The pandemic. The war in Ukraine. Children being slaughtered in schools. Mass shootings in stores. Corrupt political, academic, and religious leaders. News outlets with agendas other than truth-telling. A planet warming at an alarming rate. Every form of hatred and bigotry. Increasing economic disparity.
Add to these things the social tragedy of our Great Philosophical/Political Divide—most starkly illustrated by the bipartisan/bipolar vitriol spewing all over social media (and on every news outlet) in the wake of the most current SCOTUS decision—and you’ve got yourself a lot of people on edge.
Unquestionably, we are living in a very disturbing moment in human history and particularly American history.
It feels apocalyptic, it feels like we’re on the verge of something truly terrifying, ugly, and violent. An inevitable “tearing asunder” of a way of being we’ve wanted for so long to believe could contain a multiplicity of ideologies without imploding.
E pluribis unum: “out of many, one.” This is supposed to be our motto as a nation, yet it appears to be our undoing.
Lots of issues to choose from, but my focus here is on the issue of abortion. A dividing issue if ever there was one.
I understand why people feel so passionately about it, why they get so outraged. It strikes at the very core of one’s sense of justice. It couldn’t be more visceral, more personal. It asks the deepest human questions. What gives a human value? Can we honor the rights of one while denying the rights of another? Who ought to decide when one person’s rights supersede another’s? How are we defining a “person?”
Most everyone on social media wants to bolster their arguments, defend their positions, make sure that everyone knows they’re precisely on the “right side of history” when it comes to the abortion issue.
People are urging everyone to make their voices heard, suggesting that silence at this time would be an insult, a moral affront. As if to not make a clear stand in this moment of heightened philosophical/political/religious/legal contention would be the most cowardly thing a person might do.
There’s a problem with that. It’s a problem I specifically have but I know, without a doubt, that I share this problem with millions of others.
If I fully, freely expressed my views on Roe V. Wade, on this specific decision, on abortion in general—I would absolutely upset, anger, and offend people on both sides of this issue. People I deeply admire, appreciate, and respect. People, even, that I love.
Likely, almost certainly, I’d be unfriended by some of these people. This post alone, as non-committal as it may appear, could still have that result.
It wouldn’t be the end of the world if some folks unfriended me. They’d survive perfectly well not seeing my (mostly) mundane and egocentric posts, and I would survive not seeing theirs.
Being unfriended wouldn’t be the tragedy.
The tragedy is that we absolutely can’t have an entirely honest, civil dialogue, where we actually listen to and hear the other person. Not on this topic.
There are only two ways such an event could happen.
One would be if you were the exception to the rule (wherever you stand on this very sensitive, very personal issue) and you could hear dissenting views about something you care deeply about without shitting out your neck (i.e., “automatically/angrily regurgitating your bullshit without having truly sought to understand”) and thinking me a horrible human for my alternative view that doesn’t perfectly match yours.
The other way would be if you, like me, do not stand unwaveringly in one camp or the other because you see that both camps are inarguably right about some very critical things and utterly wrong about other equally critical things.
So, if I lined up my most nuanced, rational, heartfelt, painstakingly constructed arguments for my middle-ground position, most of you wouldn’t hear me. You’d just write me off as a … (fill in your list of adjectives you save for people who don’t share your view). You’d simply fall back on all your cemented-in-place dogma that you’re convinced obliterates all counter arguments. Because you have to be completely right. Right?
Why would I share what I believe? I’m not going to change your mind. I’m just going to piss you off. Or make you no longer respect me. I’m not going to persuade you to give up your precious arguments which you are so sure contain no moral hypocrisy.
Guess what? All of our arguments contain moral hypocrisy. Mine do. Yours do. Arguments on the Left and the Right do. Religious arguments do. Secular arguments do. If you don’t believe that—you haven’t thought about this issue hard enough, you’re blinded by your own self-righteous certainty. As I, perhaps, am blinded by mine.
If you were strongly pro-choice, and you listed your best arguments for being so, I’d nod my head in agreement with you through a lot of your list. Then there would be a point of departure. If you were strongly pro-life, and you listed your best arguments for being so, I’d nod my head in agreement with you through a lot of your list. Then there would be a point of departure.
Now, if you ever want to sit down with me and have a nice cool glass of ice water, or a Stella, or a cup of tea, or whatever … if you want to actually talk, to actually listen to and hear me without shitting out your neck? I’ll do the same with you. And if you present a brilliant point that I hadn’t considered, I’d ponder it with all sincerity. I’ll tell you why I’ve given this issue so much deep thought and attention, why it matters to me on a personal level and not just an intellectual level. I’ll confess my sins to you. I’ll cry with you. I’ll hug you. I’ll tell you what I truly believe. I’ll listen to what you truly believe. We might both learn something.
That’s my dream.
It’s likely to remain a dream.
Peace. Love. Respect.
For all the reasons listed above, I’m not going to debate anyone in the comments. Still, your thoughts are welcome. I’d especially like to hear from people who find themselves (like me) agreeing and disagreeing with the Left and the Right on this issue.