osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

On the Death of Phyllis Schlafly

One of my favorite authors wrote: "Some attitudes couldn't be changed, they could only be outlived." Schlafly was a spokesperson for a particular time and era. Schlafly -- as far as I know -- never strayed outside the bounds of recognized debate in this country. She fought for her social views -- which at the time were more mainstream -- using the tools available in our democracy.

And, as we who defend the First Amendment and democracy hope, from this crucible of debate, a better truth emerged. For while she participated in several successful campaigns, such as to prevent passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, ultimately she emerged as on the wrong side of history. The principles that were taken as an unspeakable given when she was born: that homosexuality was a perversion and mental illness, that women were inherently different from men in a way that should convey to men greater formal economic and social power, are now only the opinions of self-styled conservatives who complain that the rest of society has left them behind.

I do not defend Schlafly. Her views were wrong and reprehensible and she defended them to the very end. But I would not make her worse than she was, and I recognize what she did is part of the process by which societies change. Just as virtue requires vice to become visible as virtue, the evolution of society requires visible debate to continue to form new consensus. Some attitudes cannot be changed, they can only be outlived. Let us hope we are at last outliving the attitude that sex or sexual orientation are relevant to competence or character.,


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