Experiments in perversity
Over on the DailyKOS, diarist Jeffrey Feldman has been running a series he calls "Frameshop". Each post in the series is an attempt to deconstruct right wing framing and give advice to liberals and progressives on how they can avoid the pitfalls of those frames. I would highly recommend that everyone register at dKOS and subscribe to Feldman's diary so they can follow his work.
The most recent Frameshop is a discussion of the term "Gay Marriage" (link). It reminded me of a point I have tried to make to friends on more than one occasion. The occasion arises when one of them says something along these lines:
"They say that homosexuals choose their lifestyle, but why would anyone choose a lifestyle that is guaranteed to leave them ostracized, abused and possibly killed because it is viewed with such hostility by the rest of society? Only a madman would make that kind of 'choice'."
This argument makes the assumption that people can, by their own natural reasoning, choose to live a healthy lifestyle. The mistake is in thinking that the other side agrees with that assumption. But the conservative frame assumes that mankind is naturally sinful. It assumes that, left to his own devices, man will fall into an "experimentation with perversity" as Jerry Falwell puts it in the post linked above. It is only through the intervention of a loving God and his surrogates, the loving parents, that man can avoid that fate.
The argument for homosexual rights, to someone who adopts this frame, is an argument for a culture that shirks its responsibility to teach people to avoid "experimentation with perversity." Society has to stop the homosexual from engaging in their lifestyle for their own good because the homosexual has given into their naturally sinful self.
Within the conservative frame there is no allowance for mankind to, of his own reason, live a life that is well-meaning and beneficial to themselves and others. It just simply isn't possible and any argument to the contrary is either deluded or, even worse, deliberate in its attempt to corrupt our culture (i.e., the work of the devil).
This frame has, at its heart, the fundamental belief that man can take no security in his own capacities and must ultimately surrender his will to that of a higher power (parents, country, God).
And consider this: what we are fighting against here isn't simply a delusionary model of absolute insecurity. It is possible that, for those who advocate this line of thought, their surrender of their will to that higher power is the only way they can control their tendencies towards perversion. That would explain why so many right-wing preachers seem to get caught in shameful sex scandals. They really are weak when it comes to controlling their own tendencies towards perversion. When we argue that they should trust more in themselves it is the metaphorical equivalent of asking a drowning man to let of go of their life preserver.
No wonder they are so scared of what we are asking them to do.