Sara Whitman

Two Wrongs Never Make a Right

Filed By Sara Whitman | November 18, 2008 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: marriage equality, nonviolent protest, Prop 8, resorting to violence

Two wrongs never make a right.

Over the weekend, a protest got violent. If the answer, as some believe, is to take arms against this sea of trouble... then count me out. I'll have no part of it.

I am raising three boys. White males in this society which so often gives a wink and a nod to their violence. I won't have it.

I know we are angry. I know we are hurt, furious, watching our rights be stripped away from us. But when we lower ourselves to the level of violence, we have lost all perspective.

And our dignity.

Put the anger to work in a positive way. Please. We need the resources. But if you think hurting anyone, ever, is the answer to the problem, you don't have an inkling to how social change comes about.

Seeing the video on Pam's House Blend embarrassed me. I could hardly watch. Reading some of the comments horrified me.

We just gave the most powerful ammunition to the other side. A couple of people on video is enough to make this all come crashing down.

It breaks my heart. All the years of being a parent at elementary school, all the years of marching in Pride parades, all the peaceful activism is for nothing if this continues.

Please stop. My marriage means nothing if a single person is hurt in order to save it.

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Ah, three lefts make a right.


Joseph Kowalski | November 18, 2008 8:03 PM

Violence is never the answer. Our anger, which I agree is justified, must be directed to massive organization, peaceful protests, and political outreach to our representatives and Senators on both the state and federal levels.

At the risk of sounding ironic, let me give a big "AMEN" to your sentiments. :-) Thank you, Sara!

Better get used to it because more is yet to come with the release of MILK nationwide. Sounds like your sons are not gay so probably will not be influenced by our fighting for equal rights.

Please tell me what violence occurred.

I watched the video a few times and was thrilled to see a neighborhood stand up for its right to end persecution that was visited upon them by uninvited guests with an agenda of agitation and viciousness.

Was anyone arrested by the numerous police in attendance? Were any charges placed? Was anyone injured?

If gays made a point of making a scene in a place of worship that they aren't a member of nor were respecting would it be fair for them to be run out - or does this wagging finger of yours only point to us?

I have to say I agree with Patrick. I watched the video three times and did not see anyone become physically violent. Yes they were loud and aggressive but they had every right to be. Doing what those people did is the same as someone entering your home and taking a dump on your rug. They were simply told they were not welcome. I think it is great that the community stood up like that. Too often gay people are bullied and preached at. The castro should be a safe space for the GLBTQI community, not some place where someone cause use their religion to preach hate. So yeah I agree with the protesters shame one them.

Reformed Ascetic | November 19, 2008 5:28 AM

With all due respect, it's actually not the same as entering someone's house. A house is private property. The streets of the Castro are not.

Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and free travel protects all Americans whether you happen to like them or not.

Even if you ignore all the accusations being made against the people of the Castro who participated, it's still reasonable to assume at least some of the proselytizers were afraid for their well-being/lives.

I completely agree that the camera caught no physical violence.

What it did catch however was riot police protecting religious youths from an angry gay mob.

Change the words around and see how you feel. Not exactly something we want going in the highlights reel, huh?

Freedom of speech and assembly extends to the residents of the Castro as well as to the brown shirts that assemble to harass the residents - even if it is passive aggressive harassment.

Since nobody has been held or charged for any of the accusations, then it is very reasonable to dismiss the hysterical lies of the religionists. It is also very reasonable to say and important to remember that members of the LGBT community frequently fear for their lives - and for their rights as they are attacked physically and legislatively on a regular basis.

Metaphorically it is legitimate to compare the charlatans visits to our neighborhoods to pray for our souls just as vile and aggressive as our appearance in their churches to do the same would be considered.

They do not get more consideration than we do just because it is better PR or because they invoke Gawd.

You may have seen an angry gay mob, but what you didn't see was an equally angry - and hateful - Christian cabal gathered on a street corner wearing crowns of thorns and praying into a mirror.

Why do you give them the benefit of the doubt that you won't extend to your own brothers? Those people might look like lambs, but they most certainly are wolves - and by now that should not be a major revelation to anyone.

Reformed Ascetic | November 19, 2008 8:04 PM

I'm not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I'm not taking their side. They don't look like lambs to me.

I wasn't in the Castro that night, but I have seen similar groups many times. I know how they made me, and the people around me, feel. I believe I know how they made the people who saw them in the Castro feel. I understand the anger, especially in light of current events. I feel it myself. And frankly I'm proud of all those angry souls who are standing up and speaking out.

But violating the rights of others while pursuing your own is not the way to go.

Reformed Ascetic | November 19, 2008 12:19 AM

I too was saddened by watching this video, but please allow me to expand by way of a personal story.

I was directly involved with martial arts for the better part of two decades. I taught martial arts. I taught self-defense. I taught, or helped teach, self-defense to: police officers, abused women, families of drug enforcement agents, and rape victims among other opportunities I was lucky enough to receive.

Once, when I was still in high school, I was supposed to spend the night out with some friends, but the nature of the trip changed. A female friend of ours had been kicked out of her family house. It turned out we needed to pick her up and take her to another friend’s house to stay. No one who knew wanted to explain why she had been kicked out. They also didn’t want to explain why the place we were picking her up at was the local gay bar. Believe it or not, I was too naive at the time to fit those pieces together.

When we got to the bar, I was left outside with one of the group. While I was standing there on the opposite corner from the bar, I spotted trouble approaching. The bar sat on a corner. Down one side was walking a sizable group of ex-athlete looking, large, drunken and aggressive acting college students. Invisible to them walking down the side street was a small, skinny guy dressed in a black vest, no shirt, chaps and a tiny black cowboy hat. It was obvious that they were literally going to run into each other at the corner.

I got sick to my stomach. I knew without thinking there was going to trouble. There was no one around to help the cowboy but me. And as a self-defense instructor, I felt a responsibility to act.

But before I even took a step toward their side of the street, the two groups met. The cowboy was immediately surrounded and the taunts started. One of the drunken mob felt free to immediately grab the cowboy for some purpose. I was frightened that the cowboy would be seriously injured before I got there things were happening so quickly. I was frightened I would not be able to handle the situation myself. But that’s not what happened.

What happened was the cowboy fought back. He put three of them on the ground immediately. He chased the others around the street corner getting in hits where he could. As it sunk in that they were getting their asses kick by a small queer in chaps, the entire group took off running. The cowboy chased them up the street. They ran into a house on the next corner, and the cowboy took a proud stance in front of the house and repeatedly dared them to come back out.

I hope you can understand that it was one of the funniest and most beautiful things I have ever seen to this day. I suspect given where they apparently lived/hung out that due to his actions violence and intimidation directed at the local queer community took a dip after that day.

There are times and places for violence. Violence is sometimes the answer.

I have personally stood still and let people punch me in the face because I thought that was the best solution. I have also personally knocked people out because that seemed like the best solution. As someone involved with self-defense I can tell multiple stories of people saving themselves through non-violent action, and I always taught people to look for any successful non-violent choice first, but I can also provide examples of the opposite.

Gandhi once said that if he thought violence would solve his countries problems, he would advocate for violence. It may sound inconsistent, but it’s not. He was saying that violence would bring problems of it’s own, would justify counter-violence and would most likely ultimately result in failure. It was a logical, practical argument. An argument saying that non-violent activism was the most practical way of achieving the best solution.

I saw this video in Bil’s post. It really bothered me. Like it or not those proselytizers had a right to be in the Castro. They have the same rights to free travel and free speech that are so important to LGBT people. I did not see any physical violence in the video, but both the proselytizers and the police clearly seemed worried about it. And who wouldn’t be when being chased by an angry mob? It was not a proud moment for me. I don’t want to see LGBT people breaking any laws or perpetrating any violence toward anyone. I don’t want to see any abuse, even ugly taunts. Both out of principal and practicality, I don’t want to see LGBT people acting in ways we would find vile in others. I don’t want to see our civil rights movement derailed by violence. I want to take the moral high ground away from the religious right, not cede it to them by ugly behavior.

At the same time, I have always argued that black militant groups were an important part of the black civil rights struggle. I have always argued that the raised clenched fist was an important symbol for both the black and white communities to see.

I definitely don’t want to see us doing harm to others. Or even appearing to do harm to others. But neither do I think the LGBT community needs to be a punching bag.

Emotions are not wrong. Anger is not bad. It takes a whole person to act productively. Owning emotions that some characterize as negative is part of being whole. I do not support any rude, improper or illegal activity even as small as hurling an insulting epithet or petty vandalism. Not because anger is bad or violence is always wrong, but because it violates the laws of civility. And because it works against our efforts on a practical level. I have no intention of supporting any group, organized or not, that engages in such behavior.

But I think some channeled gay anger, some queer militancy, might well be productive.

You couldn't be more wrong Sara. You’re equating the victim with the victimizer. There was no second wrong here, just the insistent, and considering the provocation, legitimate demand that these christian pigs not be allowed to comingle with the humans.

Women, if defense of themselves, their families, their unions and their class can be just as fierce, and rightly so, as the men and women in the video.

Which is a damn good thing.

Paris, 1879
“Shouldering the burden of feeding their families, it was the French women who took up arms on October 5, 1789. They first stormed the city hall in Paris, amassing a sizable army and gathering arms. Numbering several thousand, the mob marched to Versailles…” Where they killed several royal guards, almost killed Marie Antoinette and arrested the royal family at gunpoint, taking Marie and Louis the Last to Paris and their eventual execution.

Petrograd, 1917
“On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for "bread and peace" in response to the death over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate…” The Czar was arrested and became, thanks to the militancy of the women, Nicholas the Last.

West Virginia Coal Strike 1989
“During her lifetime, Mother Jones was known to working folk as "The Miners' Angel." Persevering in her efforts despite the many tragic events she witnessed, her fierce determination was vividly expressed in her famous declaration, "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." When she was denounced on the Senate floor as the "grandmother of all agitators," she replied in typical fashion, "I hope to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators."

During the bitter 1989-90 Pittston Coal Strike in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky, the wives and daughters of striking coal miners, inspired by the still-surviving tales of Mother Jones' legendary work among the miners of that region, dubbed themselves the "Daughters of Mother Jones". They played a critical role on the picket lines, and in presenting the miners' case to the news media.”

Thanks, Sara.

I don't know why, but I just thought of one of my favorite quotes from the Big Lebowski. "I myself once dabbled in pacifism. Not in Nam, of course."

"Threatened" bigots in Castro part of ultra-extremist Dominionist sect, "Joel's Army"

According to Joe's blog linked in Nathanial's comment above:

"Some Castro residents have described the group that was chased out of the neighborhood as "peaceful and harmless", but their affiliation with Lou Engle and Joel's Army is chilling indeed. Joel's Army is a militantly dangerous group that will settle for nothing less than the complete end of secular Democracy in America."

Does anyone really believe that these people are worthy of sitting at a table with or building a bridge with or are capable of being reached and convinced to allow us to enjoy the same citizenship that they have?

Was there any reason to not chase them out of the neighborhood?

Would you want them in yours? With your children?

The residents of the Castro did us all a favor by doing what they could to remove scum.

You should thank them.