ARLINGTON, VA — A reader who says he usually likes my columns
took strong exception to the one I wrote criticizing the U.S. Supreme
Court for striking down the Texas sodomy law (The
Court Can Do No Wrong).
He charged me with "bigotry" and added that I sounded like "a
Since I hadn't written about homosexuality as such, or even about
the merits of the Texas law, I wondered how he got that impression.
It's possible to disapprove of sodomy *and* the Texas law *and* the
Court's ruling, and I do. But no matter how clearly you try to write,
you can't stop people from reading their own notions into your words.
Needless to say, it's very common these days to respond to an argument
by addressing not the point the writer is making, but his supposed
feelings about the subject. Was it always so, or has the world taken
a turn for the worse lately? I can't say, but few would say we live
in an age distinguished by logical thinking. If you reject a political
claim made in the name of any category of people, you can expect to
be accused of hating all the people in that category.
This kind of thinking has gotten especially silly in the area of "gay
rights" and "homophobia," terms
too blurry to mean much. It's not that I want to plead not guilty to
the charges; I merely want to point out how unrealistic the charges
are on their face.
Lots of people disapprove of sodomy and find it disgusting. These
attitudes are ancient and are implicit in all our slang and jokes about
the subject. But how many people who hold them really hate homosexuals
without distinction? Very few, really. The ones who do have often had
unpleasant personal experiences that explain their hostility; yet I
have a friend who, though he was molested as a boy and completely shares
my views on the matter, harbors no special animosity toward homosexuals
Despite all the rhetoric of bigotry that assails us these days, it
just isn't that easy to hate indiscriminately. In fact such hatred
seems unnatural — or, if you prefer, idiosyncratic.
But some people find a strange moral satisfaction in positing a ubiquitous "hate," usually
against "minorities" of one sort or another. And of course
this "hate" requires the state to take various actions to
protect the alleged victims, to make reparations, to reeducate the
bigoted public, and finally to "eradicate" the proscribed
attitudes. This stipulated "hate" seems to fill a vacuum
in the moral universe, much as the rarefied ether was once believed
to fill the emptiness of outer space.
So "hate" endows the state with a vast mandate for correction.
Citizens must be treated as potential, even presumptive, bigots. "Discrimination" must
be anticipated and forbidden. Ambitious laws and programs must be passed
and implemented. Old freedoms — of association, property, commercial
exchange — become suspect and must be abridged.
And the scope of the state must be expanded to include even the inspection
of our motives. It isn't enough to ban overt "discrimination," since
we may be "discriminating" furtively; and because we may
be lying about our real motives, the state must also enforce outward
compliance with "civil rights" laws (by imposing racial quotas
and the like). Meanwhile, more and more things are said to be "discriminatory," including
All this must be most encouraging to the sort of people who think
of the state as an instrument for the complete overhauling of society
and human relations. What better starting point for such a project
than a presumption of guilt against — well, everyone?
A version of this article appeared in the August 2003 edition of
Sobran's: The Real News of the Month.
Copyright © 2010 by Joe Sobran and the
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.
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