Why I Hate Politics
I’m Jason Kuznicki, and I hate politics. By way of introduction, I’m going to tell you why.
I hate politics because in it, someone wins, and someone loses, always, everywhere, in everything. There are only two sides, and you’re on one of them whether you think you are or not. Not only is neutrality impossible, so are dialogue, ambiguity, tension, strategic appropriation, and play.
Consider this article from Towleroad, a popular gay-oriented site. The headline: “Wingnuts Warn: Bigotry Under Fire in Student Non-Discrimination Act.”
Beneath it is the smiling face of my Cato Institute colleague Neal McCluskey, who is quoted expressing his concern about a student anti-harassment law:
The real danger is how this will be interpreted. The definition of harassment could be broadly interpreted that anybody who expressed a totally legitimate opinion about homosexual behavior could be made illegal.That’s a violation of those kids who want to express opposition to LGBT opinions or behavior. People have a legitimate reason to be concerned about this — not because they’re ‘haters’ but because you’re now trying to balance different rights.
Neal is no bigot. He works with openly gay people on a regular basis. I am one of them, and I have never seen him display any bigotry at all. Personally, I doubt he’d last long at the Cato Institute if he did.
Nor will it be much of a surprise, but I do think he makes a good point. A lot really does depend on how this law is enforced. That all by itself is — or should be — a concern, even for the law’s supporters. Consider the text of the proposed law:
The term ‘harassment’ means conduct that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from a public school education program or activity, or to create a hostile or abusive educational environment at a public school, including acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility…
Would wearing t-shirts adorned with Bible verses create a hostile environment? It would for some, especially if we’re talking about a certain passage from Leviticus. (A visiting Martian might easily conclude that this passage was the single most important in the entire book. It is, after all, one of the few that so many people can quote by heart.)
The trouble is that someone, somewhere will always be able to discover something that they find hostile. I probably pissed off a lot of Christians with my last paragraph, for one thing. And if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention, as the saying goes. Ah, politics.
If it’s at all possible, the newly outraged will reach for laws just like this one. Those seeking to cause outrage now know just how to do it. The law becomes an extension of the field of battle, where disagreements don’t just end in dueling T-shirt slogans. They end in litigation. This is not how I want society to work. But it is how politics works.
And for this — for this — my colleague is accused of fomenting bigotry. To quote Towleroad: “god-forbid budding bigots be stifled.”
Well, yes. God forbid it! I’m even more anti-stifling than I am anti-bigot. That’s because a funny thing often happens to budding bigots. When they say stuff like this, they’re asked — God forbid — to defend it. Often the haters realize, or at least demonstrate, that there is no such defense.
Indeed, the sheer fact that they have to speak up at all tells us something very interesting. In the eighteenth century, when the civilized nations all put sodomites to death, one almost never needed to quote Leviticus, certainly not on an article of clothing. This ought to be considered fascinating, and important.
But here comes the magic of politics, in which the important variables are not ideas, but “us” and “them.” Personal identities. Lord knows, we do have to stifle someone. It’d damn well better be them, right? And so Neal becomes a wingnut bigot apologist, and liberty takes another tiny step backward, while politics advances.
 Standard disclaimer: The opinions I express here are purely my own.