April 9, 2014 at 8:00 am EST | by Mark Lee
Have we lost the ability to be magnanimous when winning or gracious in victory?
gracious, Mozilla-Firefox, Brendan Eich, gay news, Washington Blade

Are we incapable of shedding a victim’s impulse for retribution? (Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

Based on the over-hyped pseudo controversy of the past week, it appears that pitchforks and lit torches have suddenly become fashion accessories among some gays and lesbians and even a few straight supporters.

It’s an ugly trend.

If you’re out of the loop on this, be grateful. It’s almost too painful to recount. The gay community has, once again, been embarrassed by the impulsive impatience and frenzied frustration of activist-extremists. It is likely we’ve also lost the confidence of more than a small number of more conscientious allies along the way.

A troubling display of bloodlust tends to do that.

Most reputable LGBT organizations didn’t take the bait when last week’s controversy regarding open-source technology company Mozilla and its selection of Javascript and Firefox developer Brendan Eich as CEO exploded online like projectile vomiting. The political fringe began calling for his head on a platter, or at least the loss of his employment. He would resign in the wake of the ensuing brouhaha over a long-ago political donation.

No matter that had the situation, or politics, been reversed, the outcry would have been righteously and inversely indignant. Why quibble over principle when a retributive beheading is possible?

His offense? As was long-ago known and publicly debated, Eich had made a small personal contribution to support California’s Proposition 8 campaign opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage. He did so eight years ago, when quite a few others, including prominent public figures and national politicians of many stripes, were not yet willing to support marriage equality – along with the voters of the state.

Never mind that he was universally regarded as a fair administrator, had no history of discriminating against anyone, and pledged to continue and expand corporate diversity policies and programs encouraging acceptance and accommodation. A sort of hapless techno-nerd unskilled in public relations would not be accorded the same courtesy or rights his detractors would expect if roles were reversed.

The transparently ill-considered and contradictory rationalizations for demanding his firing were both simultaneously disheartening and hilarious. Cultural cleansing and purification of opinion were deemed to be superior considerations.

Too many in the chattering class and so-called “progressive” activists gleefully rushed to make an example of an iconic heretic. Consternation by others, notably writer and political commentator Andrew Sullivan, only fueled the ire of what was rapidly devolving into a seething, albeit small, online mob. Soon the crazy only got crazier. Leftist anger bred right-wing outrage and vice-versa, generating the inevitable cycle of viciousness and cartoonish characterizations.

It wasn’t long until liberal Bill Maher dismissively belittled this boorish behavior on his political-comedic TV show, telling viewers amid a backdrop of chortling guest panelists and cackling audience members, “I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them you do get whacked.”

A well-reasoned op-ed by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni last weekend concluded, “Sullivan is right to raise concerns about the public flogging of someone like Eich. Such vilification won’t accelerate the timetable of victory, which is certain. And it doesn’t reflect well on the victors.”

It is astonishing that in the midst of winning hearts and minds on the most essential elements of equality, some would gamble the goodwill of the many for the pleasure of revenge on the few. Punishing those reluctant or unwilling to yet concur only yields suspicion that those who countenance divergent political views might be next.

Call it a moral issue exception if you want, but concocting an illegitimate justification offers no comfort to those caused to wonder exactly who might suffer a good old-fashioned public shaming. If this type of inappropriate and unacceptable reaction is allowed on one instance, what citizen-suspects on what other public issues will also be rounded up for punishment?

Have we lost the ability to be magnanimous when winning or gracious in victory? Are we incapable of shedding a victim’s impulse for retribution?

If so, that’s sad.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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