Via the Fairfax Family Forum, a very interesting post about how evil is hard to recognize when it is normalized.
The purpose of this piece is to condemn abortion, which is the reason that FFF has linked to it. For reasons that are well beyond the scope of this post, the GLBT-and-allies community occupies every point on the spectrum of that divisive issue, so we’re not taking a position on that. What’s astonishing to me is that the FFF is blinded to the full significance of these powerful words:
If were a 31-year-old woman with three little kids in a busy house in Germany 1941, would I have fully understood the evil that surrounded me? As a woman living in 2008 I can see the horror that was going on there, but at the time there were some awfully sleek lies being told about the situation; it would have been really, really convenient to let myself be persuaded by the lies and just make the nasty little problem go away by telling myself that it wasn’t really a problem at all.
Recently I was looking through some genealogy documents and noticed that a distant ancestor of mine owned a slave. My own flesh and blood, people probably not unlike me at all, participated in the horror of slavery. Can I be so sure that I would have seen the truth? Or, if I had lived alongside my ancestor, would I have included a human being on the list of possessions I owned? Even if I didn’t own a slave myself, would I have shooed the distasteful subject from my mind by surrounding myself with the comfort that all my friends seemed to think it was fine and, after all, it was perfectly legal? Evil’s most powerful tool is that it always works through lies; the lure to tell yourself that something bad is not really bad at all is a powerful temptation, and one that I’m not sure I could have resisted.
The author doesn’t go far enough here, in my opinion. Slavery was not only perfectly legal and socially accepted, it was justified by powerful men who claimed to speak for God, who claimed that human beings with dark skin were intended by God to be enslaved, to have less than human dignity and worth. Those who found in Scripture something contrary to that view were reviled and accused of apostasy.
One thing that stands out in all these examples is that the victims of the widespread evil were categorized as something less than human…
…Every decade or so, take a look around the society in which you live, and ask yourself if there is any group of human beings who are seen as something less than human. A big tipoff is if dehumanizing words — terms other than “man,” “woman,” “child,” “baby,” or “person” — are used to describe any category of people.
And if you ever see that going on, you might be in the midst of something gravely evil. [Emphasis in original.]
When such terms are used sarcastically and bracketed with scare quotes to refer to people and their attributes, literally “man,” “woman,” “person,” “community,” “family,” “marriage,” “love,” “parent,” “rights,” and probably many more that I didn’t think of within the space of about 30 seconds, that is dehumanizing. It ought to be obvious that referring to a human being as “it” is, by definition, dehumanizing. Yet this is the language I have witnessed over and over being used to talk about members of my community, most especially by people who claim to speak for God.
People who are capable of grasping the significance of this language only in certain selected contexts need to think long and hard about this. I don’t at all doubt the sincerity of the author. With regard to our community, she seems to be an open-minded person who is thoughtfully struggling with questions raised by her conversion to Catholicism. Judging from my cursory read, her blog generates intelligent conversation free of the hatefulness we see all too often. The position she has come to embrace is that we are not intended to engage in any sexual act that is not open to conception. That’s what makes sense to her, but she doesn’t appear to have made a political crusade of enforcing it for others through public policy.
That’s the difference. I don’t know whether the dehumanizing language used in talking about GLBT people occurred to the author while writing the piece or not. I hope so. If not, I hope that I’ve at least provided some food for thought.