America's voters are dusting off their dictionaries to figure out what in the heck politicians are talking about.
Back in his day President Bill Clinton suggested that the words “sex” and “is” had multiple meanings, and, now, Congressman Todd Akin advises that “rape” can be subdivided into “legitimate rape” versus … what, “illegitimate rape?”
Meanwhile, here in Maryland the voters must soon decide whether the state will become the first to redefine “marriage,” thanks to a successful petition drive putting the legislature's same-sex marriage bill up for public referendum in November. So far, the voters in 32 other states, including California, have declined that honor.
Unfortunately, the emotional battle over redefining “marriage” threatens to redefine “tolerance” as well.
When a crazed gunman nearly killed Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords a couple of years ago, the media gatekeepers and the Democrats sternly lectured us on how tea party protesters had “poisoned the public dialogue,” resulting in such violence. Ignoring that the gunman was a leftist, not a tea partier, the liberals called for a “new civility” against hateful conservative rhetoric.
But that was yesterday when the victim was a liberal Democrat. Last week, when a black, pro-gay gunman walked into the D.C. headquarters of an anti-gay organization, The Family Research Council (FRC), and started shooting, the media gatekeepers applied a different standard.
Even though the shooter shouted, “I don't like your politics” and told the lobby guard he wounded, “Don't shoot me, it was not about you, it was what this place [FRC] stands for,” the liberal gatekeepers just couldn't bring themselves to the same level of indignation.
Sure, they conceded, opening fire on conservatives is poor form, but this was the act of a single deranged individual, the leftist organizations that targeted the FRC as a “hate group” were not to blame. Nor is there any need for a “new civility” on the left.
Meanwhile back in Maryland, gay activists also were busy redefining “tolerance.” Several days after Frederick's Chick-fil-A restaurant was jammed with crowds going out the door and down the block on National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, it was vandalized with spray-painted, pro-gay marriage slogans.
Also, Maryland voters who signed the anti-same-sex marriage petition began receiving intimidating home visits from angry gay activists. Turns out the gay lobby got the names and addresses of 110,000 petition signers, which they then published online and in the Washington Blade, a gay newspaper.
Recounts one female petition signer, “This morning in front of my house I was approached by a man whom I had never met who asked me if I was [name withheld] and then asked me if the house I was standing in front of was my house. When I said yes, he said that he wanted me to know that my name, my address and a map to my house were posted on the Internet as a “hater.” When I asked as a hater of what, he said of gay people and gay marriage.”
When this woman's account hit the blogs, here was the response of someone named Norman Dostal, “If you are against equality for gays, that is, against full marriage rights for gays, then you should expect consequences in the form of someone calling you a bigoted rednecked hater. Because you are!”
“If you're going to be a religiously brainwashed bigot against millions of gays and their children, you had better be able to take the criticism YOU ARE THE MINORITY NOW! Gays are NOT taking it anymore — we will be in your face, we will be at your door and we will be fighting viciously for full equality under the law.” Hey, what happened to the new civility?
Norman, be warned that in certain parts of Maryland, your “in your face” door-knocking First Amendment rights may bump into some homeowner's Second Amendment rights.
Meanwhile, taking their cue from the mayors of Boston and Chicago, gay student activists at the University of Maryland, College Park are conducting a petition drive to get Chick-fil-A expelled from the campus food court because the chain restaurant's owner opposes same-sex marriage.
“I would question why we would make a choice to partner with a company that doesn't represent the values of the university,” says Nick Sakurai, associate director of the university's LGBT Equity Center. Chick-fil-A makes some students feel excluded and uncomfortable, says Sakurai.
So, what exactly are the university's values? I recall that a few years ago some angry state senators demanded university funding cuts because the university condoned XXX porno films being shown on campus to help students relax. I also recall the media and the liberals rising to the university's defense against censorship, suppression and, yes, intolerance. But I don't hear those voices now, so I guess the university's “values” apply to XXX porno but not to chicken sandwiches.
And I wonder if the university's “values” permit “in your face” strangers knocking on petition-signer's dorm doors, or would that be a “hate crime”?
Finally, just for the record, Webster's defines “tolerance” as “recognition of and respect for the opinions, practices or behavior of others” and defines “intolerant” as “unwilling to tolerate differences in opinions or beliefs, especially religious beliefs.”
Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in The Gazette. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.