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The ‘Vigilance’ Vigilantes
The tolerance enforcers will not tolerate dissent.

DOMA protest in Boston, Mass.

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Mark Steyn

Of course, if you belong to certain approved identity groups, none of this will make any difference. The Reverend Al Sharpton, who famously observed that Africans of the ancient world had made more contributions to philosophy and mathematics than all “them Greek homos,” need not zip his lips — any more than Bilal Philips, the Toronto Islamic scholar who argues that homosexuals should be put to death, need fear the attention of Canada’s “human rights” commissions. But for the generality of the population this will be one more subject around which one has to tiptoe on ever thinner eggshells.

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I can see why gays might dislike Scalia’s tone, or be hurt by Irons’ “lack of strong feelings.” But the alternative — that there is only one approved tone, that one must fake strong feelings — is creepy and totalitarian and deeply threatening to any healthy society. Irons is learning, as Carrie Prejean learned a while back, that “liberals” aren’t interested in your opinion, or even your sincere support, but only that you understand that there’s one single, acceptable answer. We don’t teach kids to memorize historic dates or great poetry any more, but we do insist they memorize correct attitudes and regurgitate them correctly when required to do so in public.

Speaking of actors from across the pond, I had the good fortune of meeting at the end of his life Hilton Edwards, the founder of Ireland’s Gate Theatre. Hilton and the love of his life, Micháel MacLiammóir, were for many years the most famously gay couple in Dublin. At MacLiammóir’s funeral in 1978, the Taoiseach and half the Irish cabinet attended, and at the end they went up to Edwards, shook hands, and expressed their condolences — in other words, publicly acknowledging him as “the widow.” This in a state where homosexuality was illegal, and where few people suggested that it should be otherwise. The Irish officials at the funeral treated MacLiammóir’s relict humanely and decently, not because they had to but because they wished to. I miss that kind of civilized tolerance of the other, and I wish, a mere four decades on, the victors in the culture wars might consider extending it to the losers.

Instead, the relentless propagandizing grows ever more heavy-handed: The tolerance enforcers will not tolerate dissent; the diversity celebrators demand a ruthless homogeneity. Much of the progressive agenda — on marriage, immigration, and much else — involves not winning the argument but ruling any debate out of bounds. Perhaps like Jeremy Irons you don’t have “strong feelings” on this or that, but, if you do, enjoy them while you can.

— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2013 Mark Steyn



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