Thursday, December 11, 2008

On what issues may we agree to disagree?

There was an interesting article in RedEye, I think, a while back, focusing on dating and marital partners and how much political disagreement a couple can tolerate. I married a woman who voted for the current president twice, something I never thought I would do. In terms of friendship and respecting other people: while one may not respect certain opinions of others—because, perhaps, those opinions are stupid and horribly wrong—could we respect the right of the opinion-holders to have them? I once thought pro-life/anti-choice advocates were horrible people. Now that my view on abortion is more nuanced—I personally oppose abortion but remain pro-choice—I am more understanding of pro-life advocates’ point of view. (I still think anti-abortion legislation is wrong for women and wrong for America.) On Israel, I realize that most Americans are less Zionist than I am and that most Jews are less hard-line than I am. On that point I can concede disagreement. If someone advocates for the destruction of Israel, however, I take that person for an antisemite and also someone who is not a patriotic American.

When I carefully announced my support of Prop. 8 in California,* I was called a racist and a bigot. If Prop. 8 is framed as a civil rights issue—and its opponents almost universally attempted to make it thus—that characterization certainly implies its supporters are bigots. That would lead one to conclude that 52 percent of California voters are bigots. It’s a sensitive, hurtful situation. Hardly anyone likes to be called names, and “racist” and “bigot” are generally considered to be the pond scum of Americana. (“Liberal” is enjoying the beginning of an eight-year renaissance.) I don’t believe I am a bigot. Can we respectfully disagree on gay marriage? Or are Prop. 8 proponents reaching for their mouse units to click “Remove as Friend”?

About a month ago, I suggested in a Facebook Note that we give the President-Elect a chance to prove himself, and I included those of us who voted against him. One Friend compared me to Jews of the 1930’s who didn’t notice and didn’t act in the face of obvious signs of imminent Nazi terror. I took offense and asked him to retract his accusation and apologize. He refused, and we mutually agreed we would no longer be Friends on Facebook. (I think it was mutual.) I do believe mentioning Hitler or Nazis is a terrible idea in almost all arguments (unless one is discussing the European Theater of World War II or the German government of that time). I especially recoil at the suggestion that Obama is like Hitler, and that by not opposing him at every turn, I am aiding and abetting an American Holocaust, G-d forbid. (And my aforementioned former Friend was one of two people who suggested such to me.)

*”Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.”

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