Andrew Sullivan is widely regarded among conservatives as an example of tolerance and accommodation. He addresses antigay individuals and arguments on a case-by-case basis. He limits his generalizations and makes an effort not to resort to sweeping insults.

Is it these qualities that prompt Tammy Bruce to label Sullivan a member of the “gay elite” and “gay gestapo”? And why does Exodus spokesman Randy Thomas cheer such namecalling?

With her Nazi-baiting comments, Bruce demonstrates a reluctance to address individuals or complex issues such as the Federal Marriage Amendment on a case-by-case or point-by-point basis. She also demonstrates a failure to represent others’ viewpoints accurately before gestapo-izing their opposition to a constitutional amendment that prohibits what she acknowledges many Americans support: civil unions.

Bruce’s notion of tolerance is hobbled by black-or-white thinking that goes something like this: “If you don’t agree with me, you are part of the gay elite. And if you challenge confusion about the overreach of the amendment, you are part of the gestapo.”

Exodus spokesman Randy Thomas cheers Bruce’s confused generalizations.

Back in the 80’s I was grateful for the glimmer of tolerance that I could see coming and the little bit I did have in my life to live openly gay. I paid for it a couple of times but nothing like what other homosexuals (gay identified or not) went through in truly intolerant American history and currently in other nations. Today’s tolerance is a benefit of the hard work of not only gay activists in the culture but also former homosexuals fighting for tolerance in religious realms. We may have had different goals in mind but I think everyone, at least everyone I know, agrees that *we* have been mistreated in the past. True tolerance is needed even while we work toward different life goals and public policy.

Thomas feels that he is tolerant, even though

  1. he blocks comments about homosexuality on his blog,
  2. he resorts to Nazi-baiting insults against pro-equality activists,
  3. he opposes the presence of divergent viewpoints about sexuality, politics, and scriptural interpretation in Christian churches
  4. he supports laws banning gay couples’ partnership benefits, intimate relations, participation in school and community leadership, and adoption.

Tolerance is commonly believed to mean “to agree to disagree while respecting freedom of speech” and it is intended to be practiced equitably by all parties in a dispute.

Bruce and Thomas seem to think it means something very different. Two things, actually: If practiced by gays, tolerance means “to accept inequality graciously.” If practiced by oneself, tolerance means “to stereotype those who disagree with you, calling them elitists and Nazis.”

Thomas says:

Regardless, because Tammy at least tries to understand those she doesn’t agree with and is able to be grateful and unapologetic when she does find common ground…it inspires me to learn more about civil unions. I don’t think I will change my mind in any way but at least I am willing to learn more and would love to hear from Ms. Bruce, or someone as thoughtful as she is, about her reasoning.

Bruce did not, in fact, try to understand (or accurately describe) the views of Andrew Sullivan and countless other thoughtful liberals and conservatives opposed to the Federal Marriage Amendment. Nevertheless, Thomas’ comment indicates that he does, for a moment, understand the spirit of tolerance.

Unfortunately, Thomas concludes with some cluelessness about what constitutes “name calling” and “degradation.”

Because she doesn’t resort to name calling and degradation of a person’s heart or intent for wanting to support traditional values, I am willing to consider her pov in an effort to more fully understand the situation from all perspectives.

Both Bruce and Thomas label those who disagree with them “the gay elite” and the “gay gestapo.” What we have here, then, is one verbally abusive activist learning to tolerate another verbally abusive activist with similar views.

I am not sure whether or not that constitutes “progress.”

Categorized in: