Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Empowerment Postscript #3

Even though I completely misunderstood my friend's email about Mormons, I was glad to be reminded to tie that group into my theory of anti-empowerment. The Mormons put the most affable, most American face on what otherwise would surely have been universally viewed as a weird, dangerous cult. Again, minorities campaigning for equal treatment often make the mistake of leading with their differences, when precisely the opposite tack is most effective.

Of course, my friend wasn't talking about Mormonism in general, but specifically about polygamy. He writes:
"That discussion was in the context of marriage equality. Polygamy has definitely not been accepted, even for most boring dudes."
True, of course. And a lot could be said about that (e.g. unlike other minorities, polygamists will never garner support from the left, which views the practice as misogynist). In the end, though, there are extremes of extremes which can never be mainstreamed. This observation comfortably fits my argument that minorities are most easily accepted into plurality when they lead with their dull integrability rather than their proud dissimilarities.

One angry-seeming black power salute from Obama and he'd never have come close to the senate, much less the presidency. Remember how that innocent fist bump rocked the nation?

The same applies to the lack of conspicuous nipple clamps adorning the gentlemen making the case for marriage equality. The path to mainstream inclusion often involves some shaving off of the most extreme differences - which is why the staunchest group members often viscerally reject a course of pluralization.

Mormons, who've cannily presented themselves with signature sunny affability, rather than flaunting their strange underwear and creation dogma, have largely been accepted. We welcome the integrable and hesitatingly accept some weirdness, but polygamy's beyond the pale. As early and highly-skilled pioneers in the strategy I'm advocating, church leaders disavowed that practice when reality sunk in. Some radical practitioners persist with group marriage, and, as a result, their communities are isolated and persecuted by the mainstream.

Mormons were compelled to disavow polygamy. And Obama, by the same token, was compelled to stay well to the right of mainstream America on, for example, marijuana penalties. Such moves maintain the plurality. Plurality, like all compromise, is tepid and dull.

Speaking of extreme behavior, I find it interesting that the transgendered are often included in discussion of gay equality. To a conservative, that seems like yet another sneaky liberal encroachment. While a majority of Americans may be more or less favorable to normalizing homosexuality (in terms of choices framed by society as being freely available to children, etc.), normalisation of transgenderism seems, at least for now, to be pushing it. I don't think America's ready to culturally enshrine this lifestyle choice; to have one's child taught that when he grows up he might find himself in love with a girl or a boy or that he might choose to chop off his penis.

The question of whether transgendered people deserve equal rights is moot. Everybody deserves equal rights, period. But as to whether the practice should be presented as just another reasonable lifestyle choice, that's going to be a tough sell, ala polygamy. They'll likely have to let that one go.

(Though, who knows; twenty years from now I may look back at myself as having been ignorantly, disgustingly backward on the issue. There's absolutely no way to know at this point. As I once noted, a sanctimonious amnesia blocks people from acknowledging their own view of gay rights from just a couple decades ago, leaving them strangely unable to sympathize with those who haven't yet caught up.)

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