Fear Factor

Friends, I am sad.  There are other words I could use: disappointed, disheartened, frustrated, angry. But right now, at my core, I am sad.

You see, I live in North Carolina. I love living here. Truly I do.  My family is here. My friends are here. Our home and our kittens are here.  Yet I am sad that Amendment 1 passed here on Tuesday.  I am sad for all of the people who want to marry their Beloveds but cannot. I got to marry my Beloved, and I do not understand how letting others marry theirs would hurt my marriage or my life in general.  I believe it would even strengthen both because we would no longer have to harbor a little corner of “Why can’t everyone have what we have?”

I have some Thoughts about the political machinations behind the May vote and its possible effect on the vote in November, and I will just say that this issue has only been decided temporarily.

I am also saddened by the hatred being slung around by folks standing on both sides of the marriage issue.  It makes me Ill to read comments from folks saying that they will nevernevernever come to North Carolina because all the people here are backwards and small-minded and that we all marry our cousins.  It makes me equally Ill to read all the comments from folks singing the praises of North Carolina for voting on the side of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

For many, the definition of marriage is a volatile one that wraps religion, morals, justice and emotion all up in a messy package.  Because of how volatile it is, I think it is imperative that people on both sides of the debate maintain a respectful tone.  Feelings are at stake. People’s happiness is at stake.  People’s civil rights are at stake.  The legal expression of love and commitment is at issue.  And I hear people spewing hatred. And it sickens me.

Every religion–Every religion–at its core contains some version of The Golden Rule. Treat folks as you want to be treated.  Always. Yes, it’s hard. It’s challenging. It feels impossible at times. But let’s all just take a breath and try.  Try to remember how you would feel if your son or daughter could not marry the love of their life. How you would feel if you could not marry the love of your life. How you’d feel if you were reduced to a stereotype. How you’d feel if your views, your opinions, your fervent beliefs were openly scorned by others.  How you’d feel if people hated you just because you are who you are and you believe what you believe.

Our country is being torn apart. This is but another chapter in the draft of the book called The Civil Rights Movement.  Are we where we need to be? No.  Are we moving ahead? I believe that we are. And it is painful. People are scared. People on both sides of this issue are scared. Terrified. And when you’re scared, you tend to be Less Rational than you would be if you were content. And none of us are content right now.  We’re uncomfortable.  All of us.  Because we’re, hopefully, growing.  Our President has come out publicly in favor of gay marriage. And whether you are thrilled or disgusted by that, it is a Fact.  And it is a step in the direction of tolerance and eventually toward acceptance. And it’s scary.

So folks get behind their computer screens and the speak out of anger, out of fear, out of righteous indignation and even out of smugness.  It is my wish-hope-prayer that we all remember that every disembodied comment or blog post or status update is tethered to a person with feelings and a family and a position and a belief system.  Remember the ideal of The Golden Rule and strive to follow it.

I recognize your position, whatever it is. I recognize your right to your position. I recognize that I might not agree with your position but that your position is no less valid for that. Our views are informed by our experiences. Since no two people share the exact same experiences or process them in the exact same way, our views will differ. We have the right to differ. We do not have the right to tear each other down. To condemn anyone. To judge. To feel superior or to try to make others feel inferior.

We are a nation gripped by fear. Fear of attack, fear of infiltration, fear of Other.  And we are growing, changing, evolving, and that’s scary too.  So please, let’s just all take a breath before we speak. Let’s try to exercise our empathy muscles just a bit, to consciously make the effort to put ourselves in others’ shoes, not to necessarily agree with a position–but to understand that position and recognize others’ rights to that position.

Last night, on our neighborhood’s facebook page, somebody posted the question “Have you guys been hearing a loud noise around 10pm the last few nights?” Folks responded, some seriously and some with funny hypotheses. We were actually having a good time when a neighbor wrote that the loud sound that we had heard was the sound of the door slamming on the liberals.

My knee-jerk response was to be Mean, I admit. Rather than do that, I chose to exercise my empathy muscles and be respectful: “As you’ve said before, let’s stay on task on this page. Only talk about politics and religion face to face. It is too easy to become uncivil when we’re all behind keyboards. Thanks. :)”  (I use a lot of emoticons on facebook, and even then, tone is sometimes hard to convey).

This was his response this morning: “Sorry, you are right and I apologize. It was too easy an opportunity for me to be funny. I didn’t hear any sound, must’ve been dead asleep. I gotta stop commenting on stuff late at night, as I don’t always think so clearly.”

Did I change his mind? No. But I think I managed to defuse what had the potential to be an ugly exchange. And I was respectful. I did not sink into the muck; I chose to take the high road. And in this case, he joined me there. I consider it a small victory. And the road to equality will be paved with small victories and dispassionate, respectful discourse.

I will leave the comments open for dispassionate, respectful discourse. If you have something to say, you have the right to say it. But please say it respectfully and thoughtfully.  Practice being nice here in my little corner and then go practice on a larger scale.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for being respectful. Have a lovely day.

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Comments

  1. says

    My friend, I reposted a funny (to me) thing on FB about marrying your cousin, but not your gay cousin, in NC. I’ve made the same comments about Georgia, where I loved for 15 years. I’m going to take it down. I love NC and I love many people who live there and are from there. I do not love what happened in your state, and neither do you. 

  2. says

    I love what you’ve written here. About a month ago, I wrote on my blog about how easy it is to hide behind the screen of a computer and pound out emails, posts, etc of fear, hate, etc., and things you would never say to someones face. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of responding, and allow something to escalate. Your response to your neighbor hit just the right notes, as evidenced by his thoughtful email to you this morning. You’ve made some really excellent points at a time we need to be hearing them. I’m on the liberal side of most political and social issues, but respect everyone’s opinion. It disappoints me at times to hear people judge San Francisco area as a bunch of left-wing wackos; SF, NC, and most places have a much richer texture than a parody of one end of the spectrum or the other. 

    • says

      Thank you for reading and responding. It really is so easy to forget that there are people behind the screens. Or in the cars (which is why it’s so easy to curse at folks in traffic but not on the sidewalk;).  We should all be aware of–and wary of–stereotypes. None of us is perfect, but we can all at least be better. :)

  3. Booklady63 says

    You stated your feelings very clearly and civilly.  I happen to wish that our government would go back to governing–we have some major issues as a nation among nations that require attention–and stop worrying so much about issues that should be personal.  We surely all possess the ability to simply turn the other cheek when people make PERSONAL choices that offend us as long as those choices cause no immediate harm to any other person.

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