Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Brief Observation About the National Discussion, as Reflected in Facebook

Today has been an interesting day to watch my Facebook feed. The two Supreme Court cases announced this morning set off a great deal of discussion. Nearly all of it was from my more left-leaning friends (which are, let's face it, most of my friends). Many of these folks are actually moderates who are also very smart about the law, and could see the legal handwriting on the wall for DOMA and Prop 8 (the latter being a decision described as "narrow", but which I think was actually quite important for other reasons).

Interestingly, I have seen almost nothing posted to FB all day from people who likely disagree with these rulings. Some of these folks, too, are my friends, and many of them are both sincere and thoughtful people. Many wrestle genuinely with issues of the definition and boundaries of marriage. And a few are just unabashedly opposed to gay marriage in any form.

Why make this observation? In moments like this, when there is - at least for the moment - a clear winner and a clear loser in a national debate, my Facebook feed suggests that the winners rejoice and those on the losing side fall quiet. Yes, Michelle Bachman, Glenn Beck, and others took to the airwaves to proclaim the end of Western Civilization for the 10th time in the past few weeks - but we expect that from people who make their living by expounding sensationalist views (never forget - they get paid to say those things). Normal, ordinary, real people who disapprove of gay marriage have been, at least in my limited internet window, remarkably quiet.

I think there's something important in that. It's too easy, when you're on the winning side, to gloat - to carry your joy in victory a little over the edge. But the folks who argued the other way are people, too. Many of them are good and kind, they want the best for their families and their communities, and they worry about a range of things - most of them day-to-day things that we all worry about. They are not "them", they are "us" - they just happen to have a different view on this particular issue.

Assuming that the trajectory of this particular issue continues - and I see no reason why it won't - folks who are sincerely opposed to same-sex marriage will have some adjusting to do, just as folks who opposed interracial marriage had to accommodate a different reality. If we're sincere about tolerance, positive relations, and love in our communities, we should help them as gently and kindly as we can. Because tomorrow we may find ourselves in the same situation, and hope for the same kindness from them.

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