A Thread Through Culture-War Stories
In response to my reservations about grand preening in celebration of a “counter protest” that exponentially outnumbered the mentally feeble Phelps family whom it targeted, commenter Chris offered the following:
I approve of both the reporting, and the action. I like the idea that 1) our kids have learned to spot human junk, and react accordingly ( there’s always a built-in respect for elders taught to kids. Its good for them to know when to shake it off ), and 2) the projo carrying it helps other kids to learn to markings of this kind of animal, and learn to reject it out of hand faster.
Its a pity violence isn’t allowed. It would be a quicker lesson for those things.
Such comments are typically best let to evaporate like gasoline, because regardless of the extent to which they capture something existent in the thoughts and emotions of more moderate sympathizers, elevation of extremists repels all parties by pushing them to different corners. In other words, it doesn’t help us to resolve disputes if one party gives the impression that it believes its opposition to have more common ground with the lunatics in its midst than with those engaged in conversation. It’s difficult enough to convey innate sympathy despite disagreement.
But Chris draws with his bright red crayon a line to the anti-traditionalist assault in Warwick. Note the protective gauze that Providence Journal reporter Kate Bramson wraps around the perpetrators:
The weapons included mayonnaise, ketchup and salsa — but also pepper spray, a glass jar and fists.
A difference of opinion over gay marriage sparked the incident, and emotions escalated quickly. Punches were thrown.
A small group of men visiting Rhode Island this week urging people to support traditional marriage called the police.
Offended by the men’s message, four young women now face charges of assault or battery and disorderly conduct. The youngest, 17, also faces a more serious charge — felony assault with a dangerous substance.
On a hot, sticky Tuesday afternoon, on a grassy area just in front of the Rhode Island Mall, stood six men from a group headquartered in Spring Grove, Pa. They were dressed in suits, red sashes flung over their shoulders. …
Driving by, stuck at a red light on Route 113, two women saw the men. Once the light turned green and the driver accelerated, the passenger threw a bottle out the window. …
The men dispute the women’s account and face no charges. Four are listed in the police report as victims …
“I feel immature,” Scungio said Thursday. “… We obviously shouldn’t have gone up to them at all, because none of this would have happened.”
Bramson may have backed away (slightly) from reporter Maria Armental’s jocularity, yesterday, but her spin is made more stunning by its incorporation of more details. In her attempt to excuse physical violence, including the use of pepper spray, Bramson casts the whole thing as a street-side debate gone wrong; even the weather and the traffic signal were culprits, let alone the audacity of those men with “red sashes flung over their shoulders.” Never mind that the assault was premeditated. Never mind that two women somehow multiplied into four — with one just happening to drive by in time to participate in the attack. Never mind that the police report contravenes Bramson’s scenario of a two-way dispute with the opposing tellings to be balanced equally. Nineteen-year-old Kristen Scungio and her pals just got carried away in their understandable “immature” reaction to that “anti” group.
Pat the kids on their heads; they’re blameless, really. Chris’s lesson appears well on its way to being learned.
Between the two incidents, the murder of abortionist George Tiller sparked discussion about the responsibility of pro-lifers generally for the flares of the occasional madman. Such associations are nothing more than political acts meant to silence opposition; freedom of speech — the entire principle of democracy — means little if taking a particular position about public policy of itself imparts culpability when the susceptibility of humanity to evil appears in an isolated stranger’s horrific action.
Advocating on behalf of our traditional understanding of marriage does not translate into blame should somebody, somewhere take the issue as a context for the expression of his or her personal frustrations. By the same token, advocating for the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex relationships does not translate into blame for affronts in the other direction. However, publicly celebrating the sport of mocking extremists and making light of the escalating violence of “counter protests” against traditionalists leads us toward a future in which ignorance will be no defense. Sadly, it’s embedded within the narrative according to which progressives choose and pursue their advocacy; according to the script, traditionalists are always the oppressors, and kids can hardly be faulted for their overly zealous support for freedom and equality.