It’s been energizing to see during this election cycle the many yard signs that broadcast the clear, concise affirmation: “Hate Has No Home Here” in a diversity of languages. Others include a list of what that means to those who proudly display these signs in their front yards, a list that includes: “Black Lives Matter,” “Love Is Love,” “No Human Being Is Illegal,” and “Science is Real.”
The movement for equality needs a bumper-sticker size slogan that it can stick with to keep, re-enforce, and permanently install its message in the minds of people. And it needs one like this that forces those who disagree with it (or its parts) to get labelled with an attribute as stark and clear as “hate.”
The pithy slogan needs to be one that will be repeated over and over again so that the media can’t ignore it but will eventually come to recite it even with “some people claim.” It needs to be one that puts those who disagree on the defensive.
And we need to recognize that when people object to the use of the slogan, the very activity of them dong so re-enforces the value of the slogan in everyone’s mind. It’s the old basic principle that linguist George Lakoff emphasizes again and again:
The key lesson: when we negate a frame, we evoke the frame. When President Richard Nixon addressed the country during Watergate and used the phrase “I am not a crook,” he coupled his image with that of a crook. He established what he was denying by repeating his opponents’ message.
We want people to be offended by it and to respond using its language. That’s how cognitive change works.
There’s a danger that liberal people often embody that works against the effectiveness of this. We feel that every question and every objection deserves an educational answer that includes all the nuances.
We’d like to believe that what enforces a frame of reference in the mind of people is long, drawn-out essays with nuances, and that explaining them makes people get it.
That’s a nice, civilized idea in a defined educational setting, but not in politics today, and not when the issue really is power, the power to promote or prevent change. The power of the word isn’t any longer connected to the length of it but to the immediate impact of it.
The right-wing knows that and has used that knowledge to get its way for a generation now, while more progressive people have lost audiences and arguments that they ought to have won if facts and detailed discussions matter. The persistence of a loud but smaller right-wing is due to this very tactic.
Those detailed discussions have to be left for those who really want to go beyond the soundbites. It’s still the soundbites that stick in human minds and evoke and appeal to the frames people internalize. It’s the bumper-sticker slogans that trigger remembrance of the information we want people to have within.
Back when the radical Christian right-wing came up with the brilliant phrase “family values,” they knew they were hitting a nerve, evoking a mental frame that would appeal to a broad audience even if that audience didn’t agree with them. All they had to do was make sure that that phrase was attached to their ideas of a patriarchal, white, family and claim that it was nostalgically traditional.
Because the point in doing this was to reject anything that challenged their ideological power, their usage meant that LGBTQ equality, women’s equality, and even racial equality were not “family values.” By using the phrase, they were able to evoke a picture in most people of a white, suburban, “Ozzie and Harriet” or “Leave It to Beaver,” husband and wife household almost unconsciously.
Soon the progressive response was brilliant. In so many other cases, progressives had no memorable hook to evoke their definition of real equality.
Who doesn’t remember “It’s Adam and Eve; Not Adam and Steve” even if they don’t agree with it? Yet, what’s the equivalent in those who disagreed? Can you think of one as quickly as you think of the Adam and Eve trope?
Often the response was a long educational discussion of “Well there’s this, and then there’s that, and then there’s the other….” Often it meant that we felt that repeating the same phrase was intellectually naughty.
Instead of seeing, as the right-wing did, that the issue was power, not niceties that deserved nuanced explanations, we looked, frankly, insincere and boring. My biggest complaint with Democratic strategies on the national scene is that they still don’t get this, but think that every question from the media deserves an explanatory lecture.
That’s why back then the wide use of the simple “Hate Is Not a Family Value” all over was brilliant. It captured the sentiment, labelled the cause, and evoked equality as a basic value. It reminded people again and again what the arguments were behind the slogan.
But what happened to that? Well, the right-wing adroitly claimed to be offended and liberal guilt kicked in to squelch its use.
“You’re not calling us haters, are you?” the faux outrage responded.
And instead of responding with “If the shoe fits,” pro-equality people scurried around to protect the feelings of the haters. Bumper stickers were scraped off and signs were put away.
Thereby the anti-equality forces, even though probably a minority in the country, gained that power they wanted.
So now, until equality is assured, let’s go with “Hate Has No Home Here,” beyond the 2020 election. Let’s agree that we really, really believe that, and that it’s worth repeating like a mantra.
Let’s reject any guilt we might have for repeating ourselves with the assurance that our goal is to make equality not just a nice ideal but a powerful basis for politics, commerce, and all that make up our society.
And let’s reject any bullying that’s meant to get us off that simple slogan or the original one to thereby evoke regressive values instead.
Why? Not only because such pithy slogans work, but because we believe enough in equality to find it non-negotiable.
Because we really believe both that “Hate Is Not a Family Value” and that “Hate Has No Home” where we live.
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas where he taught for 33 years and was department chair for six years, Robert N. Minor, M.A., Ph.D is the author of 8 books as well as numerous articles and contributions to edited volumes. He is an historian of religion with specialties in Biblical studies, Asian religions, religion and gender and religion and sexuality. His writing has been published in Whosoever since 2005 and he continues to speak and lead workshops around the country. In 1999 GLAAD awarded him its Leadership Award for Education, in 2012 the University of Kansas named him one of the University’s Men of Merit, in 2015 the American Men’s Studies Association gave him the Lifetime Membership Award, and in 2018 Missouri Jobs with Justice presented him with the Worker’s Rights Board Leadership Award. He resides in Kansas City, Missouri and is founder of The Fairness Project.