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The Luxury of “Reasonable”

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
Re: The Luxury of "Reasonable". - misslynx - Aug. 29th, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: The Luxury of "Reasonable". - misslynx - Aug. 29th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Luxury of "Reasonable". - redbird - Aug. 30th, 2011 01:07 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Luxury of "Reasonable". - cissa - Sep. 1st, 2011 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Luxury of "Reasonable". - branna - Sep. 3rd, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Luxury of "Reasonable". - ilcylic - Aug. 30th, 2011 12:05 am (UTC) - Expand
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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Long Response! - funwithrage - Aug. 29th, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
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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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