Eich's Auto-da-fe


My head tells me to leave it alone. Don’t write about it. Just leave it alone. The damage is already done. You can’t save a culture intent on suicide. So keep your mouth shut, don’t make waves. Don’t intentionally offend those whose taking of offense is beyond your ken.

Then my heart tells me in Nazi Germany they called this attitude “internal exile.” That was the place  where those intellectuals, writers and artists unable or unwilling to flee would hide. That place was inside their heads, because that was the only place it was safe to be. So I wondered is it right to witness our slide into totalitarianism without at least letting people know where they are headed?

What triggered this bout of introspection was Brendan Eich’s resignation as CEO of Mozilla. Eich, by all accounts a brilliant man, invented JavaScript which is, they say, the language which writes the web. Now, I don’t know the difference between JavaScript and FijiCursive, but I do know  that civil society begins to die when bigots are able to punish people for what they think.

What was Mr. Eich’s crime? What did he do that rendered him unemployable? Did he rape a child? Did he bribe a Senator? Lie on his resume? No. He donated $1,000  to support Proposition 8, the California initiative which defined marriage as an act between a man and a woman. At the time this was the position held by just about every public figure and virtually every American citizen capable of rational thought (or somewhere close to 300,000 people). It was a time when reasonable people could disagree on whether the state should redefine marriage. It was a time when people could oppose state-sanctioned same-sex marriage and not be accused, and convicted, of hate crimes. It was just six short years ago.

Most articles about Mr. Eich’s auto-da-fe refer to Proposition 8 as an initiative to ban gay marriage. Actually, it did no such thing. In fact, there has not been a single initiative or law passed anywhere in the country which banned gay marriage, or made it illegal. All they have done is confirm, or codify the status quo. Gays have been free to marry as long as Barbra Streisand has been singing show tunes. That’s why God invented the Unitarian Church, and SWAT teams have never been dispatched to arrest Rev. Samantha while she unites Warren and Bruce in Holy Matrimony.

Nobody has ever banned gay marriage, because, in the eyes of the state, and in the eyes of history, gay marriage has never existed. You can’t ban something that has never existed. Yet none of this matters as our culture goes careening over the cliff of rationality. Nor does it matter how his Inquisitors learned of Mr. Eich’s despicable deed. Which is the worst part of the story.

An Internal Revenue Service employee illegally leaked the names of National Organization for Marriage (NOM) donors. This crime is another example of the dangerous extent to which the current administration has politicized the bureaucracy. Even more disturbing than the actual leaking is the refusal of the (even more politicized) Justice Department to investigate and prosecute.

This is no small matter. This is the erosion of the rule of law upon which our nation was established. When the state is allowed to pick and choose which laws it will enforce, and when the state abets those who would punish others for their beliefs, we are creeping perilously close to totalitarianism.

In short, it is not the series of actions which are so terrifying, but the lack of response those actions have inspired.