All things considered, I guess I’d rather witness a Twitter riot than an actual riot. But I’ve been watching the absolute berserker frenzy on social media over Indiana’s religious freedom law, and it is both exhausting and terrifying.
Exhausting because everything that’s being said is being said at MAXIMUM VOLUME. Terrifying because of the casual way that people are saying the most hateful, vicious things and blindly accepting as truth the worst possible presumptions about other people. People on the other side of the country, who haven’t looked up from their Grand Theft Auto game in the last 80 hours, are reading one headline about people in Indiana whom they have never seen before, deciding those people are History’s Greatest Monsters, and participating in (or cheering on) efforts to ruin them.
I can’t see anything about this controversy without thinking that it portends very bad things for the future of the country and humanity in general. Why’s that? A few reasons…
— It would be one thing if this was just name-calling and posting obscene gifs on Facebook, but this goat rodeo has already had a real effect on the legislative process in two — count ’em, TWO — states (Dear Mike Pence and Asa Hutchinson, you are weenies). And you can bet that legislators in a lot more states are reconsidering their positions on similar laws because they don’t want to invite a similar PR grease fire. This is not just a tantrum; it’s changing the legal environment that we all have to live in.
— The people who say they’re on the tolerant, open-minded side sure do seem excited about forcing people to do things they don’t want to do. It’s not a healthy thing for society when people think it is a virtue to bully other people into agreeing with them.
— Speaking of other people, there’s a large and apparently growing number of Americans who are comfortable with treating other Americans with different beliefs as unworthy of normal human rights and freedoms. If you don’t believe the right things, then you don’t deserve to participate in public life or even earn a living. Where does that end? I don’t want to be cliché and say that’s Nazi talk… but hey, that’s Nazi talk.
— The people who are opposed to the Indiana religious freedom law are completely uninterested in facts or truth. They don’t care about the text of the law or any potential application of it that might actually happen in the real world. The more vehemently they oppose the law, the more disconnected from reality they are. I’ve seen people making arguments that wouldn’t pass muster for an elementary school debate team. (For everyone who says this law will lead to gays being refused service in restaurants, what kind of restaurants are you going to where the waiter quizzes you on your sexual preference before he brings your food? You think the drive-thru at McDonald’s is slow now…) Yet they make these arguments loudly and repeatedly and then drop the mic like they’ve said something profound. Now lean in close, listen, and know this truth: these are the people in the driver’s seat in American politics and culture. They are determining the direction of our society, and reality does not matter to them. Not good.