Not to mention absolutes and assumptions
When did we lose the ability to disagree with one another without assuming the worst? When did we decide that anyone with an opposing viewpoint must automatically be the enemy? When did it come about that reasoned dissent is the sign of a character flaw?
As we approached the 2004 elections, I became aware that disagreement with certain people was resulting in the literal loss of friendships. I was shocked by this, because I’ve never turned my back on a friend over a difference in political or religious beliefs, and I never expected any true friends to do it to me. The first few times it happened, I wrote it off to “they weren’t *real* friends.”
But it kept happening. Even though my positions had not changed in any way, I was suddenly being branded with my views. I wasn’t just Kate, their friend who disagreed with them on God, politics, the military or the role of the government … suddenly I was Kate, their enemy. I was one of “them” and not to be trusted or really even tolerated, because I was wrong and apparently wrong was now beyond redemption. Tolerance was what I owed them, not something I was worthy of receiving.
In the intervening years, I have seen more and more friends fall by the wayside; people I would have cheerfully walked thru hell on Sunday in barefeet to help were turning away because they didn’t like my beliefs. I began refraining from expressing my opinions and I literally walked away from conversations rather than cause people I considered friends to feel uncomfortable. I even quit putting bumper stickers on my car or political signs in my yard so as not to offend or upset. I confined my opinions to online, reasoning that if they came to my pages to see what I had to say then they were “asking for it” and had no right to complain about what they found.
I didn’t ask anyone to stop feeling the way they felt. I didn’t say they were wrong and shouldn’t be allowed to breathe. I didn’t suggest that their opinions meant they were rotten people or that they deserved to be shot. I didn’t censor them or remove their commentary if they disagreed with me.
Yet time and time again, I am not given the same courtesy. I disagree with something Obama says and I’m a racist who can’t stand the thought of having a black president. I disagree with illegal immigrants and I’m a nazi, because we’re a nation of immigrants and I’m trying to deny others the same rights my forebears were given. I support a state exercising their right — as a state — to say “we don’t want legalized abortions except when necessary to preserve the life of the mother” and I’m trying to foist my beliefs on others and deny them their “constitutional right” to have an abortion. I say I respect the right of a family to save the life of their “vegetable” daughter and I’m accused of having no sympathy for her “right to die with dignity.” I say I have no problem with domestic partnerships or civil unions and that gay couples should be afforded the same rights as a married couple but that the actual institution of marriage should remain one man/one woman and I’m a hater. I disagree with unions and I’m wanting to stick it to the working man, deny him his right to a safe job at a livable wage, take away all his benefits and toss him and his family out in the streets.
If I dare post my dissenting views on their pages and my comments aren’t removed entirely, they’re discounted and ridiculed. Remember the old debate rule of “attack the idea and not the person?” Hah! That apparently doesn’t apply these days.
It doesn’t matter how sound my arguments are — most of them will be ignored and dismissed anyhow — and it doesn’t matter if I have stacks of data to support my position and reams of data to question theirs. It’s getting to the point where a person isn’t allowed to have any opinion that steps outside the pack. If you’re not one of the sheep, you must keep that to yourself, because otherwise you’re some kind of Trouble with a capital “t.”
I want to know when this happened, because this is not the America I grew up in.