When We Look Back

We get closer and closer to the tipping point. It won’t be long now. One generation that can’t understand why there is even a question is dying in ever-increasing numbers. Another generation that also doesn’t understand the fuss is preparing to vote. The generations that follow them will look much like these children, only more so.

It won’t take long before the thoughtless, flinching bigotry is replaced by easy familiarity and acceptance. It is still too long, as the delay costs families, jobs, lives. But the genie cannot be put back in the closet. It’s coming.

Marriage equality will arrive while many, very close to half the voting population in any given state, who oppose it still live. More in states where the rights are recognized by courts instead of elected officials. The people who vote now to delay the inevitable can say, “Over my dead body”, but that won’t be how it happens. They will see equality become the law.

Then they will see it become the norm. That won’t take long either. The problem with holding an apocalypse over the head of a congregation or an electorate is that any other consequences will look laughably small. They will be laughably small. Marriage between people of the same sex makes so little difference to people outside the marriage, and spreads so much joy, that the nightmares of its opponents will quickly be seen as the sad, pale shadows they are.

Once these ridiculous bans on the codification of loving relationships become settled history, they will be judged as history. That is a different process than how they are judged now. Now the bans have the inertia of what is behind them. They won’t then. They will only have the justifications their supporters used.

Today someone can say, “It isn’t bigotry. I just don’t think things should change.” They will believe it. People who hear them may believe it. Once things have changed, all that will be left is the bigotry.

When the foot-dragging conservatism of the present tense has shifted to the past, that is what these voters will be judged on. That is how history will take its view. That’s how history always takes its view. Inertia sides with progress, and bigotry is left to stand on its own. Abandoned, it is easier to see and less defensible than ever.

If you’re one of those voters, you know that many of us already point to your bigotry. You don’t like it, and you shouldn’t. What you can’t do is effectively deny it. “I only support people who are already supported” is a form of bigotry, as is “I only support the people my church supports.” Displaced responsibility for bigotry doesn’t make something magically not bigotry anymore.

You may not like having your bigotry announced to the world, but you can’t stop us from seeing it. Some of us already feel the change. We may be moving with it, or we may discover the world is finally coming to meet us. Either way, we’re not held by the same inertia. We can look at your words and your actions and see them as history will. We can tell you now what the world will say then.

The world will call you “bigot”. History will strip away everything else, and that is what the world will see. That is how you will be judged. That is how you will be remembered. Only that. Just look back and see how it happened to others. It will happen the same way to you.

You do not have to like it. You shouldn’t like it. You should know, however, that there is only one way to change it.

History is coming. Change is coming. Where will you be when it has passed you?

When We Look Back

22 thoughts on “When We Look Back

  1. 1

    I saw this on Twitter last night. Picture: http://pic.twitter.com/KPsw1CCJ

    I’m filling out the [UK] government’s consultation on marriage equality. Not sure if this is the right answer.

    Question 1. Do you agree or disagree that all couples, regardless of their gender, should be able to have a civil marriage ceremony?
    (*) Agree
    ( ) Disagree
    ( ) Don’t Know

    Question 2. Please explain the reason for your answer, limiting your response to 1255 characters (approx. 200 words):

    Because I am not an arsehole.

  2. 2

    Notice how the people who are against marriage equality never mention how the sky has fallen in Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, South Africa, or any other countryw ith marriage equality. They talk about what ‘will’ happen, but they don’t bring the what ‘has not’ happened where people have taken the egalitarian route.

  3. CT

    ::sigh:: isn’t it bad enough that those of us whose family has been here literally forever have to fight against the “everyone in the south is a racist” stigma? It makes me effing depressed that now I have to just take it on the chin about how NCians are bigots and religious nutbars. And I can’t argue at all, I can’t say “well that was generations past” like I can about racism.

    I will never understand why people like hate, intolerance and fear.

  4. 5

    You do not have to like it. You shouldn’t like it. You should know, however, that there is only one way to change it.

    Well, then, I’m a failure — I like it.

    Look, I’m not going to pretend that I’m all rainbowy inside. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and my neighborhood was so white bread that I didn’t even realize that the two (out of 2000+ in my high school) African-American kids in my high school didn’t just have really great tans.

    I will never, ever, see people not-like-the-ones-I-grew-up-with as really “like me.” Too long, too deep. Somewhere hiding under the mask there’s an inner bigot.

    But I don’t have to let the beast out, and I’m at least honest enough to accept that it’s there. I can act like a mensch even if I’m not one all the way to the bone.

    And, yeah, I know this isn’t about that kind of bigotry. That’s because accepting people whose gender identities don’t line up with mine is easy for me. I got taught “none of your business” right from the beginning, and that lesson took. Sure, the original context was heteronormative, but it’s like the flip side of those dark-skinned classmates: I can be blind and just take people as … people.

    Pity so many other fogies never learned that lesson about “none of your damned business.”

    So I may be on the dinosaur side of the KT boundary, but that doesn’t mean I can’t watch the incoming comet and enjoy the show while celebrating the changes that will come after me.

  5. 7

    @peicurmudgeon I’ve actually heard people say “Canada has gay marriage, look what it did to them!” Saying that divorce rates have skyrocketed since it was made legal. Of course…divorce rates have actually declined since 2005…

  6. 10


    isn’t it bad enough that those of us whose family has been here literally forever have to fight against the “everyone in the south is a racist” stigma? It makes me effing depressed that now I have to just take it on the chin about how NCians are bigots and religious nutbars.

    You poor thing. You have it just as bad as the people who are denied marriage rights. Just as you were whining about here the other day.

    Poor ickle white Southerners, the most oppressed people in the U.S. I shed a single crystalline tear for your plight. ;__;

  7. 11

    As a line in an otherwise thoroughly forgettable movie from the early 70s said, “Don’t try to hold back the hands of the clock. It will rip your arms off.”

  8. 12

    I don’t remember the source, but I remember reading somewhere, “The future is coming…and nothing will stop it.”

    This post resonates with that, the inevitability of change for a better future for all of us, and the extinction of those far too rooted in their personal misgivings to be of use.

  9. 13

    CT – You think you have state-based bigotry bad? Try living in Texas. Anywhere outside of Austin or Houston, you’re just a bigot.

    Frankly, I’ll take that over being one of the groups my state discriminates against. It’s a pretty sweet trade, really. I get called nasty names, they get called nasty names, they get their rights revoked, they get beaten up and bullied, and the bullies get protected. So yeah, just keep on whining…

  10. 14

    Thanks for this post. I was wrong for a long time. It was 18 years before I, comfortably ensconced in my privilege, even got confronted about this particular issue, and it wasn’t like I realized I was wrong that night and was suddenly on the side of civil human rights the very next day. This post reminded me of where I came from, some of the ways I’ve changed (I hope for the better), and also that work remains to be done.

    Posts like this, communities like FtB and its razor-sharp commentariat, helped me see – and continue to help me see – when I was wrong, when I am wrong.

    Thanks again.

    Still learning,


  11. 15

    It’s pretty amusing how people think that action on gay marriage means the entire world is bending towards a sort of liberal utopia.

    So, let’s take stock: partial success on restoring rights which appear to have existed in the Middle Ages in Europe while global food, water, and energy crises are turning into a perfect storm of zero-sum conflict.

    And just think: the self-righteous lefties constantly tooting their own horns about how great they are for society are with few exceptions quite complicit in all this.

  12. 18

    And, no, your original post doesn’t explicitly say that you believe in a certain notion of ever-increasing social progress. The narrative merely strongly implies it. So I guess you could fault me in that regard … maybe. Enjoy your puny victories.

  13. 20

    No, I processed it alright. You’re celebrating an ultimately inconsequential projected victory. Congratulations.

    ps somebody told me that your job as “analyst” requires little more than the ability to use Excel. Is that true?

  14. 21

    Aww. It thinks it’s trolling. How…dull.

    I will happily accept your congratulations on my having empathy. It’s a pity you don’t know that’s worth something.

    And no. You shouldn’t believe everything people tell you.

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