The entire genre of political/moral debates which have recently been happening in the public square have really been disappointed to me. Not, because of the subject matter, but rather because of the personal attacks levied by both sides against the other. Instead of engaging in a fruitful discussion we end up talking passed one another. “If you are against ‘gay marriage’, then you are a bigot and hate all homosexual people.” or “If you are for ‘gay marriage’ then you are an immoral, and aught to be rightfully condemned.” Many people on both sides would like to believe that we live in a binary world. For this reason we have largely lost the ability to have coherent argument. We cannot expound on moral arguments and expound our points of view without risking a personal attack by the other. I think this may be a reason that so many of us are hesitant to even engage in the debate, and simply go along with the majority. We don’t want to be attacked or looked at as, outside the norm. The question when evaluating someone stance on any subject, but especially the recent debates, should be, is the person making a soundly reasoned argument. Or is this person simply engaging in ‘hate speech’ and liable in an attempt to win the argument by dragging it down to the level of personal attacks. If the latter, I believe the discussion should immediately stop, and that person dismissed because no further constructive discussion can then occur.
To illustrate this point more fully, consider some of the arguments for ‘gay marriage.’ Now that homosexuality is becoming more mainstream and socially acceptable there are increasing number of homosexual people who are ‘coming out.’ And as a result there are people who are seeing people in their lives whom they recognized as a good person, but now also as homos. I know many homosexual people who are good, and decent people, who genuinely care about others and wish others well. They are, in many cases, productive members of our society who are active in many worthy causes throughout our communities. ‘Coming out,’ I believe is a very good thing. To have someone who is continually hiding his or her true feelings, as any psychologist will tell you, ultimately detrimental to that person. The issue comes when one recognizes someone as a homosexual and a good person, that they think that homosexuality is also good. This is not sound reasoning. Just because a person is good and decent it does not necessarily follow that everything that person does, thinks, or wants is also good, decent, or even morally correct. Once, again, we are back to the fantasy binary world in which each person is homogeneous and wholly good or bad. We thus make our arguments on sentimental values rather than on actual moral arguments. We, all of us, have aspects of our lives which are, in some ways, not consistent with the image we want to the world to see of us. I consider myself an upstanding man with many good attributes. Yet, on some days, which might be considered my most honest days, I recognize, within myself, inconsistencies. Those inconsistencies do not, for that reason, negate my good qualities. No one can say that on the basis of that action, and that action alone, I am a bad man. For the same reason, on one can say that based on someone’s feelings, or even if they act on those feelings that that person is bad. This is not a moral argument. It is a sentimental argument, and does not further this discussion at all.