Here is a well-kept secret. Notwithstanding its efforts to ignore, marginalize, or dismiss environmental science, the American right is creating an environmental movement of its own.
This one, however, has very little to do with preserving the earth or its resources but instead is premised on some quite remarkable efforts to recycle various "outrages" around the issue of gay marriage.
It is a masterful exercise in reusing resources. And sometimes the effort is so beautifully ironic as to make me know there is a God -- not because he has any interest in participating in the sociopolitical agenda of those purporting to be his proxies but instead because only a divine hand could orchestrate things with such darkly comic brilliance.
One such instance arose when Bill O'Reilly told me to "keep quiet" in the course of a conversation on his show about how White (I'm not) conservatives (when measured on the O'Reilly scale, I'm certainly not) aren't allowed to express opinions that diverge from those of the "mainstream media." One such allegedly divergent opinion was the opposition to gay marriage. According to him, those who oppose equal rights for gay people in this respect are being unfairly excoriated by the "mainstream" press. (According to me, this effort to create martyrs of those playing in this arena is a bit of counterfactual nonsense, as in "tonight, the role of Joan of Arc will be played by Pat Robertson." Curious indeed.)
Now -- I'm not complaining about being shut down by Messr. O'Reilly (if he gets to tell me to shut up, then I get to address him in French). I've done the show several times, he and I usually disagree (although not always unpleasantly) and since the show is not called the Acker Factor I can deal with it. Telling me to "keep quiet" in the course of complaining about how White people don't get to speak their minds was simply one of those supremely ironic moments about which every talking head dreams of telling her grandchildren.
No, what truly interests me is how this cultural distraction -- one of the many battles that is waged in the name of the scam that is the "culture war" -- has evolved from a conversation about why it is okay to deprive a discrete minority group of their rights to why that minority group should simply sit down and "keep quiet" about it. While O'Reilly may complain of the fact that those who support Proposition 8 are being unfairly labeled as homophobes and subjected to boycotts and the like, I continue to maintain that you can't really promote or support discrimination against a group of people and just expect them to shut up (the way his guests are supposed to).
(And by the way -- I don't remember hearing any such outrage from those quarters when certain evangelicals decided to boycott the Walt Disney Company because it offered health insurance benefits to gay and lesbian couples. Or when certain other evangelicals called for a boycott of SpongeBob SquarePants on the ground that he was an undercover gay icon. But I digress . . . )
How much more traction does the right wing need to get from this issue? Is gay marriage the gift that just keeps on giving? Useful in the first instance as a means of galvanizing the base and then easily recycled as a mechanism for arguing that those who oppose differential treatment are themselves the intolerant oppressors? Who knew that gay marriage would turn Bill O'Reilly into Martin Luther King?
What is interesting is that when I talk to real-life conservatives (as opposed to the ones who play them on TV) this issue, absent the chest-thumping appeals by certain on the right to make it a priority, doesn't rank high on their domestic agenda. Indeed, the anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives and now this newest strategy -- of demonstrating the most profound indignation over the efforts of those who oppose Proposition 8 and similar measures -- seem not to arise organically but instead to be part of a well-orchestrated campaign to suck as much lifeblood out of this headline-grabber as possible.
In fact, I doubt very seriously that mainstream conservatives are pulling their hair out over the fact that pro-Prop. 8 business owners, who made a lucrative living collecting dollars from gay and lesbian patrons, are now being boycotted as those dollars are directed elsewhere. I would imagine that even those who bought into the misleading propaganda about children being forced to read about gay marriage (the horror!) are now more concerned about the fact that, with the advent of California's current budget cuts (which include a proposed $6 billion in cuts to public education), their kids may not be doing much reading at all. (I suppose that mass illiteracy is one way to protect against the abominations of the New York Times).
Funny, I always thought that it was the folks of my political persuasion who were supposed to be the elitists. Perhaps manufacturing dissension is the new latte.
Tanya Acker is an attorney in Los Angeles. Follow Tanya on Twitter @tanyaacker.