I want to preface this by saying that I can appreciate people not wanting to get into real-world politics or issues when deciding what form of art or escapism they want to entertain themselves with. If you prefer to separate the art from the artist, I fully respect that. However, the point of me writing this is to—at the very least—get people to think about their position. For those of you unaware of the situation,
Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel, Ender’s Game, is getting the feature film treatment later this year. Unfortunately, Card’s personal opinions about gay rights and homosexuality in general have recently been upstaging the movie itself. To put it nicely, he’s not a fan of homosexuals, and it’s in that light that I’ve decided to discuss his views and how they pertain to the fiction he created.
Just so you know my stance right up front, I’m one hundred percent in favor of civil rights for everyone–gay, straight, bisexual, whatever. To discriminate against any person due to race, religion, or sexual orientation is bigoted and just plain wrong. The only coherent arguments I’ve ever seen in opposition to gay rights have come in the form of religious pandering, and Card’s are no different. Take, for example, a piece written by Card in 2008 for the Deseret News website, where he condemns gay marriage in a myriad of absolutely ridiculous ways:
“The first and greatest threat from court decisions in California and Massachusetts, giving legal recognition to ‘gay marriage,’ is that it marks the end of democracy in America.”
Being that those words comprise the first paragraph of the article, you don’t have to read too much to see the level of crazy Card is operating on. According to him, gay people falling in love means the very foundation upon which this country was founded will simply crumble under the weight of fabulousness, but only if it’s legally recognized. That’s a bizarre claim, isn’t it? I wonder if it’ll happen all at once, like a big, dirty, gay bomb going off inside the capitol building – rainbows flying everywhere; dogs and cats living together; mass hysteria!
Card is utterly full of shit, though, since he’s arguing from the standpoint of his Mormonism. The last time I checked, a singular entity (God) declaring to an entire population (Mormons) that something is banned, and that they have no say in the decision, is by definition the exact opposite of democracy. In another article from 1990, Card says gays can’t realistically serve two masters–one being the church, and the other homosexuality. Well, to that, I say that Card can’t realistically defend democracy while at the same time adhering to, and expecting everyone else in America to abide by, doctrine passed down by fiat. He’s a buffoon of the highest order, and this contradiction points directly to that fact. If he wants anti-gay laws dictated to an entire country by a small handful of bigots, then he should go live in Russia, the bastion of human rights, where spreading “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors” over the internet is punishable by a hefty fine and jail time. It would be a veritable utopia for him!
Card continues by claiming the courts are overstepping their bounds by legalizing gay marriage, and that children will be forced to learn that gay marriage is “normal”:
“How dangerous is this, politically? Please remember that for the mildest of comments critical of the political agenda of homosexual activists, I have been called a ‘homophobe’ for years.”
Look, it’s not a political agenda in the sense he’s talking about. It’s a civil rights issue. Gay people want the same rights and privileges afforded to straight, married couples. Why is that so hard to understand? I can tell you why: Card’s religion teaches him that being gay is a sin. Any and all rational arguments made against his Mormon faith must be defeated in his mind on pain of angering God, so it’s no wonder he resorts to calling it a political agenda. Then, he talks about the word “homophobe”:
Orson Scott Card
“This is a term that was invented to describe people with a pathological fear of homosexuals—the kind of people who engage in acts of violence against gays. But the term was immediately extended to apply to anyone who opposed the homosexual activist agenda in any way.”
I’m sorry to burst Card’s bubble, but if you’re scared that gay marriage is going to literally do away with democracy, then yes, you’re a homophobe. That’s not a rational fear in any sense, and the term has never only applied to those who lash out violently. If that were so, then the only racists in this world would be the ones who physically abuse minorities. Does that ring true? Of course not. If you’re white, go ahead and use the N word in public while claiming you’re not racist. See how far that gets you. It’s people like Card whom I constantly see on the news and in print, yelling about how their freedom of speech is being infringed on while at the same time being given national airtime to express themselves, sometimes even without direct opposition. Oh, but it gets better:
“Here’s the irony: There is no branch of government with the authority to redefine marriage.” “Marriage is older than government. Its meaning is universal: It is the permanent or semipermanent bond between a man and a woman, establishing responsibilities between the couple and any children that ensue.” “The laws concerning marriage did not create marriage, they merely attempted to solve problems in such areas as inheritance, property, paternity, divorce, adoption and so on.” The guy just does not get it, and the actual irony of those last few paragraphs totally escapes him. He’s correct in that marriage is older than government (at least ours), but its meaning is anything but universal. If he wants to talk about redefining marriage, let’s talk about how it went from the idea of treating women as property and as a means to gaining more land and status to an insanely idealized and specific concept of partnership. Does Card have a problem with the practice of betrothing two children to each other–oftentimes before puberty even occurs–because their respective parents want more familial power? If he does, then who does he think he is, redefining marriage like that? Does Christianity have the monopoly on what marriage means to all seven billion people living on this planet? I don’t know what his answer would be, but based on his beliefs, I’d have to guess that it does. But then, there’s also the fact that the Mormon church openly preached in favor of polygamy until the late nineteenth century, and their about-face promptly led to Utah becoming a U.S. state. Even so, there are still some fundamentalist sects out there practicing polygamy, but hey, at least they’re not attempting to redefine marriage like, oh, every single other modern-day Mormon–including Card. Let’s see Card try and defend the LDS church changing their stance on polygamy, which was around since the religion was founded in the 1830s by Joseph Smith himself. Good luck with that. Another basic problem with his stance on redefinition is that religious matrimony is not at all the same as legal marriage. The moment our government afforded special rights to heterosexual, married couples that aren’t granted to single people, we redefined marriage. However, there’s absolutely nothing stopping the Mormon church from excluding gays from being married in the church. Go ahead and forbid it in the church; nobody cares. It’s unfortunate, but that’s their business. The fact still remains that marriage in the eyes of the law is not the same as marriage in the church. Card doesn’t seem to grasp that distinction; either that, or he conveniently forgets about it so that he can appear to have logic on his side, which he in fact does not. But Card pushes on with more crazy: “No matter how sexually attracted a man might be toward other men, or a woman toward other women, and no matter how close the bonds of affection and friendship might be within same-sex couples, there is no act of court or Congress that can make these relationships the same as the coupling between a man and a woman.” “This is a permanent fact of nature.” “There is no natural method by which two males or two females can create offspring in which both partners contribute genetically. This is not subject to legislation, let alone fashionable opinion.” These claims are, yet again, more examples of the religious attempting to impose their will on the rest of us. Driving a car, operating a computer, or going to McDonald’s isn’t “natural,” either. That is a permanent fact of nature. So, what’s the solution to that? No more fast food or cell phones for anyone! Oh, and definitely no gay marriage or gays driving cars!
No; the correct solution is to realize that Card is offering a solution to a totally made-up problem. Maybe he’s not aware that homosexuality occurs quite often in nature among animals. It obviously doesn’t lead to offspring, as Card has studiously observed, but it nevertheless occurs. The whole “it’s not natural” argument is both one hundred percent false and one hundred percent irrelevant. I’d love to hear Card’s thoughts on in vitro fertilization, which is also not “natural.” I guess marriage just shouldn’t be defined to include the infertile. While we’re at it, let’s ban elderly marriage, since they can’t have kids anymore, either. If Card were to ever own up and be intellectually and ideologically consistent, then the infertile, the elderly, and the gays would all just have to suck it up and deal with being second class citizens. He does make a half-hearted attempt to address his inconsistency by mentioning adoption and that when heterosexual couples can’t have children, “their faithful marriage still affirms, in the eyes of other people’s children, the universality of the pattern of marriage.” Of course, that’s a baseless opinion that still doesn’t even come close to justifying his argument about what’s “natural,” or the fact that the definition of marriage is not universal.
I’d then ask him why we should be limited to what nature has outlined for us when we’re capable of changing the game.
Oh, I see; God disapproves. Well, then maybe he shouldn’t have created people with differing sexual orientations only to chide them for lacking self-control. In any case, Card’s personal opinion on what God wants and about how or why homosexuals engage themselves is irrelevant to the rest of society. Two people who love each other and want to be recognized just like the rest of us should have every right to do so, and claiming, as Card does, that “Human beings are part of a long mammalian tradition of heterosexuality,” means nothing. The printing press changed human beings’ long tradition of hand-copying the written word, but I’m pretty damn sure Card approves of his books being mass-produced. What a hypocrite.
With all of that said, it brings me to Ender’s Game. Am I recommending everyone boycott the movie? Nope. Personally, I’m going to avoid it like the plague. When public figures willfully offer their personal opinions on controversial matters and don’t care what others think about it, then they’re entering the realm of discussion, debate, and consequence. Since I don’t support anything Card stands for, I’m certainly not going to pay to watch a movie adapted from one of his books. I have no idea if Ender’s Game will end up being good or not, but I also don’t care. Standing up for equality is more important to me than finding out if some fictional story is told well, so I’ll vote on that with my dollars (or lack thereof). If anything is actually worthy of boycotting, it’s the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Russia. President Obama doesn’t believe it’s “appropriate” to boycott it, but I think he’s wrong.
Anyways, like I said in the beginning, I don’t expect anyone to follow suit necessarily. You could absolutely pay to see Ender’s Game and still back equal rights. Going to protests; voting for political candidates who aren’t bigots; and giving your hard-earned money to advocacy groups are all viable options for combating relics like Card, and if you think your contributions to this particular cause more than make up for spending ten bucks to see a sci-fi flick, then have at it. Just don’t expect to see me sitting next to you in the theater.
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