Just the other day, when I was reading the weekend edition of the New York Times, I just happened to glance at the front cover of the Arts section only to feel shocked and dismayed at the cover story’s subject matter. The author, who wrote the 1980s best-selling sci-fi novel Ender’s Game, Mr. Orson Scott Card, is apparently being judged, tried and sentenced to death in the media over the upcoming film adaptation of his book. Why? Because Mr. Card opposes same-sex marriage.
It is worth keeping in mind that Ender’s Game has nothing to do with gay marriage and everything to do with a child prodigy who is recruited to fight space aliens (“buggers”) in the future where men pilot spaceships and young boys train in zero gravity space stations.
Mr. Card is a Mormon and a member of the National Organization for Marriage that has opposed same-sex marriage since 2009. In 1990, he wrote an article in Sunstone magazine that stated, “laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books.”
A protest campaign, originally a small grass-roots effort started by Geeks Out (skipendersgame.com), has now snowballed into a large and vocal movement to boycott the film based on Mr. Card’s book. Details of the campaign have been featured on NPR, CNN, the Huffington Post and the Christian Science Monitor.
Mr. Card is free to have his views, and the folks at Geeks Out are also free to organize a voluntary web-based boycott. What I fail to comprehend, however, is in our modern society that is supposedly built on “tolerance”, when does the ability or willingness to condone something cross the fine line from voluntary allowance to coercive mandate? After all, if you permit people to only wear red raincoats, are you not also forcibly disallowing anyone who chooses to wear blue?
It’s obvious that the boycotters feel uninhibited at going after any human being whose ideas differ from theirs regardless of the context in question. If someone thought that Bill Gates was sexist, would it necessarily be a good idea to boycott all Windows products forever in the name of feminism? Would boycotting the film hurt only Mr. Card or thousands of other productive people who would just like to see their talents shine on the big screen?
We could all benefit from taking a step back and reflecting on what the so-called boycotters are fighting against—going to see a fictional movie that has nothing to do with their cause. The actions of Geeks Out equate more with blacklisting than with protesting. I wonder if they honestly think that their actions will in any way persuade anyone to change their own views or reconsider their position on same-sex marriage? Will this further the cause now that the Supreme Court has struck down DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act)?
Tolerance works well to an extent in that each individual can operate within their own sphere of activity, so long as that sphere does not impinge on others when the two inevitably overlap. The problem arises when the majority decides what exactly should be tolerated and then in the name of “equality” and “egalitarianism” imposes tyrannical mandates on everyone. The Catch-22 is: what ends up being tolerated is determined by what the majority tolerates—hence, only if you agree with the majority do you “tolerate”, and if you don’t—you’re “intolerant”. Taking it a step further, nowadays the concept has evolved into consensus preference, which simply equates to taste. What Mr. Card said in 1990 was deemed “OK” by society-at-large, now his words are viewed as prejudicial; it truly is ironic how the idea remains the same while the judgment differs with the passage of time.
Even more troubling, tolerance has become a necessary goal that is currently in vogue and something to be strived for, inevitably driving those on the fringes into the realm of “bigotry” and “prejudice”. The reader should also make no mistake: the dynamics of tolerance are always fluid, always in motion, and always changing. Ignoring what you disagree with and adopting a passive stance will invariably work against you since the torrents of change are powerful forces that work without ceasing.
Change always comes from the periphery (the minority) and this movement can either be virtuous or something abhorrent—it simply depends on the relative moral compass of the individual observing and deciding the value of change.
In the end, I say “well done” for the people at Geeks Out for taking the initiative to recruit others into a voluntary, non-violent protest. I also say “well done” to Mr. Card for writing such an enjoyable, excellent novel to be treasured by many readers for years to come. But I wonder: in this circumstance, which of the two parties has crossed the fine line from tolerance to using power and influence to coerce the other party into something they would rather not do? If the tables have now turned, isn’t the new majority resorting to the same tricks that were played on the old minority? Perhaps so.
Dr. C.H.E. Sadaphal