More and more, politics looks and feels like a team sport, where spectators root for their team and trash talk the opposing team.
And the election is still two months away.
This communication gulf seems to be pervasive and ongoing. It recently ramped up again with the Chick-fil-A CEO’s comments and the LGBT community’s reaction to the company’s support of antigay organizations. It has continued with the Republican Party platform’s support of one man-one woman marriage.
Perhaps the hardest to comprehend are the personal attacks that seem so prevalent in comments on news sites, emails and, yes, even phone calls.
These comments, in which the authors/speakers lambaste politicians, community leaders, businesspeople, poor people, women, gays and lesbians, rich people, fill-in-the-blank, are divisive and ultimately ineffective. People aren’t going to listen to your actual argument if all you are doing is calling someone a name. If you haven’t presented an argument, there’s no opportunity to counter it. (Perhaps that is the point.)
Instead, the conversation gets increasingly heated, the comments get more inflammatory and all sides dig in their heels.
Again, no progress, no actual communication.
Take, for instance, a call that came into PGN this week. A man was upset that gay men were chatting him up on a dating site. After ranting about how this type of behavior would make someone like him (presumably God-fearing) vote against gay rights, he then threatened to break the legs of the next guy who did it.
Too often, individual behavior is seen as representative of an entire group: For example, all gays must be married and cheating on their wives, flirting with single straight men and rubbing their gayness in people’s faces because one or two may have done so.
Regardless of the unwanted advances (it’s a dating site, thus it’s assumed there will be some unwanted advances; just think of all the unwanted advances that women deal with daily), violence and threats aren’t going to solve the situation — and calling the female editor of the gay paper isn’t going to solve the problem.
Personal insecurities and anger issues aside, progress on gay rights requires respectful dialogue. Without it, people are just shouting at each other, not listening to one another and certainly not trying to understand each other.
This isn’t to say that LGBTs should go back in the closet until the straights decide we aren’t a threat. But that we need to keep pursuing dialogue despite the difficulties.