to shout "UGLY! UGLY! UGLY!"
He went on but, as the second verse was the same as the first, I'll stop at three "uglies."
Annoyed, I turned around and said calmly, "Just let her speak." The young man with the operatic lungs began carrying on about the young Ms. Santorum, her/our bigotry and hatred, etc. An older woman next to him – his mother? – pulled on his sleeve and whispered something like, "that's enough." He did not heed her.
He went on about his right to protest, and after trying simply to talk with him, I said, with intentional evenness, "I think you're a fool" – his face visibly registered shock – "but I'm not going to yell it in your face." He talked on, rapidly and excitedly; I responded, remaining calm, that he needed to allow debate and not carry on, at which he said, quietly, "Back off, buddy."
I turned around, but with a disconcerted sense of anger, contempt, and ambivalence. Anger at this young man's unwillingness simply to talk and his implied threat. Contempt for his nascent fascism. Ambivalence about calling him a fool: I dislike such bluntness, but perhaps he needed to hear it.
With that said, being in the middle of the press of people in front of the court this week was sobering for, among other reasons, the experience of being immersed aurally in the rage of the Left and its deliberate strategy of drowning-out anything it chooses not to hear. The young shouter behind me represented a new generation of liberal activists, especially of those working to redefine marriage, who believe disruption (or "jamming" as it sometimes is called) and intimidation are worthy tools of political art.
This penchant of extremists is not new. Shouting-down opposition is a tactic as old as the republic, and has been used, at times, by people on every side of a given issue. Most recently, however, it has become a practice of the Left at public events and, rhetorically, on-line.
The obscene, near-immediate, and often incoherent attacks of homosexual "trolls," radical "abortion as the supreme good" feminists, et al, through social media whenever FRC posts anything about such issues have become so routine that they seldom are taken seriously, except when accompanied by death threats (FRC gets and reports these with some regularity).
Regrettably, this pattern is being encouraged by a growing chorus on the Left, including New York Times columnist Frank Bruni and that sad incarnation of insistent aspiration, Hillary Clinton, who are calling for requiring Christians and other persons of orthodox faiths to change the tenets of those faiths to conform to their vision of a pro-homosexual, abortion-as-moral-good society.
Yet even some on the Left are becoming concerned with the direction of their anti-liberty, anti-free speech, anti-intellectual cohorts. When in 2014 Mozilla fired its new CEO Brendan Eich, for having donated to California's Proposition 8 (preventing the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples) in 2008, the openly homosexual journalist Jonathan Rauch wrote in The New York Times, "The online campaign that led to Brendan Eich's resignation was intolerant and obnoxious. Also, stupid. But please don't blame the gay community. Blame the people who did it and who do not represent or resemble mainstream gay America."
Well, the "mainstream" gay community has a lot of splainin' to do. Consider the roughly two dozen small business owners and uniformed personnel who have lost their jobs or been subject to legal action simply for standing for their moral convictions in gracious but faithful ways.
Thankfully, other self-avowed liberals are as queasy as Rauch about the pernicious behavior of some of their ideological compeers. Following are excerpts from two Left-leaning writers about how some in their movement are disinterested in persuasion and discussion but, instead, political conquest and demeaning attitudes.
New York Magazine, "Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say," Jonathan Chait, January 27, 2015:
Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate … Today's political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach. And since social media is also now the milieu that hosts most political debate, the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old … In a short period of time, the p.c. movement has assumed a towering presence in the psychic space of politically active people in general and the left in particular.
That the new political correctness has bludgeoned even many of its own supporters into despondent silence is a triumph, but one of limited use. Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.
Slate, "Why Jon Stewart Was Bad for the Liberals Who Loved Him," Jamelle Bouie, February 11, 2015:
Jon Stewart, with his brand of left-leaning cynicism (sprinkled with occasional earnestness), is a bad example for the liberals who watch and love him. The emblematic Stewart posture isn't a joke or a witticism, it's a sneer—or if we're feeling kind, a gentle barb … for a generation of young liberals, his chief influence has been to make outrage, cynicism, and condescension the language of the left.
In August 2012, a young man named Floyd Corkins, animated by the reactionary liberal Southern Poverty Law Center's "hate map" listing FRC as an evil organization, came into FRC's headquarters building to murder my colleagues and me. Corkins was stopped by the heroic actions of my friend and fellow FRC-er Leo Johnson. Leo's left arm was shattered by one of Corkins' bullets (the assailant was trying to shoot Leo in the head; Leo deflected the shot, thanks be to God) and it took many months of surgery, hospital treatment, and physical therapy to get his arm in working order.
Few on the Left condone this kind of physical violence, and most are as disturbed by it as all decent people are. But dogmatic liberals employ rhetorical violence to the same end – to get conservatives to be silent by becoming too afraid to speak. Witness what happened in Indiana when a modest, federal-style Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enacted by the state legislature and the governor: Wild misrepresentation of what the bill would do, hatred for its proponents, etc. were vomited throughout electronic and print media. The lies fed on one another until hysteria prevailed. They cost my friend Curt Smith his job. The success of this bullying empowered homosexual activists and their allies to keep trying to cow conservatives all the more.
Their efforts won't work. As of today, at least, the First Amendment still means something. We won't be quiet and we won't be obnoxious, either. We will, as best as we can, articulate truth persuasively, graciously, firmly, with fact and logic, good humor and calm persistence. And whatever penalties the extremists on the Left try to impose (or succeed in imposing), we will keep on proclaiming the virtues and benefits of Christian faith and marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We will herald the fact that children need a mom and a dad and that religious liberty and free speech at home and abroad are moral goods and political necessities. And we'll keep working to protect the unborn and their mothers from a predatory abortion industry and its political allies.
Speaking of death, there are worse things. Men in orange jump suits on a Libyan beach understood this. Our suffering cannot compare with theirs, and of course we know it. Self-dramatization helps no one, and conservatives shouldn't give into it.
But in spirit we, too, kneel in the sand by a seashore, holding our lives loosely, mindful that the incoming tide will wash away the imprints of our temporary lives but that no flood of opposition can eradicate the eternal truths for which we live and move and have our beings. To paraphrase Paul's comments to the church in Corinth, Christians are "always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies" (II Corinthians 4:10). In this, let us glory.