Be fair and link the original Keillor piece
Honestly, I think Savage is reading way too much into it. Keillor seems to just be trying a "boy, things have changed" humor bit (which admittedly goes nowhere), but I don't think he's spouting "ire" at gay couples as Savage seems to think. Keillor may be leaning too heavy on stereotypes, but nobody seriously goes after Chris Rock or Carlos Mencia when they poke fun at non-black, non-hispanic minority groups; it's recognized playing with stereotypes is their shtick. Keillor's "persona" has always been one of an a nostalgic guy pining for the "good old days", and this column fits that act completely.
Of course, Savage's bit is the incensed gay columnist, so perhaps his reaction is predictable. But it it's similar to the "when you make fun of other people it's hilarious, but I'm offended by your recent jokes about something important to me and think you crossed a line" complaint. Basically, he's over-reacting and should refocus his effort on opposing people in power who really do have it in for gays. There are enough real threats to civil liberties we don't need to worry about comedy stylings of public radio hosts.
Well, we're reading all this awfully differently.
Obviously, I was not being unfair. There's a link to the Slate article in the first paragraph of the Stranger article. And if that link wasn't there, I would have linked to both pages. It seems like you're assuming I'm pro-Savage, anti-Keillor or something. I'm not even for opposite sex civil marriages!
I think telling people how to not focus their energies is patronizing and insulting at best. I think it is better to have an agenda and put it out there than to tell someone to shut up because what they care about isn't really important.
Despite their stylistic presentation, both Keillor and Savage definitely express their agenda. For example, Keillor says gay men may need temper their flamboyance to be accepted as couples and daddies. And when Savage responds, he is doing more than overreacting. He addresses Keillor's points including (as you point out) "the people in power who really do have it in for gays". I'm used to being attacked by right-wingers obsessed with gay sex and fixated on anti-gay stereotypes. It's a new and different sensation to be attacked so crudely by a man of the left.
Yeah, if you read both articles in full, then I don't really understand where you're coming from on this one.
I think it is better to have an agenda and put it out there than to tell someone to shut up because what they care about isn't really important.
I wasn't implying that Savage should shut up because the issue of gay rights isn't important. What I'm saying is that were I in Savage's position as a widely-read columnist, I feel the most meaningful avenue to advance gay rights would be going after lawmakers and decision-makers, not radio humorists.
I think it comes down to Keillor's line:
If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control.
If that's just a joke without any sociopolitical purpose behind it, then you're right. But I think that's an exceptionally hard argument to make.
Entertainers often use stereotypes and overly sensitive people react to that, but I'd say there is more going on here this time.
Keillor starts off that paragraph, the one Savage was so pissed about being full of stereotypes, by saying that those are the stereotypes. Savage completely misses that. Keillor isn't claiming (as Savage says) that all gay men behave like that.
And yes, I do think he's trying (I emphasize 'trying') to make a joke there, not a political statement. It seems to me the central "joke" in the column is that "back in the day" parents didn't have fun, parents were in "the background where they belong". Fun was for the kids, not the adults. So stereotypical gay man, who dresses wildly and appears to be having lots of fun doesn't fit that mold. I think the sentences immediately following the one you quoted support that: "Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That's for the kids. It's their show."
It's not a funny column and it lamely relies on stereotypes, but the gay stereotype I think it brings up is that gay men are always partying and having a good time. An old canard, certainly, but less offensive than what Savage is reading into it. Nowhere in it does Keillor say that gay couples "shouldn't" marry, as Savage claims, nor that they "shouldn't" have kids. In fact, Keillor takes for granted that gay marriage will become more common and that gay couples will have children. The main point Keillor is saying that parents (straight or gay) shouldn't upstage their kids for attention, either with loud pants or multiple marriages.
I can't claim Keillor is free of prejudice, and I will agree with Savage that Keillor "know[s] nothing about gay couples." But I maintain that Savage is over-reacting to what appears to me to be an ignorant ramble by a performer whose stage persona is of a traditionalist longing for "the good old days".
Basically, he's over-reacting and should refocus his effort on opposing people in power who really do have it in for gays. There are enough real threats to civil liberties we don't need to worry about comedy stylings of public radio hosts.
It's a culture clash. It's a war fought on many fronts: not something that can solely be addressed through policy without criticizing social values. Attitudes like those in Keillor's column are both ubiquitous and insidious and pose a genuine threat to anyone who happens be of a less powerful social category. Take a look at any other successful civil-rights battle: there's more to it than fighting for policy. It's about fighting for respect in all aspects of life.
First of all, it's not a "war" -- that idea was cooked up by the cable TV and AM radio talking heads. We'd all be better off if we dropped that concept, because it's wrapped up with ideas of "winning" and "losing", as if culture was some singular event with an endgame state. There is no one set of values that define a nation's culture, even at a single moment in time. In mathematical terms, culture is non-uniform and non-stationary.
So debates that criticize values are healthy and normal. They help us understand where various social values are, and over time can help influence those values. But when it comes to civil rights, policy is more important than culture. To be technical, "civil rights" are defined by policy -- they are the state-granted rights citizens have recognized by law.
Historically, changes in the laws long preceded social acceptance (if it ever came at all.) Social acceptance is good, but not strictly necessary. If someone is treated equally under the law, then who cares what some racist/homophobic asshole thinks? We can't punish people for thinking, and there's no right to be respected. I don't see how anyone's attitude presents "a genuine threat" to anyone else. It's when their attitude influences behavior and influences the law that it creates injustice and inequity. So while both are worth fighting for, getting equal recognition from the state I consider a much higher priority than the issue of social acceptance.
There's a lot I could address here but I have to go to Kansas City soon. Let's get to the heart of it, yes?
The law is only worth so much if you can't safely walk home at night. Policy is fine and well on paper. Preventing or proving discrimination? Good luck, is what I say. Speaking as someone who has been an advocate for several years now (currently both in the courts and at a crisis center), the law is important but doesn't cut it on its own, and that's why our work is largely about promoting tolerance (and as much as I could get in it with you about attitudes and privilege, I can't right now). Is our work successful? Sometimes. Is it difficult? Extremely.
We could make this about semantics, but that's a red herring used to measure cocks, not something to be used if we're actually interested in understanding each other.
I think one of the main problems Nate and I had with your first comment is that you were taking your own priorities and trying to put them on other people's agendas. Sure, "respect" isn't a right. Does that mean no one should strive toward spreading compassion and empathy? Does that mean someone shouldn't speak out when they hear someone saying something unjust? I don't think so. If you want something to be done a certain way, go do it yourself. An armchair quarterback never scores.
I should have been more explicit in my first comment. When I said Savage "should refocus his effort on opposing people in power" I intended that to imply that was my impression of how those fighting for gay civil rights could most effectively set priorities. I obviously actually can't direct Savage what to say, I'm not his editor. I'm not saying people shouldn't speak out about slurs and stereotypes. I'm not saying people shouldn't "strive toward spreading compassion". Those are important things, but in the fight for gay marriage rights, my belief is that changes to the law are more critical.
And the reason I bring up the issue of state recognized rights is not for a semantic argument, but because marriage (in this context) is a civil right. Savage is arguing for equal state recognition of gay couples and straight couples. Rights can be derived from a number of sources, not just the law, but the debate on gay marriage is a debate about equal application of civil law.
If the argument between Savage and Keillor about the more natural human right to be safe in their person, then yes, changes in social attitudes are critical. Social norms govern behavior in a way the law cannot (the law can only punish). But without full recognition as persons under the law, there's no recourse for an underprivileged group to protect and defend themselves. If the law doesn't recognize someone as a person, others can persecute him or her with immunity. Women and blacks are prominent cases of groups fighting for (and achieving) equal protection under the law, although both are still fighting for full social acceptance. And yes, a fair application of the law is still a problem; "soft" discrimination and un-punished violence still exists in abundance.
However, that issue of getting recognition "on paper" I believe is a prerequisite for social acceptance and protection. The law is almost always fixed before culture comes around. With the fight for women and blacks, the changes "on paper" are largely finished; the focus is now on the change in attitudes, which takes generations. But gays still don't even have full recognition as people under the law, so I think getting that fixed should be the focus of the fight. The eventual change in social attitudes will be a much longer campaign, the success of which rests heavily on current legal battles. Success at both is important, but the latter seems more pressing.
I just read an essay he wrote in the 80s satirizing people who wanted equal rights for women and gays. He described a "Shy People" manifesto, where "Shys" wouldn't be required to be outgoing and had the right to stay in their homes and not be changed and such. The "funny" point was that people who were fighting for gay and female equality were ridiculous people who should shut up, see?
Needless to say, I didn't like it. So when I heard about his Salon piece I wans't surprised. Who needs empathy when you have power and hypocrisy?