‘Show yourself,’ is the BraveNewLove theme as we start 2020 and while yes, it is the second most popular Elsa song from Frozen 2, it perfectly summarizes why BraveNewLove was started initially. The idea that by showing our authentic selves to the world around us we will be able to create space for all folks to live a wellness centered life. I initially debated about including this post due to the fact that the inputs (or what I use as the examples) are all political in nature, but the reason I eventually decided to include it is because the outcome or takeaway has to do with how we treat folks in everyday life which is very much part of BraveNewLove and what the ‘Show yourself’ theme for 2020 is all about.
Last week when I was traveling back from visiting family for a “Christmas at New Years” celebration that we were trying out given our expanding size, I came across an article on Facebook that one of my friends had shared. To set the scene, I had successfully turned off all social media during my 4 days away and had completely unplugged from current events. It was restful and life giving. My mood increased exponentially and I was able to finally shake a sense of anxiety and deep cynicism about where our nation is at in a way that I had not thought possible by the end of 2019. I had resolved to “only use FB for positive posts,” and that I would no longer be using the platform for anything political due to the algorithm that seems dead set on creating echo chambers for all of its users.
With all that in mind, as I was happily scrolling, I came across the article written by Yascha Mounk that my friend had shared from the Atlantic regarding likability. He’d summarized the article’s message that Elizabeth Warren had failed the “inverted likability” test based on an answer she had given regarding same sex marriage. Mounk asserted that Warren’s response would cause her to fail the inverted likability test because it would lead voters to think she didn’t want to get a beer with them (instead of them wanting to get a beer with her) and contrasted that lack of likability with Joe Biden’s general persona as the most liked candidate in the Democratic field. After reading the article in full I thought “Shit, this is problematic.”
I realized that I had actually shared the full clip of Warren’s response to the question he referenced which was “What would your response be to someone on the campaign trail who says that they are old fashioned and that their faith teaches them that marriage is between one man and one woman,” on Facebook already. Back in October of 2019 actually. Warren’s starts by answering the question that she would assume the question was from a man and that she would tell that person to “just marry one woman,” which Mounk points out in his article. He then says that she ‘added with a sneer:' “assuming you can find one” to laughs and applause.
Mounk then offers his theory that this response gives the impression that she would regard anyone who disagrees with her - or is married to someone who does - as a loser. Quite a takeaway indeed.
What Mounk fails to include is that Warren then goes on to explain that even though she grew up conservative and as a registered Republican she can’t remember a time when she remembers believing otherwise. She then goes on to explain that her faith is actually a primary reason for why she had that thought of allowing a respectful difference for how folks live privately noting that the first song she remembers learning was that “They are yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” She shared that her faith taught her that there is worth in every human being no matter our differences, and that while we absolutely have the right to make decisions for ourselves in terms of what is right in our own lives, we must respect others who make those decisions for themselves. She also goes on to state that the hatefulness on this topic, meaning directly singling LGBTQ+ people out to hurt and deny equal rights - from people of faith has shocked her as well.
This full response which Mounk fails to include, is the reason I shared Warren’s response to the question. I shared it because as a gay American it was the first time that I had seen a politician not only state their support of same-sex marriage, but assert that it was no longer acceptable to try to force our private choices on other Americans if it meant limiting their rights. I also shared it as a person of faith because I believe that her explanation as to how her faith is what propelled her to allow space for that acceptance of others even if it was not how she lived her life was compelling. My quote when sharing the video was “She’s simultaneously heartfelt and entertaining while perfectly offering up an authentic, faith based approach to gay marriage.”
For a bit of background on me, I’m a 9th generation Texan - meaning my grandmother has traced our ancestry back to the first 300 settlers in the state - from a small conservative and religious town. I have since moved for college and now live in Austin, but a good part of my social network would be considered socially conservative. I share this to show that I know a bit of where the person who asked this question is coming from because I have lived it. At one point, I believed that marriage should only exist between a woman and a man while even knowing that I was gay because that was the only reality I had known. That said, I have changed over time and while yes, in some situations, I have had to create strong enough boundaries to cut certain people out of my life for mental health reasons, I have continued to interact and maintain friendships with many individuals who did not have the same beliefs on same sex marriage as I have. During the course of those friendships, discussions are had and comments are made. These comments can come in the form of serious conversations but many times they are lighthearted jabs or sarcastic statements that cause just enough discomfort while still being funny for folks to re-examine their beliefs. It’s been my experience that these little moments and interactions are the building blocks of changing hearts, minds and opinions. It is also why I don’t see the original comment of “if you can find one,” as a sneer and refute Mounk’s assertion that these midwestern folks will completely shut down because they have been on the receiving end of a metaphorical heartfelt elbow jab for comedic effect. Myself and many folks I love very dearly are living proof that isn’t how it works.
There is a lot that could be said here regarding Mounk’s coverage of Warren in terms of gender roles including why he chose to compare Warren to Biden as the ideal likability standard without mentioning a recent outburst he had towards a questionnaire at a campaign event in Iowa where Biden yelled at the man calling him a “damn liar.” Another question to analyze would be why Mounk chose to use this sound bite from Warren taken out of context from a town hall in October for an article published in the first week of 2020?
These points are either outside my scope or only answerable by Mounk, but what I would like to dive into is the problematic nature of Mounk’s main thesis of the article - that Democrats need to watch what they say so that Americans who believe differently on certain issues will still vote for them. He makes this though multiple examples but one that struck out to me as the most tone def was how Warren’s comments are along the lines of Hilary Clinton’s “deplorables” comment in the 2016. The problem with conflating these two instances is that Clinton’s comments were specifically about Americans who had made a choice to support the Republican candidate in the 2016 election which at the end of the day was their right to support whatever candidate they wanted. Warren’s comment was a joke but also had an underlying message that folks should respect each individual’s right to live their life how they see fit as long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights. The primary difference here is that Clinton was making a moral judgement based on who people were voting for (where she was the alternative choice), and Warren was making an ethical statement regarding what is and what is not acceptable in our society in terms of policies that restrict individual freedoms.
Mounk’s final point is that when polled, only about 44% of Americans in a recent poll answered ‘yes’ that “people like me are welcome in the Democratic Party,” which is a problem for the party. His ultimate takeaway is that Democratic candidates should watch what they say in order to not offend - even if that simply means calling for respect for all Americans. My ultimate goal on this platform is not political in that I want more folks to vote for one party or the other mainly because I believe ‘politics’ that folks speak of are just reflections of how we treat each other. My goal however is to challenge folks to examine when and why they have determined whether they will even listen to someone’s opinions based on their own personal measuring stick of how offended they are, and what the potential casualties are for other Americans in terms of being treated equally simply based on that system. Fully expressed, Mounk’s advice leaves us in a world where we put up with a slight level of homophobia in order to make a certain group of people comfortable.
I can say that for this gay American, I hope that folks do not take Mounk’s advice on this front because it would make for a very unwelcoming environment for people like me.
Here's the clip below if you'd like to watch the answer, and here is the link to Mounk's article in the Atlantic if you're interested in reading it as well. Would do you think? Did Mounk's failure to leave out the remainder of Warren's question impact how you took her response? Do you agree that folks should watch what they say in order to not offend others even if that means leaving space for oppressing a group of people?
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