On Saturday, Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote. Just last month in North Dakota, a vocally anti-gay politician was outed for being gay through screenshots of his Grindr profile. While it is deeply disturbing that someone would purposefully out him, this man espouses the deeply rooted discomfort with change and progress that exists in the American sociopolitical sphere.
This discomfort is rooted in social conservatism. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave, and yet we spy on our own citizens and live in such fear that we own more guns than people to protect ourselves. That’s neither free nor brave. There is a palpable disruption to American society. It’s not new, but in the age of social media and the omnipresence of cameras, people are asking for accountability in entirely new ways.
The right wing solution to this “problem” is not a new one. Conservatives reject change, blaming immigrants, the LGBTQ community, the AHANA community and many others for the purported decline of the morality of American culture. This deflection of the anger and frustration that accompanies hard times is a time-honored tradition. Throughout human history, leaders have used the idea of inferiority to justify punitive policies and discrimination. In recent memory, Hitler and Stalin took this creed to an extreme, but there is no denying an ideological connection between their policies and the inherent sentiments of socially conservative policies.
Politicians prefer to equivocate and beat around the bush, but when examined closely, the policies of social conservatism are predicated on the subjugation, discrimination and oppression of certain groups of people. A century ago, a lack of education made this program feasible, but it was never acceptable. Equal rights and equal opportunity are the most basic tenets of the charter of the United Sates, and yet they have been denied to so many people for so long. When certain practices became no longer tenable--for example segregation--leaders turned to more subtle policies to maintain racial divides. Privatized prisons, “The War on Drugs”, redlining and ghettoization all serve as institutionalized mechanisms to further the conservative machine.
For the LGBTQ community, rapid gains in rights over the past decade have been described as remarkable, as if these gains were not the result of decades of struggle against discrimination. Moreover, social conservatism rejects the notion that it would be natural for any oppressed population to want its unalienable human rights. The sole bastion of defense for these oppressors is the Bible, and a pastoral vision of the way things were. This logic fails on many fronts, one of which being that it doesn’t respect the fact that contemporary marriage is entirely a social construct. Nowhere in the Bible is mention made of the complex tax codes that accompany marriage today, and nowhere in the Bible does it address the legal complexity that makes marriage equality so important.
Furthermore, “the way things were” is an illegitimate defense. Slavery, segregation, the right of women to vote and women being considered “property” in marriage were all rules with a historical precedent that were changed. No sane person today would argue for a reversion to these rules.
At Boston College, conservative tendencies do nothing but impede the progress of the University and of the student body. The Administration’s refusal to recognize a climate justice group doesn’t uphold the legacy of the University; it’s a petty attempt to stifle an important conversation that has taken place on many campuses across the country. Not allowing the Health Center to give out condoms and also refusing to recognize a student group on sexual health isn’t a sign of devoutness or morality, it’s an anti-social policy that makes the Boston College community less safe.
In addition, the University’s lack of an LGBTQ resource center with full-time staff, highlighted by the For Here All Are One pledge shows the genuine fear amid the BC Administration to commit itself to social justice and equality, ideas ostensibly forwarded through its charter.
Irrespective of religion, social conservatism is a doctrine of prejudice and discrimination. It’s not grounded in fact or science, its grounded in hate. That people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, or other oppressed groups are understood as inferior is entirely a product of social construction. If these precepts of hate can be built up by society, they certainly can and should be torn down. An end of social conservatism does not mean that the “leftist” and progressive agenda will run rampant. Instead, it will allow society to move past bigotry and forward ideas of human dignity, regardless of race, religion, orientation or any other socially constructed qualifier used to discriminate.