Disclaimer: This is not my most diplomatic post ever. I'm not going to refrain from posting some potentially controversial thoughts to make sure my readers have something fun and fluffy to read. If you are prone to take offense where none is intended or to read into people's words your own perceptions of what people who say such things are like or what their motives are, you might consider skipping this post or finding a nice, relaxing activity to lower your blood pressure after reading. I will not be intimidated into silence by those who are supposedly looking after my best interest. Progress comes from conflict and constructive criticism, which is what I am attempting. Sue me if I don't pull it off. I'm genetically flawed.
Same-sex marriage supporters everywhere (at least in Utah) are buzzing about the documentary called 8: The Mormon Proposition. Some are touting it as a groundbreaking, bold exposé on the lies and underhanded tactics used to pass Proposition 8 in California, and the vast Mormon conspiracy against equality in an effort to subdue the nefarious homo uprising supposedly seeking to undermine and destroy society! I was intrigued, so I looked up the trailer on YouTube, and for the first minute or so I was really confused: opening the trailer with Chris Buttars, some Utah state senator who is too cantankerous about homos even for most conservatives? Then showing tightly cropped clips of Elder Ballard saying, "When something needs to be done, we know how to do it" all sinister-like? This felt somewhat like a flipside of those ridiculous "I am afraid" NOM ads, but more emotionally charged and using real people instead of those awful, plasticky actors. I was mildly puzzled until I figured out...it must be a sort of mockumentary! Of course! I then didn't feel bad about laughing out loud at a couple of clips.
I'm sorry, I couldn't help it. Actually, I'm not so sorry. I couldn't help but laugh at a couple of clips of over-the-top statements or sensational editing. I mean, I know many people regard this as the great civil rights battle of our time and can't understand how anyone could see it otherwise. I can't fathom someone laughing at Civil Rights Movement proponents in the south as they passionately decry the inequality forced upon them. "Ha ha! Look at those silly black people and their overwrought emotions!" Obviously (today), racial prejudice and fighting for rights based on ethnic background is nothing to mock. When you're dealing with a population which feels downtrodden or which is (undeniably) denied certain rights, obligations, and protections based on sexual orientation or the sexes of partners, that's a real issue with real emotions not to be scorned. This isn't about mocking those silly, drama queen homos (though I think there are plenty of drama queens out there who would do well to take it down a notch). And I am not going to defend my stance on same-sex marriage or other rights based on sexual orientation or partnerships here because that's not the issue. This is about something more, something aside from fighting for equal protection, rights, and obligations. In fact, as I see it, it's about my thinking many in the gay community are shooting themselves in the foot with all of the gnashing of teeth.
I don't mean to be insensitive to the real hurt people feel around this. It's just that some things they say are so old and tired and nonsensical that...I'm sorry (kind of), they're laughable! "They don't want us to love," for example. I don't even care to dignify that nonsense with a rebuttal. Saying that is completely missing the issue in most cases! Do some of you actually believe that's what it's about, or are you just being deliberately emotionally manipulative because you're either out of logical arguments or are convinced nobody's listening? Another common sentiment I hear is one a good-looking, sympathetic guy says in the film trailer, "I can't believe that people could hate us this much. ... I'm a good person!" That's an understandable emotional reaction, I suppose, though I don't identify with it myself, but it's something I'd expect to hear out of a teenage girl. I do sometimes feel like crying when I hear someone speak like him because I feel terrible for them that they are so hurt and that they see it that way: their pain is very real and not something to laugh at. I might rather hug that guy than argue with him when he's in that emotional state. But the statement is a bit logically absurd. Believing marriage is and always was intended to be a religious institution preserved for man-woman pairings and that government should not change that does not equate to hatred just because the two admittedly do coincide in some people. I can only hope that maybe some Prop 8 supporters who see that clip, which I believe to be sincere, may recognize the need for more compassion, even if their opinion or political stance doesn't change. But compassion isn't, I don't think, what the filmmakers are after. They're after political change, are they not?
Which brings me to a side note: this blog is public and can be discovered by people searching for content related to the film, so it's conceivable (though probably quite unlikely, considering I'm just a teeny blip in cyberspace with few readers) that someone involved with the film could come to my blog and read this. I have tried to temper my language, to present a complete response, not my initial, more flippant and dismissive, emotional response to the trailer. Nevertheless, I am probably an enemy to their cause, having written this. I may lose readers because I'm posting this. Some may feel betrayed. Battle lines are drawn, and there's no time for fence-sitters or switch-hitters who aren't "yes men". "You're either with us or you're against us" seems to be the message from my most ardently activist friends. I even wonder, if I were more public/influential and less tempered, if some activists wouldn't do all they can to discover my true identity, make threats, lash out in various ways, try to shut me up through intimidation or harsh criticism, or campaign against people like me who don't jump on the train and toe the line. And no, this has nothing to do with Elder Oaks' talk. I've seen such behaviors firsthand long before Elder Oaks compared them (insensitively and inappropriately, in my opinion) to intimidation during the civil rights movement. I've been petitioned to join boycotts and publicize the names of donors to 8, etc. I declined. That all seemed beside the point, too. Though some more prominent members of the Church have butted heads with and felt the swift, hard action of church headquarters, I feel more threatened and vulnerable opposing gay activists than I do opposing church leaders. But screw it, I'm going to call it as I see it.
I won't completely poo-poo the film based on the fact that the sensational trailer made me laugh. And I admit I may possibly be partially using this film as my punching bag for the consistent pattern I've observed among my friends who are passionate about this issue. People I like and respect in many ways are close to people who were involved in the film. While I may disagree with a lot of their rhetoric or approach or even their beliefs, I can still like and respect them as a person, but I've been informed that if I don't support marriage "equality", I don't love my gay friends and should remove myself from their lives. That seems awfully narrow-minded to me, but I figure that's more an emotional statement than a rational one, so I let it go and figure I'll let them make the call if I were to ever vote to "preserve" marriage as between a man and a woman.
I don't doubt a lot of hard work has gone into the project, and people have likely invested much of themselves. I know what that's like, so I don't criticize such an undertaking ignorant of how much work has gone into it. I've helped build an organization I whole-heartedly believed would help save lives and contribute to the emotional well-being of many people and would increase education and understanding and family unity, and I've listened to some very harsh criticisms of the organization and its founders, including declarations that it is harmful and deceptive or mockery aimed at those who are part of it, but that's to be expected. The attacks are inherently impersonal, since those making them generally don't know me, and the rational criticisms are such that I've taken them into consideration and thought, "Is there validity to that claim? If so, how can we respond to make appropriate corrections? If not, how can we more accurately present what we're about?" Not everyone will agree with your aim, or your philosophy, or your methods, and some will believe you're doing an amazing work, and others will only see the flaws. I don't intend personal assaults or degradation on those who were a part of this film. My criticisms, you may notice, aren't about value judgments of the people involved but criticisms of the methodology and balance, or the lack of logic in the statements of some of the subjects.
I tried to watch the trailer open-minded, despite expecting the film to be at least somewhat sensational based on the rhetoric of some of its proponents. I see that, if nothing else, it may very effectively present a common viewpoint. I just doubt it will be seen by more than a select few of those to whom that viewpoint would be new or eye-opening because it doesn't command the attention of those who don't already agree with it. It doesn't seem to even care about meeting them in the middle, so does it even deserve to be given a fair chance by them?
I mean, come on, folks, if you want to present something even mildly convincing to your opponents, you're gonna have to show that you at least partially understand where they are coming from. Otherwise, what reason are you giving them to show you such respect and consideration? I've said this to both the supporters and opponents of Prop 8. I've become pretty thoroughly convinced it's a futile effort to keep making this point, so I've largely backed off from trying to get either side to see the other's viewpoint. They, by and large, just don't care. Get a grip, activists on both sides, or you'll just look like a bunch of ignorant ninnies on a playground making asses of yourselves, providing a good laugh along the way to the people "in the middle" you're supposedly trying to reach out to. But maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe the film isn't about reaching out and is precisely about making an angry voice known. If so, it should be advertised as such.
FYI, this is from the perspective of someone who didn't support Prop 8 and thought there must be a better way to satisfy both sides and found plenty to criticize in both sides of the campaign, but more so in its promulgation by "Yes on 8". I am interested neither in circling the Church wagons nor gay rights activist wagons where Prop 8 is concerned. But most seem to be doing just that: since a cultural war is on, stakes are high, and emotions are heated, and rational analysis and real dialog seem to be sacrificed to quicker, easier tools on both sides. Maybe that's what it really comes down to: maybe logic and dialog have been tried and failed (could've fooled me), and it's time for war. It's time not for logic, not truth, but popular opinion bolstered by emotion. I worry this documentary is just another example of that, but I sincerely hope I'm wrong. Maybe the trailer isn't indicative of the greater film. I can only hope.
Note: For a post and comments about this on another blog, see Limits on A Mormon Enigma.