A Little Reasonability, Please

IMG_0973A Nazi is someone who was a member of the Nazi party in Germany in the lead up to and during the second World War. A Nazi can also be someone who supports the ideals of the Nazi party in the modern age. These people may be white supremacists, Arianists, nationalists and xenophobes in all senses. These people will blame somebody else's skin colour, religion, sexuality or disability for their own perceived misfortune.

A Nazi is not someone who is merely strict, pedantic or doing a job involving traffic management of any variety that is not in any way facilitating attempted genocide.

Similarly there is a difference between someone who criticises a person undergoing gender reassignment for their actions in relation to those around them and a transophobe. There is a difference between someone who criticises the actions of a victim of sexual assault for continuing behaviour they know is hurting those around them and a rape apologist. Also, there is a difference between someone who calls out a homosexual for acting in a manner that is harmful to the people who love him or her and a homophobe.

As a culture it's possible that we've been so isolated from actual hatred that we can't recognise it when we see it. Or maybe it's that we actually require some kind of drama. Whatever it is, there has been a trend recently to either overstate a situation for comic or melodramatic effect.

Accusing someone of hating an entire group of people based on their sexual identity is serious. To do so as a knee-jerk response to any piece of criticism one disagrees with then undermines or lessons the charge when placed against someone with a true hatred.

Tolerance not only needs to allow for differences in sexual, religious, or cultural orientation but also in differences of opinion.

I go through this, not to tell people off or even to get people to change their behaviour. While I'd like that to happen, not even I am arrogant enough to assume I can do that through a blog post. Really, I just want to make it clear where I stand on the issue.

Recently on Twitter I had a conversation with Clem Bastow about Dan Savage. Clem was intimating that Savage had bisexual and transgender phobic tendencies. She pointed me to a couple of other people's blog posts where they criticised him for some advice he had given.

Criticism is healthy. For those who are unaware, Dan Savage has a sex and relationship advice column and an associated podcast. People write to him or call him for his advice. He gives his advice. By going through this process the people with issues are choosing to make their issues public. This results in not only getting advice from Savage but also potentially being criticised by his entire audience. Savage also puts himself in a situation where he can be criticised for the advice he gives.

I've listened to a lot of the Savage Lovecast and there's one thing I can definitely say about Dan Savage: He assumes that adults should take responsibility for their own actions. This means that he sometimes criticises adults for acting like selfish or spoilt children. Sometimes the people he criticises are bisexual or undergoing gender reassignment procedures or victims of sexual assault. He has been asked for his opinion and has given it. To label him with terms of hatred is offensive and, in itself, intolerant and ignorant.

That's one way to look at it. Another way is that, to use these terms to define someone who has done as much for the openness and tolerance of sexuality and identification as Dan Savage is to reduce the charge against those who are guilty of true hatred. By extension it undermines the severity of oppression, persecution, violence and abuse that people have experienced at their hands.

Similarly, to call the people who refuse you entry into a nightclub or search your bags at the airport "Nazis" is to weaken the charge of the atrocities performed by the Nazis during the second world war or those who have done so, in their name, since that time.

A little thought, common sense and sensitivity never goes astray.