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07/06/2010

Maggie's flawed analogies: A is to B as C is to 4

by Jeremy Hooper

"The difference between marriage and discrimination and racism is that racism is bad and marriage is good."
-Maggie Gallagher

If you've paid any attention to the National Organization For Marriage chairman's rhetoric over the past few years, you've certainly heard some variation of the above line. Maggie loves, loves, loves to contrast marriage, in general, Maggiewhiteshirt1-1with racism, in particular. A comparison that is as obviously and utterly flawed as the "protect marriage" mindset that leads to its utterance.

What Maggie is doing here is comparing one form of bias (in this case racism) against another object of discrimination (in this case marriage). But why? The former is an action. An exclusion. A prejudicial notion that's been exploited throughout history to keep various majorities with a grasp on what some see as power. But the latter is a custom. A form of relationship recognition that is shared among the citizenry. An always-civil, sometimes-religious system towards which discrimination -- including, but not limited to, racism -- has been used to keep certain kinds of otherwise qualified people out. So yes, Maggie is 100% right in saying that racism is bad. But following it up by saying "marriage is good" is like pairing the line "Hi my name is Maggie" with a second phrase like "Gallagher is a prop comic who smashes watermelons." Non sequiturs = on.

What Maggie really wants to say is: "Racism is bad, but shutting gays out of marriage is good." *That* is what she means. *That* is the code that she wants folks to hear. *That* is her fight. But obviously Maggie doesn't want to invoke the word "discrimination" when talking about her current "culture war," because she doesn't want people thinking about the common elements between this modern struggle over oppression and any other to come before it. Instead, she sees a need to get out ahead of any charges that might come her way. She wants to nip any historically-accurate questions that might arise about how and why there is overlap between the Civil Rights struggle (capital 'C', capital 'R') and the 21st century fight for civil rights. She doesn't want to be seen as existing on the wrong side of history: But she wants to fight any such charges through her words, not her deeds.

Only problem for Maggie? Her talking points do not change reality! Her protestations will not silence reasoned protests! And her analogizing an apple with a zebra will never add up!

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