The politically correct are breathing a sigh of relief. A proposed piece of Kansas legislation that would permit businesses not to provide services to same-sex "married" couples has been pronounced "dead in the water." At least we'll be spared another round of mindless name-calling between the "libtards" and "wingnuts" who prowl the internet seeking the ruin of minds.
I honestly do not know which group of political pundits is more repulsive, the Leftists who spend one half their time prating about individual rights and the other half trying to take away what few rights we have, or the "conservatives" who are engaged in a desperate search to find the least offensive arguments for their position, defending Phil Robertson's freedom of speech—and not the obvious truthfulness of his tasteless ruminations—or reviving the nonsensical comparison of Roe v. Wade with Dred Scott.
Conservatives, just as much as Leftists, want to be on the right side of history. They are just a little slower about getting on board the revolutionary train. Here in America, where hating white people and destroying Christendom is the primary objective of the Left, conservatives naturally have to wrap themselves up in the mantel of Lincoln—he was, after all a Republican—and find a slavery or Jim Crow metaphor for every argument they make. Inevitably, they are outraged when some Leftist at the New York Times or USA Today preempts the argument by comparing the gay rights movement with the civil rights movement led by the sainted "Dr." King.
Today, movement types are outraged by Kirsten Powers. Writing in the nation's newspaper, Ms. Powers compared the Kansas legislation with Jim Crow laws. This is monstruous, shriek the conservatives: Why, Jim Crow laws were designed to force people apart, while this Kansas law would permit Christians to mind their business. If you can be persuaded by this sophistry, then you should give up the right to vote.
I blame the schools. We know why Southern states, often in defiance of their own Bourbon ruling classes, adopted Jim Crow laws in the wake of Reconstruction. The primary object was not to interfere in private life but to restore order, though naturally these laws pandered to poor white voters. It has nothing to do, one way or another, with the desire of wedding photographers and cake bakers not to offer their services to delusional gay people who think they are getting married.
When Leftists write in to challenge conservatives by pointing out that in a parallel case a photographer could not refuse his services to blacks, Jews, or Muslims, the conservatives are left speechless. They are hoist on the petard of their own hypocrisy. As soon as the Left was able to ram the equation homosexual=black down the throats of the American people, the conservatives had lost another battle, and all their blather about Kansas cannot conceal the fact that they are goose-stepping along to the tune of "the right side of history."
It is interesting that Kansas should be for the moment at the center of this debate. In the 1850s, Leftist Yankee fanatics sent money and guns to terrorists like John Brown, who murdered people because they happened to be Southern and thus tainted with the great sin of slavery—though few if any of Brown's victims owned a single slave. John Brown's body may lie a moldering in the grave, but his legacy of fanaticism, hatred, and anarchism lives on in the American left and in the conservatives who will not stand up to their arguments.
And, since the less intelligent among the readers are bound to ask, the answer is, "No, I am not endorsing slavery, Jim Crow, or gay-bashing." Responsible men and women, even in these miserable days of post-Christianity, are going to learn ways of peacefully coexisting. What I a suggesting is that the cowardice of the conservative movement, whenever the Leftists cry "racist," has prevented and will always prevent them from doing one bit of good.
The result is that disaffected Americans find themselves having to choose between conservative milksops and race-obsessed bigots. If pragmatic policies and candid discussions are off the table, it is small wonder that so few intelligent young people take any interest in politics. Let our watchword be candor without hysteria or, perhaps, damnation to liars, cowards, and enthusiasts.
In one of his moral epistles, Seneca the Younger said it well long ago. If you cannot do any good by taking part in public life, you are better off avoiding politics altogether and directing your attention to higher matters. If he had followed his own advice, Seneca—Nero's chief minister—would not have been forced to commit suicide.
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.