Monday, December 15, 2008

College Instructor Defends Blacklisting Over $100 Donation to Prop 8

This article was posted today defending the blacklisting of Marjorie Christofferson, the woman who worked at El Coyote restaurant in Los Angeles and made a $100 donation to support the California marriage amendment, Prop 8. The author, Robert Cruickshank teaches political science at a state funded institution, Monterey Peninsula College. Reading through this, I wondered how he could possibly grade students papers fairly. I've added some bolding and interspersed with some links and my comments:

Conservatives Use Proposition 8 To Continue To Foster Cult of Victimhood

By Robert Cruickshank

Conservatives have for decades cultivated a politics of victimhood - presenting themselves as victims of some group, usually liberal and often an oppressed minority, in order to gain sympathy for their insane beliefs and to delegitimize progressive ideas and actions. We're witnessing it on Proposition 8 as well, and now the media is playing along. The result is a massive distortion of the true effects of Prop 8, and the normalization of support for discriminatory policy.

This turns historical reality upside down. According to this worldview, heterosexual marriage is an "insane belief" and something conservatives are seeking to "normalize". I would like to think he is making a little joke, but more likely this is just unacknowledged psychological projection. It is disturbing to think that young college students in California could be graded down if they tried to argue with the ahistorical claims of their instructor.
The specific case is that of Margie Christofferson, who quit her job as a manager at LA's El Coyote Restaurant under pressure from activists and customers angry at her donation of $100 to the Yes on 8 campaign. Her journey from oppressor to victim has been aided by Steve Lopez of the LA Times, who wrote a deeply flawed column on Sunday casting Christofferson as a sympathetic figure:

Margie Christoffersen didn't make it very far into our conversation before she cracked. Chest heaving, tears streaming, she reached for her husband Wayne's hand and then mine, squeezing as if she'd never let go.

"I've almost had a nervous breakdown. It's been the worst thing that's ever happened to me," she sobbed as curious patrons at a Farmers Market coffee shop looked on, wondering what calamity had visited this poor woman who's an honest 6 feet tall, with hair as blond as the sun.

That sets the tone for a column that blames the victims of Prop 8 for making this poor woman cry, and Lopez isn't above repeating disputed claims that riot police showed up at El Coyote during a recent rally.
Robert Cruickshank is quoting from this column in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, one of the very few pieces that have been published that are sympathetic to supporters of prop 8 in any way. The LA Times ran this photo by Lori Shepler titled "Opponents of Proposition 8 yell at drivers entering El Coyote Mexican Cafe last month" with the article.

You can see and hear the protestors in action in this video:

Now that you have seen who Cruikshank considers innocent victims who have done nothing to make someone cry, we will continue with his analysis:

But perhaps the most troubling part of the column was Lopez' normalization of her support for discrimination:
But I didn't like what I was hearing about the vilification of Margie Christoffersen and others in California being targeted for the crime of voting their conscience.

"Voting our conscience" has been one of the key methods by which Prop 8 supporters have escaped responsibility for their actions or even acknowledging what Prop 8 was - an attack on the legal equality of thousands of Californians merely for their sexual orientation. When framed this way the Yes on 8 position becomes almost unassailable, immune to criticism. "They're just voting their conscience," we're supposed to think, and not be allowed to ask them to face the realities of what they have done, not be allowed to criticize them for voting to take away equal rights and destroy existing marriages, and not be allowed to act with our own conscience by denying those who backed Prop 8 our patronage. Each of those acts is cast as an aggressive and hurtful act, where the oppressed are cast as oppressors.

No, Robert Cruickshank, the aggressive bullying and the out of proportion reaction to a small value donation are what is being cast in as oppressor behavior. And the distortions of reality, as exemplified in your article.
Lopez mentions almost in passing that "thousands [of gay people] feel as though their civil rights have been violated" but their concerns and views don't get the sob story treatment Margie Christofferson got - even though she knew full well what she was giving money for, and continues to believe that her vote for Prop 8 was the right move. As Lisa Derrick notes she has never apologized to her once-loyal customers for what she did. Obviously she feels no need to offer any such apology.

Lopez' column writes the real victims of Prop 8 out of the story and replaces them with their victimizers. Once again GLBT Californians and their fundamental rights are treated as either deviant or invisible. The only people whose opinions matter are those who oppose gay rights, and if someone dares call it out then they become the oppressors. Standing up for gay rights, for marriage equality, becomes itself an act of hate.

No, Robert Cruickshank, forming a mob outside the restaurant and yelling hateful things are an act of hate.
Margie Christofferson is not a sympathetic figure.
You wish, Robert Cruickshank, she is sympathetic because we can all imagine the horror of becoming the target of this extreme reaction to a $100 donation.
She is someone in deep denial of reality, who is unwilling to reconcile her relationships with her own intolerance. It's not the rest of Los Angeles's job to play along with it, to enable it, to pretend as if it doesn't exist. Doing so merely continues the decades of injustice that comes when good people do nothing and discrimination is treated as normal.

It would be nice if the traditional media would recognize this. It's not likely that they will. Martin Luther King, Jr. may be venerated today but he was a controversial figure in his day who received FAR more criticism from the media than credit, who was told that the March on Washington was a dangerous provocation that should not be attempted. The Civil Rights Movement rightly refused to let such concern trolling stop them. We who are part of the marriage equality movement would do well to learn that lesson.
Of course, Robert Cruickshank ends by claiming a continuity with the black civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, jr. He doesn't mention that most African-Americans do not agree with the parallel he makes between racial discrimination and maintaining the definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman. In the recent election in California, the great majority of black voters, 70%, voted for Prop 8.

You can read the original here. I left a comment but I doubt it will be approved.


BillyD said...

I've left a comment, too. We'll see if it gets through.

BillyD said...

Mine made it; evidently they don't have comment moderation.

Perpetua said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

My sister, I would have read the rest of the Cruikshank quotes, but I kinda like my dinner to stay in my tummy!

The Romans 1 slope with racing skis, and the Church needs to be ready and in position to tend to the wounded, 'cuz that slope stops in a big hurry!

Perpetua said...

Hi BillyD,

You made a great comment. I'm glad he posted it. I hope he takes it to heart.

(There is some sort of comment approval process and mine must not have passed. It is still not showing.)

Perpetua said...

Hi Robert,

Thank you for dropping by. Didn't mean to make you sick.

For those interested, I think Robert is referring to the last verses of Romans 1, particularly the references to "deceit and malice", "insolent, arrogant and boastful" and "heartless, ruthless". But read it yourself and see if/what you think fits:

28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,

30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;

31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

karl.rosenqvist said...

The whole story reminds me of this:
Give us money or we’ll publicly identify you as opponents of traditional unions.

I will be soo happy when all this foul play ant intrigue is over so we can all get back to some serious politics.