It has been only a week, but already videos and articles are circulating on the Internet, and I can only assume they will increase. On May 26, a visiting speaker, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, gave a talk entitled “Same Sex Marriage: Why Not?” which understandably generated controversy. But that controversy was no justification for the disappointing actions of the protesters who came out to greet her.
Since videos are indeed already circulating, I will describe the protest here only in brief. A group of around 20-30 students representing members of UCSB’s LBGTQ community attended the opening moments of the event. Holding signs and standing quietly in the auditorium, they seemed at first prepared to silently oppose the talk for its duration. I would have praised them for this act of solidarity and testimony if this were the case. Unfortunately, it was not. Rather, when Dr. Morse began to speak, they turned their back on her and began chanting loudly. One article I read called this display “rowdy,” which, in fairness, I cannot fully agree with. Yes, it was loud, but it was brief and not uncontrolled. Continuing to chant, the entire group then left, allowing Dr. Morse to begin her talk.
The problem here should be obvious, and it is not a problem with the demonstration itself. As I have said, I would have been fully prepared to accept their presence at such a discussion and even to welcome it. Our constitution ensures us the right to peaceably assemble and protest, and I myself have exercised this right innumerable times. No, the problem regards when the members of this group chose to make their exit: They left before hearing a single word.
I am personally acquainted with a few of the individuals in this group of protestors, and I would like to reassure them and their colleagues that their opinions are valid. Though I do not fully agree with them, I am sincerely open, as always, to hearing what they have to say concerning this issue or any other. In fact, I have had this and similar discussions with them and with others before. But valid opinions do not exempt any of them from hearing the equally valid opinions of their opponents, myself included, and that is where they have willfully decided to go wrong.
This phenomenon is not limited to the members of the LGBTQ protest group from last week’s talk. Indeed, it has become pervasive on college campuses where things like “trigger warnings,” bans on subjectively defined “hate speech” and accusations of “bigotry” serve as excuses to ignore unwelcome opposition to our beliefs. Though in some instances these things may prove helpful or comfortable, at their core they exist to shield us from challenge. The world is not perfect, and I concede that some people may be genuinely bigoted and hateful. But if a “bigot” is “aperson who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices,” as Merriam-Webster assures me it is, I can think of no way to willfully ignore such people without becoming a “bigot” myself. More troubling, I fear doing so would foster in me the same intellectual immaturity that I have so often encountered in those who have never suffered their views to be challenged.
I believe that our core values should withstand such adversity. Moreover, I am convinced that this challenge is what refines and solidifies our principles into the moral codes that make us strongand responsible people. Fragile or fleeting ideologies cannot form the core of a developed and mature worldview; this I assume to be self-evident. Equally self-evident ought to be the conclusions which follow from this assumption: namely, that we should never fear to put our values to the test of scrutiny, for it is far more to be feared that we should too lightly assimilate the ethics presented to us. Were we to adopt ideologies without criticism or avoid uncomfortable situations in which those views might be opposed, education would quickly devolve into indoctrination.
For these reasons, leaving the conversation is not heroic. It is not constructive. It is, in fact, a capitulation of sorts. It says to those who challenge us that we are either unable or unwilling to offer a defense; that we are either too uninformed or too arrogant to respond. I will readily admit to being uninformed on a variety of issues and cannot fault anyone for admitting likewise; we came to college to learn, after all. But I am obliged to fault anyone whose arrogance, real or unwitting, prevents them from taking their opponents seriously and seeking to learn from them.
To return to the specific case of Dr. Morse’s recent talk, there remains a redemptive ending. I was much gratified to note that many people who disagreed with her views nevertheless listened attentively and offered their own opinions at the talk’s conclusion. In fact, the lengthy question-and-answer session following her talk was overwhelmingly dominated by questions and challenges from people who opposed her viewpoint. The discussion was both enjoyable and edifying, and many audience members made informed criticisms to which she provided informed answers. Furthermore, I was deeply impressed by the conduct of those members of the LGBTQ community who weighed in, on both sides, and proved themselves willing to engage in civil and productive dialogue. To my mind, these were the real heroes oflast week’s discourse, and they represented the true spirit of tolerance and democratic progress to which America’s founders aspired.
By no means do I or those like me harbor any ill will toward the LGBTQ community. On the contrary, I wholeheartedly agree with one man who said, “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation … The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.” But if it surprises the reader to note that this man was Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the most “bigoted” and “anti-gay” religious community in the world, that surprise serves only to underscore my point. Indeed, Pope Francis is not an anomaly among Catholics, though few realize this, nor has he changed Church teachings. Do we honestly understand each other? How much of what we “understand” is simply ingrained assumptions that we choose to leave unverified? Can we ever achieve understanding if we refuse to speak with one another?
It’s time we took our responsibilities to each other a little more seriously. I would truly love to see us step off the soapbox and find it in ourselves to take a seat in the audience. Front row, dead center. We don’t always agree, nor should we be made to. But we can always listen.
You can find the News article covering Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse’s talk here:
The author of this article is a part of the org that brought the homophobic speaker to our campus.
Didn’t like the chant? Well WE don’t enjoy having our rights up for debate on our own campus! We opposed and didn’t feel like giving you or her the time of day. End of story.
“…didn’t feel like giving you or her the time of day.” Did you not still take time to plan your disruption? Take time to make signs. And even set time to just do your fun little walk out? If you are going to be childish and conduct yourself how you did, own up to it. Dont play this farce where you feel as though the speaker and the talk didn’t hold weight with you cause the outcome shows otherwise.
Okay??? Sure!!!!! It holds weight because we don’t enjoy being oppressed openly on our campus?????? …..so we made signs…………..and didn’t want to listen……………………………..I meant that we didn’t want to give her the time of day MEANING we didn’t want to listen to her open her mouth…….thought that was pretty clear…………..
Please stop talking. You’re making the rest of us look stupid and undoing the hard work of people who truly fight for change rather than throw hissy fits and storm off.
Respectability politics don’t really bring us together. If you want a unified movement, then we both need to work towards one!
Hello Why, thank you for your response! I can see that this is an issue you feel passionate about, and I am grateful that you took the time to read my article and offer your comments. I would like very much to talk with you more about your thoughts, but I’m afraid this comments section would be a less than ideal forum for that discussion. As an alternative, my U-mail address is as follows: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested, please let me know via that address of a place and time where we could meet other and talk. I look… Read more »
smh Gerald Caligaris
Thank you, Gerald! Although I WHOLEHEARTEDLY disagree with ALL of the points made by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, I appreciate the need to engage in dialogue with those we disagree with. Debate is necessary to strengthen one’s own values and form well-founded opinions. It allows you to present your opinion in a way that stands the test of criticism. It has seemed to me that freedom of speech is only acceptable on this campus when the majority of students agree with the ideas of the speaker (See: Miller-Young controversy). Engage with people you disagree with! Show them why they are… Read more »
Thank you for your show of support! I had hoped this piece might get a response like yours, and it is encouraging to note your willingness to discuss tough issues with those who don’t agree. Thanks to your comment, I can consider this article a success.
Thank you again!
It is clear that the Anscombe Society did not really want an open discussion. If the members had wanted one, they would have brought in a variety of panelists of differing opinions, debating the pros and cons of same-sex marriage. Instead, they brought in Dr. Morse, a woman who has said things such as: (sources: glaad.org, ruthinstitute.org) – the gay rights movement is “anti-human” and that “the job that religion does in most people’s lives, they are filling it up with Earth worship” – “the parallels” between Nazi Germany and contemporary America “are really quite chilling” and what happened in… Read more »
What I am saying to the Anscombe Society is —
Create a panel, or an event in which we have equal footing. Then and only then can an amicable discussion be begun.
Commenter, Once again: in April I reached out to both co-chairs of the Queer Student Union in an attempt to plan a debate on same sex marriage rather than a lecture. I never received a response. In light of this, we made an effort to invite everyone to the event and we set aside a large portion of the event for Q&A so that persons could raise objections. Instead, members of the QSU decided to come to shout us down, disrupt our event and disrespect us, our audience and our speaker. In addition to this, convinced that people of good… Read more »
The protestors were not QSU. We were a group of un-affiliated queer people. Also, we are not debating your right to marry or take care of children. We just refuse to listen to hate speech, or play the “respectability” game, in which we have to cater to our oppressors.
Commenter, You seem to be contradicting yourself now. Would you have liked to organize a debate or not? Your first comments indicate that the answer to that is yes and the last comment that the answer to that is no. Also, please stop trying to exculpate yourself or the queer community of any wrongdoing. Your actions were hateful and disrespectful. Own up to that. More: one can’t help but chuckle at your insisting that the protest was not involved with the QSU. If the president of the Anscombe Society (me) were to show up with a good number of Anscombe… Read more »
Hate speech is disparaging language against people based on ethnic group, gender, race, disability, or sexual orientation, among other factors. Not shaking your hand is not an example of hate speech–it is part of peaceful protest. Also, some member overlapped but I am not in QSU, and neither were many of the people who protested. This is the problem. You do not understand how systems of oppression work. And you continue to justify your privilege by antagonizing and dehumanizing (even now, as you challenge my intellectual capabilities,) the queer community. It creates a toxic environment in which to discuss things.… Read more »
Hate Speech from Carlos Flores:
Defines and calls trans identity absurd, a disease, and invalid.
Also Carlos is a supporter of Mass Resistance, a known hate group: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/ideology/anti-gay/active_hate_groups
and uses anti black, racist rhetoric in his statements.
It is definitely evident that Flores is a self-centered bigot, but you’re going to have to back up those claims of yours somehow.
both of the old QSU co-chairs were there, as well as both of the new QSU co-chairs. but so were the co-chairs of QComm, members from QAPI, La Familia De Colores, and other unaffiliated queer students. This was an effort not put on by any organization, but organized by a bunch of pissed off queer students protesting a hateful event hosted by your hateful organization. we are united in standing up for our identities. fuck alllllll the way off carlos.
Not shaking hands was an act to show solidarity, in holding each other’s
hands, and the signs that were taken away from us. Not meant to be a personal insult.
Now if we were actually hateful, we would have hosted an event callled “Opposite-Sex Marriage: Why Not?”. But we support your rights. We don’t support, on the other hand, our own dehumanization.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article and submit your comments, your feedback is much appreciated. I would like to convey to you a similar invitation to the one which I offered to Why, and meet with you to discuss your views and mine in person. If you are interested, please take the time to e-mail me at email@example.com with a time and place that would be most convenient for you. I look forward to receiving your e-mail!
Homophobes ARE lepers….
Leave those poor Anscombe folks alone. The fight for marriage equality is over and they lost. Let them try to justify their bigoted beliefs to each other in peace. They need something to do while gay marriage bans continue to crumble all over the country.