“Humanity” is an interesting word. Technically, it describes a biological factor: the totality of beings in the taxonomic classification homo sapiens. However, as homo sapiens, we can’t be happy with this, so instead we’ve attached an emotional component to it. “Humanity” is less about the biological fact of being human and more about the emotional impact of the actions that we take. To “show some humanity” is to express virtues that we consider to be good, true, and right, things like compassion, generosity, empathy, love, and kindness.
And that is why I cannot help but wonder if Laurie Higgins is genuinely human.
A little background to begin.
You might have seen recently a new Rolling Stone article circulating around the internet about the Anoka-Hennepin school district, a place where for almost two decades teachers have been unable to address LGBT issues or help students with them due to a policy that currently promotes “neutrality” in regards to queer issues. What this means in practice is that gay issues cannot be addressed and homophobic bullying continues unchecked by a school district where teachers risk their jobs when they say, “there is nothing wrong with being gay and you shouldn’t pick on him/her for it.” Instead, it allows milquetoast assurances about “we don’t say that sort of thing here” and the like, but it cannot allow for teachers to humanize gay students. The irony between that and the premise of this post is not lost on me.
Essentially, the policy doesn’t give students a reason why they shouldn’t bully their LGBT classmates, just tells them not to do it. And we all know how well teenagers take to being told to do something for no other reason than an authority figure said it.
No, I’m serious. We all know how well they take to it. They rebel. They ignore. They give platitudes and go right back to what they were doing. I know it, you know it, the members of the Anoka-Hennepin school board know it, the members of anti-gay Parents Action League know it. In fact, I suspect that the latter two on that list are counting on it. Teenagers, hearing in their homes and churches how evil the gays are and why, then coming to their schools and getting meaningless drivel when they act on those lessons with no counter-argument, have no reason to show respect or treat their LGBT classmates as anything other than the depraved sinners they are portrayed as elsewhere.
This is intentional. This is the point. Groups like the Parents Action League want this to happen, bringing them one step closer to the Biblical utopia they crave. That, or they are so apathetic to the death of children that it simply doesn’t factor into their rhetoric, which I’m not sure if that’s better or not.
I know that sounds harsh, but I’ve wracked my brain and can think of no other reason that the school board would react by trying to defend themselves rather than acknowledging the problem. Sorry, but when you have 9 suicides in two years, your attempts to fix it need to move a little faster, and dragging your feet in this manner only leads to more deaths. Again, the school board is aware of this. You’d have to be dense beyond human capacity not to be.
But the real point of this article is not even the locals. They’re at least there and while some of them have grotesque ideas of what is right and wrong, they can comment on specifics that affect them. Many even believe that what they’re doing is saving children from the “destructive homosexual lifestyle.” They believe this because they’re idiots, but they’re honest idiots.
Not so with the Illinois Family Institute, which responded via the execrable Laurie Higgins.
Mrs. Higgins, attempting to ape the Rolling Stone article headline, declares Rolling Stone’s “war on Anoka-Hennepin school district.” You see, the common response of a human being, when hearing about the suicides of children in record numbers, many of which were the result of bullying, would be to express concern, call others to action, show some amount of compassion for the families of the victims and demonstrate your dedication to not letting this happen any more. It’s standard, it’s polite, and it’s a very human thing to do. Even rabid anti-abortion groups condemn the murders they inspire after they happen, at least pretending that there’s no cognitive dissonance between calling somebody a mass murderer and being shocked when somebody kills them.
Instead, we get a press release that discusses how the Rolling Stone piece is not only unfair, but a direct attack against Christians, specifically Evangelicals. Let’s take a look at some of what is in Higgins’s piece.
For the past couple of months, I have been working with a dedicated, courageous, and tireless community group from the Minneapolis suburbs: the Parents Action League (PAL). They live in the Anoka-Hennepin school district, which has been facing a relentless campaign by homosexual activists and their “progressive” allies to use their public schools to normalize homosexuality.
These activists pretend their ultimate goal is to end bullying, but only the naïve or ignorant believe that whopper. The truth is that they are exploiting legitimate anti-bullying sentiment in order to implement their politicized anti-bullying programs, all in the service of achieving their ultimate goal: the eradication of conservative moral beliefs about homosexuality.
Hold on, I’m going to stop right there because I need to address a point about that last sentence. You see, the thing is, it’s true, at least in my case. I do want to get rid of the conservative moral beliefs about homosexuality. They’re terrible, discriminatory, and entirely irrational, based primarily on their interpretation of a collection of Bronze Age myths and what they think the invisible sky pixie wants from them. They are disgusting, grotesque, and an insult to all that is good in the world. Yes, I want to get rid of them, and I’m right to want to get rid of them. The fact that Higgins believes stupid things does not make my wanting her and others like her to not think stupid things some sort of assault. Anti-bullying programs are designed to educate people so they don’t believe idiotic notions, and if that is the political motive behind them, I say let’s have more of it.
If they can’t achieve that doctrinaire goal, they will reluctantly settle for bullying conservatives into silence. They will accept an America in which it is politically, legally, or socially impossible for conservatives to express the moral beliefs homosexual activists can’t eradicate, leaving homosexuals and their allies free to gambol about the public square with all their First Amendment rights intact–rights they seek to diminish for conservatives.
Typical confusion on the part of people like this. I’ll clear it up. Ahem.
The First Amendment prevents the government from silencing you. There is no provision in the First Amendment that keeps people from treating you like a pariah for being an asshole. You can choose not to be an asshole. Queer people cannot choose not to be queer. You being an asshole affects other people. Queer people being queer has no material effect on you. This is why you deserve to be scoffed at and ignored when you express your First Amendment rights to lie about gay people, and gay people don’t deserve to be scoffed at and ignored when they tell the truth about themselves.
She continues on discussing how if the policy weren’t in place than conservatives would be under fire to expressing their views in school. And you know what, she’s probably right about that too, and it’s just as it should be. If you’re lying to a classroom full of students, you should be called out on the carpet for it no matter what your idiotic beliefs are. Again, that you believe something does not make it right or legitimate. The standard for what teachers should discuss in school should be whether what they are teaching is true, or at least true as far as we know currently, and a policy that demands “neutrality” demands that teachers avoid truth in favor of political consideration. This is a bad standard.
Higgins follows up with some number listed thoughts. I’ll respond to a few of them here. I want to remind you that she has said nothing thus far expressing concern for the deaths of nine students in this school district, but mindless lashing out at Rolling Stone.
1. Rolling Stone writer Erdely claims there were nine suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin District and yet mentions only seven. The district claims there were seven. My point is not to discount the heartrending tragedy of the loss of these seven lives. My point is to question Erdely’s account.
OK, now you’ve recognized it’s a tragedy, but only in such a way as to cast doubt on Erdely’s piece. You’ve failed to not discount the deaths of seven students by basically pointing out that it was “only seven” rather than nine. Does it matter? Would it matter if it were one?
3. Of the remaining six that Erdely discusses, two were called anti-“gay” epithets. It should be pointed out that, contrary to Erdely’s claim, being called an anti-“gay” epithet does not necessarily mean that a teen is being perceived as “gay.” As Erdely surely knows, epithets are hurled around with little concern for their content or accuracy. If a term has acquired negative connotations, bullies often pay no attention to their actual meaning. If they think a term is negative, they use it indiscriminately. How many kids have been called “retards” when they were neither mentally challenged nor perceived to be.
This is the dumbest of her points. Words mean things. If I called Higgins a “heartless cunt,” that would mean something. Claiming that that isn’t a gender-based insult designed to imply not only that she was bad, but that she was bad because of a comparison to women who are inherently bad, would be obtuse at best, dishonest at worst. Which is why I prefer to call her a “heartless fuckwit.” Either way, why do these kids think that “gay” is a negative term, unless they’ve been taught that being gay is bad, therefore calling somebody gay is also bad?
4. Not once did Erdely suggest that the bullies were Evangelicals or motivated by Evangelical beliefs about homosexuality, which, by the way, are simply orthodox Christian beliefs widely held by the finest contemporary Protestant and Catholic theologians as well virtually all theologians in the history of Christendom until the late 20th Century.
I have a number of problems with this point, the first being that calling on theologians to determine the rightness or wrongness of something is basically the same as calling on Browncoats. They’ve dedicated their lives to the interpretation of stories and how those stories affect us as people. Don’t get me wrong, I have an English degree and the study of literature is largely the interpretation of stories to find clues as to the nature of humanity and how we should live. However, the difference between a lit major and a theologian is that lit majors search for suggestions and reflections left by the author, whereas theologians attempt to derive empirical truth from a collection of fairy tales. Honestly, it doesn’t matter any more what they think than it does what a dedicated scholar of Middle Earth thinks.
Moreover, the implication of this point is both to say that there’s no proof that the bullies are Evangelicals, but even if they were, theologians support their bullying. I’m not sure what Higgins was attempting to get across with this, but I sincerely hope it wasn’t what it reads as.
Finally, the orthodoxy of your beliefs is meaningless to this conversation. Being perfectly in line with bigoted beliefs doesn’t make you not a bigot. It makes you part of a system of bigotry. I know enough people who would argue your theology, but that seems like a pointless exercise.
Most of the rest of the points are variations on the question, “But how can you be sure it was Evangelicals?” Not only is this sort of blatant ass covering nauseating, it reveals a lot about the writer. She is more concerned about the appearance of her preferred in group than she is for the lives of children. Each one of these points is made absolutely meaningless by her statement in point 4, which is that Christian theologians would approve of bullying on Biblical grounds. Whether the bullies were Evangelical or not doesn’t matter since she has stated that Evangelicals who follow the Bible via the interpretations of learned scholars of the text should be doing this. The reality of whether or not the students in question identified as Evangelical or not becomes moot when you consider that according to Higgins, a good Evangelical is required to behave in that fashion.
Whether or not that’s true, which I don’t believe it is, the very nature of this article is abhorrent. Rather than acknowledge a problem, Higgins nitpicks without citing sources and engages in a sort of rhetorical ju-jitsu in which she attempts to protect Evangelicals from criticisms while simultaneously asserting that their anti-gay views are correct. There is only a passing mention that child suicides are even a problem, the rest being an attempt to cast doubt on the article in question with rhetorical questions designed to imply answers (i.e. I have no doubt that Erdely did check on the stories she was told, and asking if she did is a weasel way of implying that she didn’t).
This sort of empty rhetoric is what I’ve come to expect from the anti-gay crowd who continually attempt to cast themselves as victims, cruelly discriminated against because of their faith. It’s not their fault that the Lord wants them to inform gay kids of their sin. They’re stuck between God and a hard place, and these mean liberals are making it worse.
That’s not true. While I’m sure most people who believe these things are simply ignorant, having grown up in a bubble where only those who agree with them can be heard, people like Higgins are steeped in the events of the day. She knows why the things she is asserting are bunk. She chooses to ignore that knowledge, though, because it’s important for the perfect world she and her supporters want that gay kids do remain closeted or kill themselves. There is no way to compromise the idea that a kid shouldn’t kill themselves but should think of themselves as an abomination that God hates.