Friday, June 25, 2010

Huckabee's Disgust

Mark Kleiman highlights a recent comment by former governor of Arkansas and Republican candidate for president Mike Huckabee.
As a retreaded fundamentalist preacher, Huckabee has decided to make opposition to improving the legal status of gays and lesbians – - sorry, “the defense of traditional marriage” – a centerpiece of his politics. He does so with a mix of Scriptural quotations and simple-minded biology.
Here's Huckabee in the New Yorker:
I do believe that God created male and female and intended for marriage to be the relationship of the two opposite sexes. Male and female are biologically compatible to have a relationship. We can get into the ick factor, but the fact is two men in a relationship, two women in a relationship, biologically, that doesn’t work the same.
Whether it is bigoted to believe that homosexuality is wrong because it says so in the bible is one thing.  But describing it as "icky" is another.  Huckabee could be literally imagining himself having sex with another man, in which case he might be forgiven for expressing discomfort.  But I think it's pretty clear that he is instead simply expressing an emotion that originates in homophobia, and can be legitimately described as bigoted.

Disgust is an old and very important part of hatred and bigotry.  Hated groups have often been thought of as "unclean" or "impure" - whether it was blacks, Jews, immigrants or women's sexuality.  Matha C. Nussbaum, law and ethics professor at University of Chicago argues that disgust, along with shame, fundamentally  threaten the values of modern liberal society:
Disgust and shame are inherently hierarchical; they set up ranks and orders of human beings. They are also inherently connected with restrictions on liberty in areas of non-harmful conduct. For both of these reasons, I believe, anyone who cherishes the key democratic values of equality and liberty should be deeply suspicious of the appeal to those emotions in the context of law and public policy.
The real shame is that this sort of open and unabashed bigotry continues to be acceptable in American political discourse.

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