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The Luxury of “Reasonable”

Snoopy

When I went to World Fantasy last year, I think I met almost as many people who knew me from this blog as I did people who had read my books. (I try not to think about that too hard.) Frequently, people would say they read my blog because it’s usually so reasonable and calm. (And yes, I’m aware that not everyone shares that opinion.)

I appreciate that. But I also worry about the way we sometimes privilege reasonable above so much else.

Another blogger recently linked to Brandon Sanderson’s old post about Dumbledore and homosexuality. I hung out with Sanderson at ConFusion this year. He struck me as a nice guy, and I came away liking him. His post is calm and intellectual in tone as he talks about his church’s stance against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

He recognizes that there are other points of view. He expects and accepts that people will disagree with him. And he asks that people not yell at him, saying:

…those who cry for open mindedness often seem to be as hateful and unwilling to look from someone else’s perspective as the people on the far right. Rationally work to enlighten us through thoughtful nudging. Don’t call us idiots and homophobes.

In other words, be reasonable. Be calm. Be understanding and patient with those you disagree with. It’s a demand I’ve seen repeated elsewhere many times.

But there’s a reason Sanderson can be so reasonable. He’s not the one being spat on and beaten and burned (In front of a church, no less) and killed because of who he loves. He’s not being told he can’t bring his boyfriend to his own prom. Agents/editors aren’t rejecting his work because he wrote about LGBT characters. He’s not being denied basic rights, like the ability to visit his partner at the hospital. He’s not being told he can’t adopt a child he loves, a child who instead gets returned to an abusive home because the court feels that’s better than letting the child grow up with gay or lesbian parents.

I can more easily write a “reasonable” post about LGBT rights, because I’m comfortably and safely married. I know my insurance will cover my wife, that every state will recognize my family as valid, that my children won’t be hassled because I love my partner. I’m not directly, personally threatened by kind of beliefs and attitudes Sanderson describes.

It’s easy to tell advocates for LGBT rights to slow it down and stop being so loud or angry. It’s easy to demand reasonableness, and to call for negotiation when you’re not the one being hurt every day of your life.

I understand that faith is powerful stuff, and to his credit, Sanderson genuinely appears to be struggling with this issue. And he’s willing to write about it in public, meaning he risks being called names, or having his books boycotted.

In the meantime, those on the other side risk being beaten and tortured and murdered.

I fully believe Sanderson would be horrified by these crimes … but I hope he might also recognize that there’s a justifiable basis for anger and fear of those claiming to know God’s will. That such anger and fear are based on experience. That it can be difficult to distinguish the person who says “My God tells me that homosexuality is sinful” and hopes to have a calm, reasonable discussion from the one who says those same words and plans to beat you to death in the parking lot.

I’m not defending or encouraging name-calling. (I also don’t believe that telling someone they’re being bigoted is name-calling.) But it’s easy to demand calm, “safe” discussion when you’re the one who’s safe and comfortable … it doesn’t strike me as a terribly reasonable demand.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

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barb27
Aug. 29th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
The Luxury of "Reasonable".
Dammit, you even excel at being your own devil's advocate. Seriously, I agree with you 100%. Even our President (whom I strongly support on most other issues) is handicapped in acting for LGBT civil rights by his church's teachings. This is why young black men have the highest rate of HIV infection of any group and many live closeted lives in loveless marriages. Ironically, President Obama would not exist if his parents had followed the teachings of some churches of the times that marriage between the races was an abomination.
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
Re: The Luxury of "Reasonable".
"Dammit, you even excel at being your own devil's advocate."

This made me laugh, thank you :-)

I can appreciate Sanderson's newer argument, which seems to push for *more* separation of church and state re: marriage and civil unions. (I read it as "Civil unions for everyone, and let the church do whatever they want with marriages, with the understanding that church marriage shall be legally meaningless.)

It terrifies me how much influence religion has in government.
Re: The Luxury of "Reasonable". - mrs_norris_mous - Aug. 29th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Luxury of "Reasonable". - beccastareyes - Aug. 29th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: The Luxury of "Reasonable". - cissa - Sep. 1st, 2011 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: The Luxury of "Reasonable". - delux_vivens - Aug. 30th, 2011 03:46 am (UTC) - Expand
elizaeffect
Aug. 29th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
Well, when I think "reasonable" I generally tend to lump in "advocating for the decent treatment of all human beings no matter what a magic book says about them" with all the other associations one might pin on the word.

There's "calm, coherent discourse advocating hateful actions", as rare as it may be, but I think of that as a kind of quiet insanity and don't consider it "reasonable". So maybe your blog-fans (myself included) are simply using a slightly different definition?
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
Still pondering some things, but I think "reasonable" is often used as a substitute for "quiet"...
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marthawells
Aug. 29th, 2011 01:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, that. I think when people like Sanderson make the "be reasonable" plea, they just aren't understanding that the angry people are angry because they've had horrible painful behavior directed at them personally, in the real physical world, because of their sexual orientation. It seems to me like they think of it as an abstract internet issue and not something that actual real-life LGBT people have to deal with in their actual real lives.
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:13 pm (UTC)
Yes - when in a debate like this you say the other side seems just as hateful, to me, that means you don't actually understand what that other side has endured and continues to endure every day. Calling someone a bigot, or even an asshole or a dipshit, while not pleasant, just isn't remotely equal to the harassments and beatings and threats and killings and so on...

I ran into similar issues talking to men about sexual assault, where so many men wanted to have nice, calm, intellectual pseudoreasonable discussions.
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cathschaffstump
Aug. 29th, 2011 01:53 pm (UTC)
Well, yeah.

I will be interested to see where Sanderson goes from here. And, for the conservative folks, there is this, which is sort of an interesting bit of information from their own corner.

http://minnesotaindependent.com/82400/nationwide-state-republicans-increasingly-backing-gay-rights

Catherine
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:15 pm (UTC)
From a political standpoint, I suspect more politicians are starting to realize it's a losing battle, so they're bailing on that position. Partly because more people support same-sex marriage, and partly because people are a little more interested in jobs and the economy, and are getting cranky about so much time and energy going into things like fighting to stop gay marriage...
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tiamat1972
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
Ugh. My ex-husband used to do something like that. He ignored my calm requests for him to stop his hurtful behavior. Push all my buttons, goading me until I was in a fury, then calmly tell me to calm down and let's talk about this nicely, etc.

Sometimes anger is the reasonable response. It makes people sit up and notice.
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:24 pm (UTC)
Abuse doesn't need to be loud to be abusive...

"Sometimes anger is the reasonable response."

I love this!
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ceitean
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
Just curious, which blog was this post in response to? (other than BS's original one, obvs)

Also, I just want to say that your blog definitely led me to your books, which are currently sitting on the corner of my desk, waiting to be read. :) I really do appreciate your posts, so thank you for speaking up on these issues, as well as others I've seen you address on your blog.
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:18 pm (UTC)
Are you asking about the blog post that originally pointed me to Sanderson's? I'm afraid I can't remember. My memory sucks for this stuff, and I'm bad about bookmarking things I want to come back to.

And thank you.
sylvanstargazer
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:16 pm (UTC)
I read Sanderson's stuff and it makes me genuinely sad. Essentially, it seems like he's an empathic, thinking guy who has willfully isolated himself. So he writes about gender, but he's writing about gender without engaging with or acknowledging all the other people who have written about gender in the past, all the discussions of gender that have gone on outside of fiction (much less fantasy), and in a way that still centers his perspective without acknowledging that that is what he is doing. It's not that it's invalid, it's that it ruins it for me because I have read all those other things. "Hey everyone!" his books seem to yell "I just discovered these brand new things called "gender roles"!"
I am sure there are audiences for whom that is true, but I am not one of them.

And totally second the "reasonable" discussion. It doesn't matter how calmly someone explains that I shouldn't be allowed to exist, or even just to admit to living my life in public, it simply can't be reasonable.

I have little sympathy for people who prioritize faith or dogma over reality. If one's model of the world conflicts with reality, the problem is not with reality (no matter how much the Chicago economists keep looking for bond yields to rise ;-))
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC)
I've been working for a while to try to understand, and I think part of the problem is that for a lot of religiously faithful people, that *is* reality.
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suricattus
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:19 pm (UTC)
sing it, brother.
I was going to comment, then realized you'd made any point I would have wanted to, and done it far more calmly than I ever could have

(I am a reasonable human being, but I am also a passionate one, and when passion mixes with outrage I tend to lose the "calm" aspect of reason. Oops.)
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
Re: sing it, brother.
Well, there are reasons some of these posts take me several weeks to prepare...

ETA: Completely off-topic, but I just started Flesh and Fire last night!

Edited at 2011-08-29 02:25 pm (UTC)
sartorias
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC)
So very true.
cuddlycthulhu
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:33 pm (UTC)
Ah, the tone argument. "I don't like your tone/the way you express your thought so therefor it is invalid."

Mr. Sanderson sounds like a really nice guy from how you describe him, a person who is, generally, respectful and perhaps even kind.

But just because a person is all of those things doesn't make them not a homophobe. A person may take offense at the term, just as many people who express racist thoughts would be offended at being called a racist, but these people seem to get caught up in the emotional baggage of the word instead of why they're being called that word.

Mr. Sanderson would like others to be respectful of his views but when his views are inherently not respectful of others then why shouldn't he expect anger? As someone said above, sometimes the reasonable response is anger.
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
Yep. Nice guy, but I (obviously) have some strong feelings about his beliefs on this.

As for being called homophobic or bigoted or racist, it almost feels like being called "racist" is a more horrible thing than *being* racist, which breaks my brain. (Insert sexist, homophobic, etc. here...)
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serialbabbler
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
Of course, some people also demand calm and "safe" discussion because they actually have been mistreated in some way in the past. (For instance, my mother freaks out any time a man swears loudly in her vicinity. So, you know, if you want a reasonable discussion with her, it's best to avoid being a loud, swearing man even if you have a legitimate reason to be angry.)

I'm not sure what constitutes loud and "not calm" on the internet, though. Heavily emotive? High volume of responses? ALL CAPS? Using words I find disturbing whoever I may happen to be?
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
That makes sense, and I could certainly understand and respect someone who needs to set a boundary on certain behaviors because they're too triggering of abuse or past mistreatment. (And I know there are some people who will avoid reading this kind of post and the comments, precisely because even online conflict is too painful.)
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funwithrage
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC)
This. And I am...not going to be buying Sanderson's books anytime in the future. Nice guy or not...he is a homophobe. I'm glad he's struggling with his homophobia, and I hope he gets over it soon, but until he does...yep.

I did a post about this the last time the issue came up: Here.
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
Out of curiosity, how do you define the word homophobia? In an early draft, I noted that I didn't think of Sanderson as a homophobe because I don't believe he fears homosexuals.

Re: your blog post, yes! I am SO tired of the nice guy defense...
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zornhau
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:41 pm (UTC)
It's a meme war
People usually get cross when I point this out. But it is.

There is no possibility of productive dialogue because neither side is going to shift. We can't even agree a common watering hole, because there'll always be rogue elements trying to slip one by.

Ultimately, it'll be decided by weight of numbers. All we can do is try to gather in the undecided.
fadethecat
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
Re: It's a meme war
But that's not true.

I was once a wide-eyed little fundamentalist Christian who was deeply convinced that homosexuality was wrong and bad, and that it was tragic that so many people were so strongly tempted by it. I learned better through a lot of well-reasoned arguments otherwise. Mostly ones posted online. And often, it was actually the angry ones that got through to me, with people pointing out just how much those "innocent" views of mine could hurt them and their families.

That was a damn productive dialogue. I was on the other side, and I was shifted. Throwing up our hands and going "Those other people will clearly never be convinced" doesn't help anything.
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cathshaffer
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
Reasonableness is privileged because it works. How many times in your life have you been persuaded to a new point of view by someone who yells at you, insults you, and calls you names. (Saying 'you are a bigot' is not namecalling is not very convincing to the person being called a bigot.) Advocating for social justice is not a new thing. It's centuries old, and in the history of all such movements, persistent use of reason and peaceful protest has been vastly more effective than verbal or physical confrontation. Venting of anger and fear is just that--venting. That itself becomes a privilege when it takes the place of reasoned persuasion. It may feel good to vent your anger, but every time you vent your feelings on someone, you harden their position and lose a chance to persuade them.
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, but this has me visualizing a kid getting the shit kicked out of him behind the school, while someone stands over saying, "Maybe if you asked him reasonably to stop stomping on your face?"
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supertailz
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC)
I just wanted to say thank you. This articulates what I feel so much better than I've been able to.

It's not that I don't like, or want, reasonable discussion. It's that a lot of people on the right, asking for "reasonable" discussion don't understand our instinctive fear of people who hate us. They don't understand that it's hard to tell the difference from someone who will say things reasonably and someone who will kick you in the face. They look the same and they say the same words.
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:59 pm (UTC)
Have you read Schrodinger's Rapist? Same idea, and that article was in the back of my mind as I was working on this post...
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apis_mellifera
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC)
Interestingly enough, I read Sanderson's upcoming book yesterday (it was good, but Lesser Sanderson). And there's a character who could potentially be not-heterosexual in it--the text is explicit about her not being interested in a (male) character romantically. Whether or not this is because she's devoted to her work to the point of not wanting a romantic relationship at all or actually not-heterosexual is not clear, but it felt pretty ambiguous to me. As to whether Sanderson intended it to be ambiguous is something else entirely.
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:56 pm (UTC)
It wouldn't surprise me if you were reading that character correctly. I do think he's been struggling, and as a writer, I could see that being a part of that struggle...
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Jessica Strider
Aug. 29th, 2011 02:59 pm (UTC)
The real problem
Ultimately the real problem is that religious people think they have the one and only answer to life the universe and everything and aren't willing to change their views. You can't argue with someone who 'knows everything' even when they actually know nothing.

One of the reasons I left the Mormon church is because their big gripe is how their pioneers were persecuted because of their lifestyle and beliefs. I always thought that should make the members more welcoming towards others who've been through similar things (civil rights, GLTBQ rights). And that's never been the case.

For me, meeting a closeted gay man as a teen had a huge impact. It's hard to say the lifestyle is wrong when it's no longer an abstract 'that's evil' and, becomes 'this guy I know has to hide who and what he is because people won't accept him and may even beat him up for being who he is'. The older I get the less willing I am to suffer bigots.

What consenting adults do in their bedrooms is no concern of others. Their love hurts no one. End of story.

- Jessica Strider
misslynx
Aug. 29th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC)
Re: The real problem
Ultimately the real problem is that religious people think they have the one and only answer to life the universe and everything and aren't willing to change their views.

Not all religious people. Many, yes. But there also quite a few of us aren't dogmatic and are capable of recognizing religious views, even our own, as subjective, and not a sound basis for social policy. That's pretty much the point I was trying to make here.

And yes, I know a lot of people will look at that and say, "Oh, sure, but you're a hippie pagan freak pagan and that's different - I meant those other religious people." But I know Christians, Muslims, etc. who are equally open-minded. It's not a function of the specific religion, at least not entirely. It's more how any given individual chooses to perceive their religion.
Re: The real problem - icecreamempress - Aug. 29th, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
twilight2000
Aug. 29th, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
This is one of the most reasoned, well-written pieces on "privilege" I've read in decades. I'd LOVE to share this - may I?
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC)
Anyone is more than welcome to link back to anything I wrote, and quoting a bit of the post is certainly fair use.

Or are you asking about copying and reposting the entire thing?
(no subject) - twilight2000 - Aug. 29th, 2011 06:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
shadrad
Aug. 29th, 2011 03:04 pm (UTC)
While I agree with your point, I think it's important also to note that this is precisely -why- 'reasonable' discussion from people like you or I, who are not so deeply affected by the issue, is so valuable, important, and easily heard.

Historically in America, it's shown that no civil rights movement has come to pass without the aid and support of people who were not of the immediately oppressed minority (Before anyone starts an argument, I'm not saying women were not oppressed during the slavery era either, just that the immediate cause they stood up for was not exactly their own). It's easy to dismiss one group's cry for justice-- it's not so easy to dismiss when others, who might stand little to gain for that change (or who may in fact stand to lose something (I refer to taxes, not civil rights)) speak up and out against injustice.

I think in your case, Jim, it's -because- you can afford to be reasonable that your tone and arguments are so effective. It's not to say that the anger of others isn't justified-- no, it absolutely is-- but people are so much better at ignoring anger and writing it off than they are a 'reasonable' discussion.

That's why what you write is so important, and so valuable.
twilight2000
Aug. 29th, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
Very good point - my mom was an early part of SNICC (student non-violent coordinating committee), a large part of the 50's/60's civil rights movment - a lot of white academics were - because they *could* - they had the freedom to stand up for people who either didn't or who perceived they didn't. Their whole focus was to work themselves out of a job - to be replaced, as people of color felt safe or able to take on those more official roles without quite as much fear of being stomped, beaten, or lynched.

Speaking up for those who have no voice or whose voice would be completely ignored by those making laws is a vital part of change.
(no subject) - jimhines - Aug. 29th, 2011 03:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
hand2hand
Aug. 29th, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this post.
threeoutside
Aug. 29th, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear!
trektone
Aug. 29th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this post, Jim.
peachtess
Aug. 29th, 2011 03:58 pm (UTC)
I went to go share this on google+ but you haven't put up a link yet. Are you planning to?
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
Forgot - it's up now.
(no subject) - peachtess - Aug. 29th, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
catvalente
Aug. 29th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
I have to say that I find his calm and reasonable statements of: same sex desire is equivalent to adultery and should be resisted in all cases and I'm against gay marriage for your own good (citation needed. He gives no evidence of it being bad for...oh. Oh. He means they're going to hell, doesn't he. Holy shit.) to be disturbing, morally corrupt, and hateful. Just because he does it without dropping the f bomb doesn't mean this isn't the kind of logic that leads to someone very sadly and kindly shooting a gay man in the head for their own good.

Also LOL for his "we've been going back and forth on this since Classical Greece" schtick. Bad example, buddy. The "forth" was definitely on the side of gay sex is awesome and spiritual, hetero sex is icky and kind of unpleasant and necessary for babies, but you wouldn't want to like, have a /relationship/ with her.
jimhines
Aug. 29th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC)
Sorry if I ruined your breakfast, Cat!

To be honest, I don't know what he means. I don't know if he's talking about damnation of the homosexuals, or something else. He mentioned warnings from the church that he takes seriously, but I don't know the details.
(no subject) - catvalente - Aug. 29th, 2011 06:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
herefox
Aug. 29th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
You know, I missed Sanderson's post originally, I was a little worried when I clicked over and realized it was about because I do quite like his books, typically.

As a gay man...I wasn't offended. I'm a bit sad that he feels that way but it does seem like something he's struggling to get a grip on because he feels a bit uncomfortable about HIS feelings on the matter. And I can respect that not everyone approaches life from a fairly secular and admittedly biased view point as I do. He doesn't come across to me really as a homophobe, just someone who feels that something he views as a religious thing (marriage) is being offered in what is largely a civil arrangement in a way that's contrary to his religious beliefs.

I do think you're right in that he is definitely missing the point when it comes to demanding people be reasonable when they've sometimes been harrassed, abused or even harmed by people on a subject like this. And I did have a few issues where it seemed he was implying that a gay man should ignore his feelings of attraction to other men (though he did say earlier it was not good to repress those feelings either so..?)

I'll be interested to see how he handles it if he does put in a character that's gay into any of his novels...that might be where he loses me as a reader.
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