Friday, July 31, 2015

Diverse Views

On the evening of the Obergfell decision, a friend made a comment on facebook that I can't get out of my head. I'm too lazy to look up her precise wording (it has taken me over a year to write anything at all here, so humor me), but she essentially said, “My coworkers criticize my habit of unfriending people that don't agree with me politically, but let me say this – it has been awesome to scroll through my facebook feed today and see nothing but love.”

I have the opposite experience on my feed, and I love it. For me, the one of the best parts of my facebook feeds is its diversity of opinion. I'm not claiming perfection – I'll admit that I did unfriend an acquaintance that repeatedly insulted Muslims without cause. But when I go through my feed on any given day, I feel like I'm viewing a sample of the hearts and minds of people in America, and I understand the world so much better for it.

It can be so easy to stereotype people you disagree with. You can label them ignorant, naive, bigoted, willfully stupid, apostate, evil, and wrong. And suddenly, it doesn't matter what is at stake for them in the decision – all that matters is that they are silenced or shamed because you are right. But these aren't random talking heads at Fox News or MSNBC. On my facebook feed, these views are attached to people I know and care about. I don't get the privilege of labeling them other. It reminds me that any hot button issue is a hot button issue because it deals with people's core values.

My feed has diverse views, and I need them all. I need advocates drawing attention to the staggering social costs of police brutality, AND the police officers discussing the almost never considered mental toll of showing up to work every day knowing someone will yell at you and try to emotionally manipulate you, knowing that any given day you will probably see nightmarish cases of abuse and cruelty, and knowing that any given day you may be assaulted or killed. I need the Trump enthusiasts and Sanders enthusiasts; the Mormon Women Stand members and Ordain Women members; the evangelicals and atheists. I need the people that were furious that BSA's decision still allows discrimination against gay leaders and the people that were furious that BSA's decision may open the door to discriminate against religious organizations that use that exemption (was anybody happy about the BSA decision? Not on my feed).

And yes, sometimes what I find there angers me. But then I take a step back and ask, “Why? What is at stake for this person?” And often, I realize the costs are high and the history is messy. Any solution that actually works will only work if it understands and addresses the real concerns of the real people that hold them, not the straw men we hold up.

I'm not saying we shouldn't fight against things that attack our core values – I'm saying we should take the time to understand why we are fighting the battle in the first place.