This Indiana gay discrimination spat is a fucking disgrace. CNN’s coverage of this pissing match is longwinded and insufferable enough that I’ve been muting it. (Maybe I should mute CNN as a standard practice, but its coverage of aviation disasters. I’m not saying that it’s reputable; I’m just saying that it’s fun.)
Maybe the ragingly overwrought extent of the coverage is just an artifact of CNN’s profound frivolousness. What this can’t explain is the investment of Hoosier activists and politicians in this horseshit. The mayor of Indianapolis is now at loggerheads with the governor over the soul of the state; since Indianapolis is the capital, this fight can be kept conveniently within the neighborhood for easy logistics. Indy is in reasonably good shape, maybe even excellent shape, for a major city, but it’s hard to say the same thing about the state. The U3 unemployment rate in Gary has been at or above 10% since 2009. The black unemployment rate (corresponding roughly to the unemployment rate of the poor) in Indianapolis was over 11% at the start of this year, and Indy is over a quarter black. It’s safe to assume that the U6 numbers are a lot uglier.
One way to look at this gay public accommodations spat is to figure that it’s one of Whitey’s hobbyhorses. Gary, after all, is almost 85% black. I tend to think that it’s really a class thing that looks like a racial thing on account of extremely high levels of black unemployment, and that it can be better understood by controlling for class, not race. (This, I strongly suspect, is also the best way to put an end to high black unemployment. The dynamics at play are basically the same ones causing high unemployment among poor whites, i.e., the poor getting screwed raw.)
In other words, this nonsense is Bougie’s thing. It’s an intraclass standoff between the upwardly mobile metrosexuals of Indianapolis, represented by Greg Ballard, and the reactionary local notables of a thousand cornhole farm towns, represented by Mike Pence. There is probably a disproportionate number of farm subsidy beneficiaries, even by local standards, in the latter faction. If you think about this standoff as a rough-and-tumble between the Brahmins on one side and the Optimates and High Vaisyas on the other, it’s either highly entertaining or barfworthy, depending on how much discord you can stomach. Personally, I’d find it much more entertaining in another country than in my own.
David Kuo once said of the culture war wedge issues, “Nobody in the heartland gives a shit about that stuff.” The thing is, all too many small towns in the United States are run by a morally repulsive junta of bourgeois and crypto-aristocratic high hats trying to scare the tweaker underclass straight with tales of Jesus and wave the cross as a bloody shirt to distract the working class from grievances about wage scale and workplace conditions that would be a huge annoyance for the local notables. These places are fucking poisonous. Indianapolis is too big and, crucially, socially diverse a city for a shitbird junta to fully commandeer, unlike, say, Carlisle, PA.
Do workaday Hoosiers really want their municipal and state governments devoting their energies to this gay wedge issue bullshit? I doubt it. All this carrying-on is ultimately about whose cock is in whose ass. It is not the concern of a mature and serious electorate. If Mike Pence weren’t more or less delivering the goods as governor (a state budget surplus, a statewide unemployment rate that is objectively excessive but low enough by regional standards, a number of very strong regional economies for the middle class) and were instead showing Jimmy Carter’s command of the economy, his constituents would be telling him to get fucked. Indiana’s poor appear to be politically apathetic and disengaged enough to allow significant misgovernment contrary to their basic interests, but I have no way to say how Indiana compares to most other states in this regard; offhand, I’d guess that it’s in relatively decent civic shape.
Meanwhile, the national media are making as ass of the state as a wellspring of bigotry. It occurred to me that maybe Pence was trying to pull a Dan Cathy, deliberately drawing negative press to his state on the basis that any publicity is good publicity and angling for the tourism of religious conservatives. On second thought, I doubt it. Mike Pence is no Dan Cathy. He looks like he’s in way over his head with all the blowback. He’s been going on television and making a dissembling fool of himself. If he has any sense, he’ll try to bury the hatchet on this religious freedom bill immediately, and it sounds like that’s what he’s trying to do after a delay of several days.
What the hell is actually at stake with these bills (in Indiana, and now also in Arkansas) is hard to say. If there’s a serious equal protection problem with these bills, they’ll be invalidated by the federal courts. Pathetically, the stakes are being construed as the rights of florists and cake decorators vis-a-vis the rights of same-sex couples to have fabulous wedding services. There’s a real asshatted ugliness to same-sex couples picking fights with socially conservative wedding service providers who are clearly discomfited by same-sex marriage.
On the other hand, these laws could affect public accommodations. E.g., we won’t rent you a room because you’re a gay couple. This is a totally different and unconscionable matter. I’ve been homeless, and I can wholeheartedly say that any landlord or innkeeper who denies accommodation on the basis of sexual prejudice needs a good hard kick in the ass. As things stand, completely ignoring discrimination on the basis of sexuality, fair housing laws are very inadequately enforced in the United States. Tenants are naturally at a disadvantage in landlord-tenant relationships, and the state needs to lower the boom on unethical landlords and innkeepers. “I won’t rent to you because you stick your cock in his shitty asshole” is a deeply unethical and predatory basis for the denial of housing or lodging. A decent society does not allow that sort of discrimination. The truth is that most of these “family values” arguments against same-sex marriage can ultimately be reduced to “silly faggot, dicks are for chicks.” They aren’t about natural law or anything of the sort. If these fuckheads were interested in natural law, they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to conform positive law to their biblical specifications.
At the other extreme, meanwhile, the captains of American business have been calling for boycotts of Indiana. Fuckin’ A. This is actually pretty scary on examination. The American business community feels no apparent compunction about resorting to heavyhanded threats of economic ruination over policy differences. And these are just the public threats; a competent shithead usually makes his worst threats in private, where they’re less likely to be embarrassingly documented. As Jacob Bacharach has pointed out, these threats are also deeply hypocritical: e.g., Tim Cook has little concern indeed for the rights and welfare of Apple’s iWageslaves in Southeast Asia.
Of all the reasons not to visit Indiana, this dustup is one of the worst. You weren’t planning to vacation in Terre Haute in the first place. On the other hand, as a fellow from Scottsburg once told me, “Aww, it’s real purdy down there!” He told me this in Bloomington, and I understand that the countryside gets a lot prettier to the south, so he was probably right.
He was certainly a hell of a lot more articulate than Mike Pence has been lately.