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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Life among the homophobes

I wasn't going to post on the Frank Graves/EKOS imbroglio since so many other bloggers have done the heavy lifting already, but Joanne at Blue Like You wrote this comment on her post about the incident that made me think I should say something:
Riley, I think my friend Eric should start that pushback against Graves.
Joanne was responding to this comment in which Riley Hennessey says
This would be a great time for blogs like yourself to prove Graves wrong. The Liberals and Graves (and the media right now) are trying to portray the party in a certain way, ie intolerant and old-age.

I think it is up to blogs like this to stand up and say that is ridiculous. As far as I know, the Conservative Party is a tolerant, open party which welcomes everyone into the fold. For me, the Conservative Party needs to do a better job marketing its ideas to a younger generation. A lot of those ideas (deficit reduction, new concepts for health care delivery, nationalism, smaller government, banking reform, infrastructure investments, post-secondary education reform) all are important for the future and I think are applicable to people in their 20’s and 30’s who don’t want a mess of a country in 20 years time.
The issue, of course, is the interview EKOS pollster Frank Graves gave to the Globe & Mail in which he stated
I do believe, and this gets more subtle, that there is a higher incidence of people who are less tolerant to homosexuals and more wary of other races, within the Conservative Party. I can demonstrate that empirically.

That does not mean that Conservatives or Albertans are homophobic or xenophobic, but it does mean that many people, and more people statistically that have those points of view, end up in that party than in other places. That may be a statement that people don’t want to hear, but it’s empirically accurate and has been for a long time.
For what its worth, here are my experiences as a gay Conservative supporter and blogger. I've been a Conservative for most of my adult life, and I've been associated with Blogging Tories for four years now. I haven't hesitated to post items on this blog about topics that supposedly get the "less tolerant" Tories agitated: gay marriage, gays in politics, Pride parades, you name it. I don't have a high traffic blog, but my experience with fellow Conservative readers has been by and large pleasant - many disagree with me on issues like gay marriage but enjoy discussing them with me and are usually intelligent and respectful. I regularly comment on gay issues in other Conservative blogs and they almost always welcome my input and appreciate the perspective I bring to the debate. I think I've even changed the minds of some fellow Conservatives whom I have engaged in discussion because they appreciate that, aside from our differences, we do have much in common. I get the odd anonymous commenter who is a little unhinged, but that's nothing compared to the vitriol I get from Liberal blowhards who regularly refer to me as a wanker or a douchebag. A gay Liberal blogger once called me a "gay stooge" and a "happy tap-dancing negro", and another suggested that I didn't believe in evolution. (I would provide links but I don't want to drive any traffic their way.)

I consider myself a libertarian conservative, and I'm the first person to admit that the Conservative Party of Canada is not a perfect fit for libertarians or for gays, but no party is. As I posted here, the Liberal Party has homophobes in its midst (including MPs and former Cabinet ministers), but it is unquestioningly (and sometimes undeservedly) assumed that the Liberal Party always has the gay community's best interests at heart.

The Conservative Party of Canada is, to use the old cliche, a big tent. The central tenets of the conservative movement - the ones that all conservatives, socons, neocons & libertarians share - have broad cross-cultural appeal. Small government, lower taxation, individual rights & responsibility, the rule of law and the promotion of democracy and the free market, all are legitimate policy stances that are independent of race or sexual orientation. Gays in particular should be able to easily embrace a movement that values individual liberty and a minimum of state intervention in the lives of its citizens, since we have suffered at the hands of agents of the state for centuries. It is the Liberal Party that has been pushing divisive identity politics for decades, encouraging the culture of victimhood and dependence on an intrusive nanny state, all the while taking the support of ethnic groups and gay organizations for granted, assuming that they would never bite the hand that feeds them.

Conservatives by nature are wary of change. We believe that society's traditions and institutions represent a valuable cultural heritage and this heritage should not be tinkered with unless there's a compelling reason. However that doesn't mean we oppose ALL change. Doubts about gay marriage and unfettered immigration, for example, don't automatically imply that one is a homophobe or racist; more often it indicates concern for the impact of these policies and a desire for a frank debate and slow, well-thought-out action if action is needed. We believe that individuals are best left to themselves to make decisions and we are naturally skeptical of the intervention of government, but that doesn't mean we oppose government action because we're racist, bigoted or close-minded. We just need a lot of convincing that we're going to be better off after we've given up some of our liberty to a distant bureaucracy that thinks it knows what's best for us.

I'm not going to deny that there are homophobes and racists who call themselves Conservatives, but they form a small minority which is not welcome in the main stream of the conservative movement and does not represent the opinions of the vast majority of the Conservative rank and file. Furthermore, there are racists and homophobes who call themselves Liberals and New Democrats as well - I've met some of them - and most people would resist suggesting that they represent their respective parties.

I am a gay Conservative, and I wouldn't continue to support the Conservative Party of Canada or blog at Blogging Tories if I didn't feel welcome.


Stephen Taylor said...

well said!

Great rebuttal to Graves.

Anonymous said...

Stephen beat me to it, Eric. Maybe the best definition of a conservative I've read. Great writing my man.

hunter said...

Excellent post, it's always good to hear from those most impacted by events in the news.

Now, I'm a middle aged female Albertan so I guess I don't have to move to the States and vote for Palin. Only those old men from Alberta have to do that. Maybe some old Albertan male should take Graves to the AHRC for hurt feelings!

Anonymous said...

Let's be clear about one thing, if you let other people define you, then you have lost your identity. Conservatives have lost their identity because liberals have defined the political landscape for decades now. There is nothing inherently wrong with conservative ideals nor are they redneck or intolerant. On the other hand I would say that conservatives don't pander to people for their satisfaction, or support either. (real conservative)

Ardvark said...

A great post!

This cranky old Albertan is proud to be in the same political party with you.

Patsplace said...

I'm a Canadian that on a clear day (and with a few thousand feet of elevation) I can almost see Sarah Palin's house.

People will laugh at what Graves had to say but the bottom line is that his screed is dogma for many liberals. Nutty as fruit cakes but they really believe it. Given a chance these nut bars would enact more and more garbage legislation without end. It's not insane, it's Liberal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insightful post. Hope you sent it to the MSM. As a Christian, I do not accept the gay lifestyle, but I also do not judge a person for choosing it. I appreciate your transparency and enjoyed your contribution very much, Eric. The not judging part is also a major requirement in the Christian faith. I enjoy my friendships both socially and at work with a number of gays and lesbians and do not consider this a barrier. My niece is married to her lesbian partner and our family is quite accepting of this.
I become quite annoyed when we are described as homophobes, when in fact, that is not true. Let common sense and respect prevail--we do not need the Liberals or any other party creating divisions between us. Thanks for calling them on that, Eric

Anonymous said...

I would also say that the Liberals and the left tend to support the Islamic groups who hate homosexuals.

Bec said...

When Joanne tossed out the suggestion I thought oh boy I hope Eric speaks loud and clear and you have, so very well.
Great job, Eric. There is nothing really that compares to one of your posts, inspiring.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Eric, you've done us all proud with this eloquent post.

Thank you for taking up the challenge in such a thorough, respectful fashion.

You seem like a quiet guy but I bet you'd make an awesome politician - one that people could actually respect.

Roy Eappen said...

A wonderful post. I wholeheartedly agree. Thank you.

Eric said...

Thanks to everyone for your kind words - you've proven my point admirably.

maryT said...

Great rebuttal. My first time here, for no other reason than didn't know about your blog. I will visit again.
My beef with Graves (lol) is he discriminated against us angry old white women of Alberta.
Wonder if we have a HRC case.

byng said...

Wow ! - this is SO well done - but you pushing for enlightened reaching out to the younger smart ones amongst us - now this is what makes the blogs so worthwhile
- Grave's straw men become so obvious even to diehard liberals - thank you very, very much

Anonymous said...

I guess Mr Graves thinks there are no angry old Conservative women. Just the men-folk holdin' on to their hatred, religion and guns. Well I'm from B.C. I'm old can be cranky. I have to say I struggled some with gay marriage till it was pointed out to me that marriage is a Conservative value. Strong families, people in committed, supportive relationships make for good communities. I really liked your post, I come here often to read and always come away with a good understanding of the issues of the day. As Conservatives, we can not allow ourselves to be defined by a biased commentator/pollster Mr Graves has what "millions" of reasons to sing for his supper. I have watched the video, his red faced sweaty panic at being "outed" as a biased, bigoted, bullshitter all dressed as a neutral commentator/pollster was something to see. More please. Nothing to see here folks just another Liberal projecting his bias onto the Conservatives.
Cheers Bubba

Anne in sw ON said...

It was a pleasure reading your post, Eric. As you say, no party is a perfect fit for everyone but for us conservative-minded people we've found the best fit. We agree to disagree on certain aspects but we do it without hurling insults at each other.

Hoarfrost said...

Thank you for stepping up to be heard. You express many of my own feelings and convictions about being a modern Conservative in Canada today. You express it well.

This is from me a cranky old, Toronto born, retired Ontarian.

Lynn said...

Excellent post! You've clearly defined the conservative "agenda",and I mean that in a wholly positive way.

There IS nothing evil about smaller, less intrusive government,and individual rights,and you spoke it very well. Thank you.


Sandy said...

Can't add anything Eric. Well said!

been around the block said...

Well-said, Eric.

I appreciate your tolerance towards people who for various reasons don't agree with the gay lifestyle or same-sex marriage and your acceptance that principled disagreement doesn't amount to a person's being homophobic.

That's true tolerance and openness, just as many who disagree with same-sex marriage respect and accept as friends homosexuals who disagree with them.

Frank Graves is way off-base with his stereotyping of Conservatives as homophobic neanderthals. Thanks, Eric, for setting the record straight. You speak from experience and you, unlike Mr. Graves, know what you're talking about.