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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Why The Arizona Gay Jim Crow Law Is A Good Thing

Hello dear readers,

I've been moved to come down from my Ivory Tower and comment on things happening In Real Life, to whit, the passage of a law in Arizona that legalises descrimination against gay people, on religious grounds.  Every business in the state can now, legally, refuse to deal with a gay person, just because they are gay.

Any business.  Water, power, gas, housing, grocery stores, fast-food restaurants.  Presumably even those homeless people who wash your windows at traffic stops in exchange for a handful of nickels can refuse to do so if  your car is painted pink, or something.  It's been compared, with some justification, to the laws that enshrined legal segregation on a State level, and made black people second class citizens, in the wake of the American Civil War - those are the Jim Crow laws, so if you hear people talking about that, that's what that means.

Anyway, so yeah.  It is now legal to refuse service to gay people for a private company, just as it was legal to refuse service to a black person as a private company during segregation.  The political power of state's rights in action.

I think this is good news.

Really, really good news.  As in, the best news I've heard all day.  When I heard that similar legislation was defeated in Kansas just a few days ago, I was all like, dammit.  Wish that had passed.  And now it has passed in Arizona, and I'm like - good.

This is why.

The Civil Rights movement of the 60's was stalling, hard, and mainly because the white authorities weren't stupid - they weren't going to beat black people up on camera, and so they just calmly waited it out.

Then King took things to Birmingham, Alabama, which was run by Eugene 'Bull' Connor.  Connor hated black people, like most of the Southern establishment, but unlike many others in the Southern establishment, was not a man of restraint.  King organised thousands upon thousands of black people to march, so many that the jails were all filled up in the first hour - the police couldn't arrest them, there was nowhere to put them.

Then they kept coming, kept marching, kept blocking the roadways - all for one goal.  To make Connor tip his hand.  That's a quote from MLK to his key deputy at the time - "'you've got to find the means to create a crisis, to make Bull Connor tip his hand."  

Make him loose the dogs, make him order the police to beat the protesters.  And he did, and the photos of it went out, and all of a sudden people were confronted with the true horror of Southern Racism.  And even those with passive racist leanings didn't have the stomach for that.  And the country just rejected it as monstrosity.  This 'hidden side' to the Civil Rights movement was brilliantly detailed in Malcolm Gladwell's latest, David And Goliath, which is well worth checking out.

Anyway, point is this.

The point at which a bigoted establishment tips it's hand on a massive, public stage, is the entire thing that non-violent resistance aims for.  Without it, it cannot win.

Think for one second what this looks like to anyone who isn't a card-carrying member of the gay-hate brigade.  Even many Christians oppose this vehemently, which splits the 'Christian bloc' clean down the middle.  The hard core is left, but much reduced.

This is one of those moments where the zen truth that failure is success and success is failure just shines like the sun.

This looks like the total success of Christian bigotry.  Look at us, we have succeeded in bringing in genuine laws enshrining discrimination.  Look how strong we are.

But it's not strength, and it's not success.  I think this is that 'Alabama moment' for gay people in the US.

This will rip the right apart.  This will rip apart the liberal and conservative wings of American Christianity.  This will mobilise allies for gay rights that we don't even know exist right now.  But more than anything, more than all this, it will crystallise the issue in the minds of the apathetic, and like rats, they will flee the sinking ship of homophobic bigotry.

Bigotry can only exist in the shadows.  That's because in the shadows people can pretend it's moral, pretty, decent.  In the light of day, when you actually see this thing up close, dear Christ, it's an ugly motherfucker.  And ugly motherfuckers get dumped.

I think the gay rights movement just won.