Recently I read Up From Slavery, the autobiography of Booker T. Washington. It is an inspiring story of hard work, perseverance, and clear vision. Washington fought an up hill battle against bigotry and ignorance. He was misunderstood and mistreated, yet despite the constant challenges, it is impossible not to admire the grace, patience, and sheer dignity of the man.
I was reminded of Washington’s character when reading an article describing the first ever gay-pride reception at the White House.
“There, they danced to the sounds of a Marine Corps band; they dined on crab cakes and canapés; they hand-delivered letters from concerned citizens…and some of them took advantage of photo opportunities to give the late President Ronald Reagan the middle finger.”
President Obama wasn’t trying to be ironic when he told the crowd that,
“We’ll get there because of every man and woman and activist and ally who is moving us forward by the force of their moral arguments, but more importantly, by the force of their example.”
Oops. The pictures say it all. The images are even more striking when compared with the quiet strength and determination of Washington. He was a man who knew what was right, who committed himself to a life-time of hard work to demonstrate to a skeptical nation that blacks were fully capable of succeeding in American society. Washington was an adult. A person of maturity and good judgment.
By contrast, these gay rights activists exhibit a juvenility that is through-going, puerile, and crass. This is not how adults behave. This is the behavior of individuals who have no grasp of propriety, who, apparently imagine that acting in such a manner will advance the cause to which they are wed. In effect they are saying “f*** you” to all who disagree with their political position. Such a posture is not one intended to win over the opposition by virtue of undeniable class, dignity, and goodness—this was Washington’s approach. The attitude of these “activists” is suited only to destroy the opposition. There is no possibility of compromise, conciliation, or friendship with a person who acts in this manner. Those who oppose the gay agenda are left with few options: pity, fear, and hatred. Can you blame them?
A few thoughts:
1. President Obama should be embarrassed. Indeed, the White House released the following statement:
“While the White House does not control the conduct of guests at receptions, we certainly expect that all attendees conduct themselves in a respectful manner. Most all do. These individuals clearly did not. Behavior like this doesn’t belong anywhere, least of all in the White House.”
This verbal spanking from the President (who is their outspoken ally) will have little effect on the offenders. Like the children they are, they will snicker and roll their eyes and rest assured that they retain the President’s favor.
2. These people should be removed from any position of authority they hold in the gay rights movement, for they lack the essential political virtue: good judgment. Without it nothing else matters. There are those who argue that the virtues are a unity and to be grossly deficient in one is to be grossly deficient in all. I will leave it to others to make that call regarding these finger-wagging activists.
3. The leadership of the gay rights movements should roundly and unapologetically denounce this behavior. At least one organization has done just that. According to The Washington Times, the Log Cabin Republicans issued this statement:
“It is unfortunate that the image conservative America is seeing today of LGBT people is of gay leftists misbehaving at the White House rather than the millions of patriotic, decent LGBT citizens, many of whom, like Log Cabin Republicans, hold President Ronald Reagan in high esteem….These photographs have hurt our community and make advocating for inclusion and equality more difficult. The participants should be ashamed.”
Indeed. However, it will be some measure of the leadership of the gay-rights movement if there is a strong denunciation across the board and not simply from one organization on the right.
4. Invariably some will argue that the gay rights movement is analogous to the racial bigotry that has haunted our country for so long. Consider the following. What if Abraham Lincoln had invited a group of black abolitionists to the White House? What if some of their number had acted after the fashion of our finger wagging activists, standing before the portrait of George Washington (that slave-holder!) and making obscene gestures? It is not hard to imagine that the offenders would have been treated to something more severe than a statement from the White House, and it is also certain that the cause of abolition would have been set back many years. That this kind of behavior can occur with relative impunity suggests the advantages enjoyed by gay activists today. An oppressed minority? They’re being courted by the White House and feel the freedom to behave disrespectfully in the house of their most powerful ally. That doesn’t really have the earmarks of oppression. It surely does not rise to the moral level of the abolition movement.
5. Tocqueville argued that as social conditions become increasingly equal, even the least inequalities will become an offense. But since perfect equality can never be achieved, offense will increase even as equality is approached. This is a perfect recipe for a perpetually offended citizenry, and that’s not a bad way to describe our cultural moment.
6. To achieve the freedom they sought, the Jacobins attempted to dismantle the social structure that impeded their “progress.” The result was, as Burke foretold, disastrous. In the same way, these modern-day Jacobins (and they are not just on the left) seek to destroy the very social and political framework that makes it possible for them to behave badly. Unfortunately, no culture can survive long under such a careless regard and sustained attack.
Which brings us back to Booker T. Washington. Washington worked for a lifetime and still his goals were not completely achieved. However, even if his efforts had been totally thwarted and if he had died an abject failure, he would have remained a man of supreme dignity. On the other hand, if the gay rights folks one day gain everything they want, those who acted so disgracefully will find themselves with far less than Washington. For Washington was a man of character. A man of dignity. By their actions, we can see by how far these folks fail to measure up to his example. We are all poorer for it.