Miss Manners and Verbal Vomit

I love Miss Manners!

Her December 2nd column includes the story of gay man asking how he and his partner should respond when they are publicly confronted or attacked for having adopted a child (whose birth mother, by the way, was a heroin and crack addict). They have been told in public and by strangers that they are “not a real family, ” are “evil” and doing “an injustice” to the child. Seeking Miss Manners’s guidance on how to respond politely, she replies:

“A gentleman of Miss Manners’s acquaintance was once subjected to a barrage of unwarranted insults. Outraged on his behalf, she asked why he did not trouble to defend himself. His reply (and please forgive the inelegance for the sake of vividness) was: ‘If someone is throwing up on you, you get out of the way. You do not stay around to examine what is coming up.’

There is nothing you can say to people who, whatever they may think, see fit to hurl crude insults at you, even in front of your son. A stiff ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ is all you can utter before turning your back.” 

“Violence,” “not a real family,” and “evil” are descriptions shockingly familiar to anyone who has read “official” Church pronouncements about gay men and women. (If you doubt this, see the blog by James Martin, S.J., What Should a Gay Catholic To Do?) Although these pronouncements are presented in ways that seek to heighten their significance, the fact remains that the medium is not the message. Verbal vomit — whether spewed forth from a complete stranger in the street, from a Fred Phelps fanatic, or even from a Vatican document with a papal seal — is still verbal vomit.

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