I read an interview of Dan Savage in the Seattle Met while waiting for the dentist yesterday. Savage, if you do not already know him, is an outspoken gay man who not only fought hard for full social equality for LBGTQ persons, but has also from time to time advocated for the restriction of religion. He said:
When you’re trying to move the center you need people at the edges screaming and yelling. You need the unreasonable people for the reasonable people to then move in. This is my life.
The interesting thing to note is that the people at the edges are not moving the center much. They’re expanding it. With people like Matt Walsh on one edge (“Gay Marriage Doesn’t Exist, No Matter What the Supreme Court Says”) and Savage on the other, the center has become a vast chasm is the middle. No one is willing to publically say that it’s perfectly fine for a civil marriage to be between two consenting adults, but Christian florists should probably be allowed to refer that particular business to a competitor.
Ordinarily, this wouldn’t bother me, except that in some cases the unwillingness to concede the center has put some very thoughtful people in some fairly untenable positions simply because they feel the need to play devil’s advocate. Because no one on the right wants to appear to agree with a liberal, they find themselves supporting positions that are simply unsupportable. Take this, for example:
From my point of view, the flag says “White Southern Redneck,” but I grew up in the West. It is not a huge stretch of the intellect to understand that this flag represents a lot of grief to black people, and a very dark time in U.S. history. You don’t have to have a PhD to understand that symbolism is important (that’s why we fly flags in the first place). So I would have thought that after nine black Christians were shot IN CHURCH by someone who sported this symbol, the most reasonable thing to do would be to take it down so as not to appear to in any way support this philosophy, particularly at a government building. Why would this even be controversial? Sure, if you are a WSR, feel free to display it in your home, but on the state house?
Imagine my surprise to see this on my Facebook feed:
(A picture of a Tylenol bottle with a disturbing reference to pulling out the cotton.)
and, shortly thereafter, this:
(Inaccurate, and since removed, picture referencing those who labored to build the pyramids, who were paid for their work.)
Both of which were posted or “liked” by people I expected to know better. For those of you unfamiliar with the idea of fallacy, both of these represent an attempt to set up a “straw man” argument, with the idea that the humor would get people wondering if opposing the rebel flag isn’t just an overreaction by an overly sensitive group of people.
Except that it isn’t funny. Belittling the community’s reaction to a horrific event (and there are more black churches burning in the South, people) is horrible. And it’s racist. Undeniably so.
I would have thought that after all this time, the center on this issue had moved. That the thoughtful, good people responsible for these pictures on my wall would have agreed that the events in South Carolina called for, if not gun control, at least taking down the flag that stands for hatred in the eyes of so many people. Take it down from public places because it does not represent how we as the public feel today. Instead, it appears that there are people who insist upon finding an opposite edge and camping out there, making an argument where none should be. Why? Do we truly fear that there is only so much dignity to pass around? Are there people so afraid of losing their conservative cred. that they have to publish pictures like this, instead of joining their liberal counterparts in the cry to take the flag down out of respect to the families of those who were shot? The effect of pictures like this is to open up a new chasm in the center, and in the process erase 50+ years of progress.
I spend far too much time on Facebook, perhaps. And perhaps people often do not give much thought to what they post. But I would caution everyone to post very carefully, because just as words cannot be unsaid, posts cannot be unseen. And I would think hard about the polarization of society that we support when we spend our lives on the edges.