The problem is that angry, hostile rhetoric can produce a wide range of results, and when you start painting targets on people some of the more misguided sociopaths among us will elect to shoot at them. Some of us don’t handle passion well, and for those people, a passionate debate like abortion becomes an ideal breeding ground for the bacteria of hate. The FRC had long been part of the effort to demonize abortion providers, and the attack was at least in some small way an outgrowth of that. I wanted them to take responsibility for their role in stoking that public fervor, however minor a factor it may have been in that specific assassination attempt.
I thought about Dr. Tiller upon learning of Floyd Lee Corkins, and his attack on the D.C. offices of the Family Research Council. According to news reports, which for our purposes today we will assume are accurate, Floyd walked into the FRC lobby with a loaded pistol, ludicrous amounts of ammunition, some Chick-Fil-A sundry, and began running his mouth about how awful the FRC is. They are, by they way, awful. Upon questioning by a member of the security staff, Corkins started firing, shooting the security guard in the arm. The tables, it seems, had been reversed. This time, it was one of our people doing something violently stupid.
I want to make clear, I am not taking responsibility for this yahoo’s poor judgment or unstable psyche. Something exists in the mind of a potential mass shooter that is unique to their classification. These are people capable of packing up lethal weaponry, leaving the house, driving across town, parking, getting out of the car, putting change in the meter, walking into a public place in the middle of the day, taking a pistol out, and shooting someone. A shooting isn’t ever just one bad decision. It’s a deliberate series of bad decisions, each one being a necessary step in a process. At every stage of that bad decision, the assailant in question must renew their resolve to murder. To make it through each step, and to complete the devastating final act, takes determination of a sort that chills the blood. Ultimate responsibility belongs to the shooter. They’ve worked hard to accomplish their horrific goals, and have earned the appropriate recognition for their efforts. Hopefully involving orange outfits and lots of concrete.
What makes this personally conflicting is that I completely understand where his anger comes from. The Family Research Council, along with other like minded organizations like the American Family Association, and the National Organization for Marriage, deal in bigotry. The sole reason for their existence, the very premise upon which they have rented office space and obtained corporate letterhead, is to work to make the lives of LGBT people in this country worse. A good day for the FRC will almost always be a bad day for gay people. They cloak themselves in Christ, and then work as hard as they can to make sure that gay people can’t marry, have no federal protection of any kind, and are as despised and alienated as possible by the general public. If the FRC had its way, the United States would return to the days before Lawrence v. Texas, when homosexuality was illegal. They want me to be able to be fired from my job, or kicked out of my home for being gay. They would have gay teachers disgraced and removed from contact with their students. They would have us return to the days before Stonewall when we were hunted by our peers, lobotomized by our loved ones, terrified to leave our closets. There is no law supporting any aspect of LGBT equality that people like the FRC wouldn’t find time to oppose. What’s worse, mainstream media outlets frequently have FRC head Tony Perkins on their programs so that he can tell the American people all of this in person. The reality is that if not for hate, organizations like the FRC would have very little to do all day. Perhaps you can engineer a way that their behavior doesn’t positively define bigotry, but if so, I have yet to see a compelling case made for such a prospect.
I understand why Floyd Corkins felt like he was under attack. He was. We all are. He has a right to be angry. What he doesn’t have is a right to run around shooting people. I want to win this debate on the merits of our argument, not by inflicting damage on our opponent sufficient to run them out of the debate entirely. I want them to realize why they are wrong. I want our victory to be clean, and based on well considered fact. Floyd Corkins, by choosing a solution of violence, has undercut the righteousness of our struggle, injured a perfectly innocent security guard, and what’s worse, generated public sympathy for an organization that deserves nothing but national scorn. Violence, even against the empty suit that is Tony Perkins, is no way to solve our problems. Only through winning the hearts and minds of the American people can our struggles come to an end. Bigotry is a reaction to fear, and making bigots more fearful isn’t going to help solve our problems. It only makes things worse.
While the actions of Floyd Corkins are his own, both sides of the battle for equality must take time to acknowledge our casualties, and take responsibility for the damage the battle is causing. We would stop our defense in a moment if that were possible. However, as we remain gay despite the best efforts of the Family Research Council, we have little choice but to continue fighting. The only actor in this scenario capable of ending this confrontation are the bigots, the agitators, the ones who choose to assault our community. For us this struggle is mandatory. For them, it is decidedly optional. They elect to attack us, and we must therefore defend. Never through violence, as that sort of victory is never sustainable, but through the perseverance of thought and the never abating belief that equality shines through all other obstructions, and in the end will prevail.