Saturday, November 7, 2009

Limits

I've held off making any comments about the upcoming film "8: The Mormon Proposition" because, frankly, I have some reservations about it.

Do I agree with the decision of the LDS church to actively support proposition 8? No - but that doesn't mean I consider LDS church leaders to be evil. I expect this documentary is going to cast the LDS church is a very negative light - and I just can't support that. Like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof - I have limits, I can only bend so far without breaking.

For example, a conversation between the producer, Reed Cowan, with his sister is making the rounds. I'm not going to post a link, but in it he tells his sister
My position clearly is this with all of my family: If you support prop 8, or any measure like it, even in spirit - I don't know how you can be in my life and look me in the eye and truthfully say you love me completely and totally
I appreciate his passion - but this is family we're talking about. Isn't that what the whole gay marriage debate is about - to recognize families headed by same sex parents? To say that we cannot have any family member in our lives who supported same sex marriage - to suggest it's impossible to truly love a gay family member if you are opposed to gay marriage - those sort of fanatical views makes us no better than those who are seeking to prevent gay marriages from being recognized.

I just don't see how acting like a bunch of drama queens is helping the cause. All this documentary will likely accomplish is to cause people on both side to become more firmly entrenched in their views - it's doubtful it will convert anyone.

In this blog I've been supportive of gay marriage - even though I do not see myself ever being in a gay relationship. I've opposed proposition 8 in California, and other similar measures around the country. I especially opposed the involvement of the LDS church in the passage of proposition 8.

But, to say that lives were destroyed by proposition 8 - That is a rather extremest point of view that I'm not so sure I can support. Were lives and families hurt by proposition? Hell yes! But the word 'destroy' carries with it finality. Proposition 8 was a setback - perhaps even a major setback - but one that history will record as a bump in the road for gay rights.

So, I'm sorry, but I just can't jump on the bandwagon to support "8: The Mormon Proposition". Will I watch it? I don't know, maybe - it's not a given that it will even play in a venue in my neck of the woods.

15 comments:

shaantvis said...

I also have some reservations about the film. To call it a documentary might be a little too liberal. I rejoice in the well-made documentary. One that presents the facts for what they are, what happened and when, leaving value judgements up for the audience members to set for themselves (not the other way around, the filmmakers telling us what we should believe/think). From what I watched from the trailer, 8: the Mormon Proposition looks like a totally biased, may I even say unfair treatise against thee Mormon church as a whole (not all members supported Prop 8, will the film give them any screen time?). In my Beginning Film Production class, my professor stated that documentaries have a level of fiction filmmaking to them. I fear that will be all too true with this film.

Evan said...

I am waiting to watch the film before I give out final opinions, but currently it seems like it will cause more damage than love. I'm worried about just exactly how popular the film will be. Is it something I will have to hear about during church? Will it just be "another reason" proving that gays are evil and "another reason" why members need to stand up for "truth?"

It really does scare me, and I am moreso not looking forward to it.

slp said...

I like that you are a man of your convictions, Abe. Thank you for sharing your point of view.

I, too, have reservations about the film. I have a lot of respect for what gay people go through, and especially as members of the Church. But, I, too, will have to wait and see what this movie "does" to the LDS and gay communities.

I live in Utah, and as such, saw Reed Cowan when he worked for the local news stations. I always thought his reporting was fair and well presented. We shall see what his documentary is like.

Thank you, again, for your faith of conviction.

Alan said...

I respect your perspective Abe while not agreeing entirely with it. Perhaps my temperament and my job make me more comfortable with the rough & tumble of public debate and discourse than some others. And that's fine, I don't expect everyone to be like me and don't think that my way is the only way. If there's one thing that being gay and Mormon should teach us all, it is to be tolerant of others' viewpoints.

That said, from what I know of Reed he is an honorable guy who is interested in truth. Of course he has a particular perspective and opinion and he will make his case aggressively in this film. But I don't expect him to lie about anything. He knows every tiny bit of this production will be subject to microscopic scrutiny by the church and everyone else who disagrees with what he presents. He can't afford to say anything that doesn't have evidence to back it up. And if he talks about something that isn't so solidly verified, I fully expect him to admit it.

Joseph Smith said "By proving contraries, truth is made manifest." Put another way, we have to take a full look at arguments and evidence for both sides of any issue in order to discern what the truth is. The Church has aggressively thrust itself into this political debate. There is no rougher game than American politics, and if the Church chooses to play it, then it and its members had better be prepared for some very rough treatment in response. If it has done nothing about which it fears disclosure, then it should have nothing to fear from Reed's film. So I say bring it on, let's look at the evidence. I think we are grown-up enough to be able to discern fact from skew. Then let everyone make up their own minds.

Chester said...

I understand your reservations.

-Does Mr. Cowan have an axe to grind?
While he is gay and is a former Mormon, he’s said repeatedly that he’s not anti-Mormon. The documentary started as a film on the problems of gay teen homelessness in Utah and an examination about why otherwise loving parents would kick their kids out onto the streets just because their kids are gay. Proposition 8 started to unfold and so the documentary eventually became larger in scope.

-Will the film change minds?
Probably not the one’s entrenched on either side, that's true. It’ll probably have it’s greatest effect on people in the middle. If the film gets into Sundance there’ll be a larger audience and more people will have a chance to see it.

-What’s the level of fiction in the film?
Reed is a reporter for Fox news in Miami. He definitely has something to loose professionally if he decides to make unfounded conclusions or accusations. Such issues are not a concern for professional “documentary” makers like Michael Moore, who’s only concern is for making something that plays well on the screen. Also, before he agreed to participate as it’s narrator, Justin Lance Black required it to be fair and balanced, at least to his mind.

@Abelard – So if “acting like drama queens” isn’t going to help the cause, what do you feel will? And what is the cause you’re trying to further by the way?: Reconciling Mormon doctrine and policy with gay marriage? Reconciling Mormon families with gay family members? Obtaining marriage equality for gays whether or not the Mormon church wants it or not? None of these things are mutually inclusive.

Original Mohomie said...

I was thinking along these lines yesterday, but my opinion might be stronger than yours. Judging from the "passion" of the film's supporters, I expect it to be a somewhat emotionally-driven, somewhat irrational hack-job of a documentary (more of an editorial) which will not even begin to build understanding. If it's really about revealing lies, I'd think they'd want to productively reach out to those who have supposedly been deceived, and their marketing should reflect that, which it really doesn't seem to do, judging from the trailer and the rhetoric of its proponents. Unless I see something different from its proponents, my suspicion is this: it's an imbalanced, ignorant (yes, ignorant) soapbox rant designed to incite anger, not to educate, and to galvanize and rally existing supporters, not reach out to opponents or increase understanding.

This coming from someone who has little or no interest in defending the church's actions or position on Prop 8. I think most activists are so steeped in like-minded pools, they don't realize the real consequences of their efforts.

Sean said...

I think I have to agree with Alan. Let us not pass judgment until we have seen what is presented. Yet again I see in the comments here of those I would think know better, to rush to their church programmed response of "circling the wagons" and defend the church before they even know what it is they are defending it against.

While I too wish Reed would give something a little more tangible to go on in the trailers and other media bits as a good token of intent in garnering support, I'm willing to take a little bit on faith that anyone risking to stick their neck out against LDS Inc., its PR department, and the host of lawyers backing it all, has something concrete to go on before taking an otherwise foolish risk.

Mr. Cowan has much at stake personally and financially with this film. In my opinion he can't afford to screw it up on what will most likely be his one and only chance to contribute to change and equality.

Original Mohomie said...

Sean and Alan, I understand your responses, and I also think plenty of wagon-circling goes on among gay rights activists.

As for Cowan not screwing up his one shot at contributing to equality, that argument doesn't hold water to me. The LDS Church certainly put its reputation on the line to support prop 8, but I didn't see many people naming that as a reason to view them fairly. The videos made in support of Prop 8 were part of a passionate, one-shot cause, but that didn't increase their validity, nor should it have. Since a cultural war is on, stakes are high, and emotions are heated, and rational analysis and real dialog seem to be sacrificed to quicker, easier tools on both sides.

Chester said...

Criticizing protectionism is a little silly because everyone has a natural inclination to protect themselves and what's precious to them.

But let's consider the difference between the risks involved in a global religion "putting itself on the line" verses an individual man doing the same:

-The church takes a firm stance on a controversial issue to further it's cause against another group of people. And, in my opinion, through it's puppet organizations, endorses lies to that end. Result - Slightly varnished image; certainly nothing changes among the faithful. I'm happy to hear other risks they incurred if you've got them.

Contrast it to....

Reed Cowan makes a movie where he lies to increase the damage his movie can do to the church. Result - he looses his credibility as a reporter, probably jeopardizing his career and ability to support his family.

Not really the same level of risk, wouldn't you agree? Do you really think the church risks financial ruin or a character meltdown over this? Cowan has so much more to loose than the Mormon church in this fight.

And sorry O.Mohomie, the argument that something is lesser or bad because it's easier has never worked on me. The reasoned argument for gay marriage has never worked against the church (and never will) because they have little respect for reason or logic. That's why so many have stopped holding back the emotions.

And before I'm accused of not understanding the church's stance. I'm an ex-mormon who spent decades trying to fit into the mold and do everything asked of me. I fully understand their position. Every iota.

But...see the movie, don't see the movie. Seems like both of us have made up our minds about it already.

Mohomie - If you could sum up the church's involvement in this issue "fairly", how would you do that? I'm truly interested. Try to be succinct.

El Genio said...

Having personally seen what happened here in California, I have been waiting for someone to tell the entire story. The church certainly isn't going to talk about it, and much of the mainstream media doesn't seem to have any of the details of what really went down. So I'm hoping that the piece has lots of good information, mixed with a few good story lines. Too many emotional stories and it could get really watered down.

Original Mohomie said...

Chester,

1. I disagree with your assessment of the risks, but since it's incidental, I'll not draw out that debate further.

2. I said nothing about Cowan lying. I think the trailer looks sensationalized. Very different. He can maintain journalistic integrity by exploring an issue and letting the subjects do the talking, one-sided though it may be (I don't know yet how balanced the film is, but the trailer looks very one-sided). I've never even suspected or meant to imply that he actually fabricated anything.

3. I never said something is lesser or bad just because it's easier. But I do believe emotional appeals are less meaningful but easier than actual rationale, which takes much longer and requires FAR more patience (remember the fear tactics used in the Prop 8 ads?). Many believe patience is not deserved or called for because a war is on or because logic hasn't gotten anywhere and never will. I disagree. We may have to agree to disagree on that point, as I have done with people on both sides.

4. You said, "Seems like both of us have made up our minds about it already." I have strong suspicions, and maybe the film won't be able to break through those, but I'm willing to be wrong about it.

5. The church's involvement in Prop 8? My opinion is that the church was defending its interests and the interests of children as they see it but in cahoots with organizations making emotionally-charged and fact-distorted campaign videos, and church administration either perpetuated or did nothing to correct the presumptuous or even erroneous claims. Of course, only time can tell, if same-sex marriage is legalized, whether their claims will become fact, which I suppose is why guidance from deity is believed to be the only thing that can fully inform a decision of unforeseeable consequence or without exact precedent.

Chester said...

3. I never said something is lesser or bad just because it's easier.

Quote from earlier post:

Since a cultural war is on, stakes are high, and emotions are heated, and rational analysis and real dialog seem to be sacrificed to quicker, easier tools on both sides.

You eventually told me why "real dialog" was better, but the way you originally put it connoted the only thing wrong with emotional and heated dialog was that it's the easier thing to do. This is often an argument used by members against homosexuals who leave the church. "Because it's easier to give up than fight." You want a tooth-gnashing extravaganza from me, that's a topic that'll do it.

You're right about the trailer. I'm thinking the movie is an indictment, not an impassioned plea for common ground. In fact, the first three words of under the films description at IMDB.com are "A scorching indictment". Those are words written by the filmmakers. Knowing this it's a little silly to criticize the film for not being something it never purports to be. Whether such a film "scorching indictment" will help, hinder, stall or entrench is debatable. If you're an active mormon, you're not going to want to see this film, not if you value your testimony.

You feel patience is a virtue here. I agree in the abstract. Perhaps, if I'm patient enough and reasoned enough and cool headed enough, marriage rights will come to me and my fiance minutes after I die alone in a hospital bed while my fiance is kept in the waiting room. Melodramatic? Am I being a drama queen? Perhaps. But I'm tired of asking others for the rights they take for granted.

In regards to your opinion of the church's involvement in Proposition 8: Reasonable. Seemingly balanced. I wonder how many other people would feel it's fair to the church?

Too much time of this stuff today! Thanks Abelard. Thanks O. Mohomie.

Quinn said...

Ill comment on the post, but I know this wont fit in with all the comments.

I believe the prop 8 Movie is propaganda (just as any movie about prop 8 put out by the church would be too), and is a step backwards from any civil discourse on the subject.

If the gay community wanted to heal any divisions they surely are not taking the right actions.

Sarah said...

Abelard--

As one of the people who made the final cut of the film, who prayed about interviewing for it and was glad I did, for the sweet spirit I felt there, I have many of the same thoughts and fears that you do. I have to admit I only scanned your post and the comments, but I still felt like I wanted to pipe in.

I am really torn about whether or not this whole this is the right thing. A few days after the website was launched and I read some of the ensuing discussion, I formulated this comment that I was going to post. First I sent it to Scott to see what he thought. His opinion was that if it really represented how I feel, then post it, but make sure first.

To be honest, I really don't know how I feel. There is so much going on in my life and it is all so confusing. I feel like I live in haze and that there is no way to get rid of it right now. So I just keep doing the best I can with the haze around me.

Anyway, here is how I felt when I wrote the comment that I never posted. (Sorry this comment is so long!)

"Wow.

My thoughts are torn as I read these comments and think about the forthcoming release of this documentary. As a active Mormon wife of a gay man, both of us with many gay friends, I chose to interview for this movie after much prayer-- to make sure that doing so was the right thing. At the interview itself I was so touched by the stories I heard--by the pain and courage and faith within each story. Reed was so nice and I really enjoyed meeting him and talking with him. I came away from it exhilarated, uplifted, and feeling like I had done the right thing.

But I started having fears about the tone of the movie with all the press on Buttars. I personally have no use for the man, especially with legislation he has helped pass with regards to gay-straight alliances in high schools, but to purposely expose and embarrass him somehow did not feel right to me.

Then after talking to Emily Pearson about it a month ago at the Affirmation conference, I found out a little bit more about just how much the LDS Church is going to dislike this production.

So it is with mixed feelings that I await its release. I have felt the pain personally (but to a lesser extent than a lot of people) as I watched my church be inappropriately involved in the political process. Making a statement regarding their opinion on Prop. 8 is one thing, and I respect their right and religious freedom to do just that; it would have been completely appropriate. But the extent to which they were involved and the ruthless ways that they were involved broke my heart. I truly want my voice to be heard and for the "corporate" part of the church to know how much it hurt so many of us, many of us that are still trying to stay within the church.

But to fling it back at them with a possibly scathing film also does not feel appropriate. Purposely stirring up contention does not help build bridges, encourage understanding and forgiveness. Maybe in this case, though, this is what it will take to make a difference. I don't know.

So it is with these thoughts and fears that I hope and pray that the overall message of this film is one of love, one that will help build bridges between the LDS community and the gay community. But somehow I worry that it won't, and I hope I am wrong."

playasinmar said...

Abelard, you said, "...I've opposed proposition 8 in California, and other similar measures around the country."

In what way?