Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why tacky matters

Gay bashing seems to have taken second place to race bashing and all-purpose woman hatred among the Republicans this year, but I found this gay male slant on meaning of the Republican nominee's interior decorating right on point.

Josh Baro had a job with the New York Times' Upshot, but left to to be able to speak his mind during this campaign writing editorial commentary for the Business Insider.

I have sometimes gotten pushback when I have, on Twitter, described Trump's racist and sexist comments as "tacky." This word may sound like it minimizes how bad Trump is, since it's a word we also use to describe tasteless clothes and ugly chairs. Shouldn't we call Trump offensive, scary, divisive, dangerous?

Of course Trump is all of those things, but it is important to also say that he is tacky, and that his bigotry is tacky, because often the only thing that stops people from behaving like Trump is their sense that doing so would be tacky, and that tackiness is to be avoided.

That is, people often stop themselves from saying bigoted things not because they have goodness in their hearts, but because they don't want to be looked at askance.

I worry about this especially as a gay man. Let's be real: A lot of people have a visceral, gut-level discomfort with homosexuality. Over the last few decades, gays have come to be treated better in part because many people's gut feelings have changed. But partly, they have changed because people have decided, consciously, that their gut feelings about gay people are wrong, and that they should resist the temptation to express those feelings.

And partly, expressed attitudes about gays have changed because people think their anti-gay feelings have become socially unacceptable, and so they should stifle themselves and not express them, even if they still think those feelings are right.

Of course, what I most want is for people to not have a problem with me as a gay man, but I'll count any of the shifts described above as positive. They're especially positive because a generation of parents suppressing their gut-level dislike of gays have managed to raise another generation that, by and large, is getting to adulthood without those negative feelings at all.

On acceptance of gays, lots of Americans have been faking it until they make it — and I suspect the phenomenon is similar for the suppression and reduction of all sorts of prejudices and bigotries.

Donald Trump threatens to interfere with this process by telling Americans we don't have to suppress our basest instincts — that it is OK to let our vulgar flags fly.

Trumpian interior photo stolen from the Daily Mail.

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