Thursday, March 18, 2004

A couple of news stories caught my attention this morning. First, Rhea County in Tennessee is asking the State Legislature to change state law to allow the county to prosecute homosexuals for “crimes against nature.” Further, the County Commissioners are asking their county attorney to draft an ordinance that would allow the County to prohibit homosexuals from residing in the County.

In North Carolina, a husband and wife are livid that their daughter (who is in elementary school) brought a book home from school about a gay prince. They are refusing to return the book to the school until they have assurances it will be taken out of circulation. They also plan on filing a complaint against the school and possibly transferring their daughter.

I just find these stories exhausting. The amount of energy people expend in their hatred and fear tires me out. How do you respond to someone (or a community in the first example) whose response to a changing society is so completely out of proportion? I understand that even well-educated people can disagree on whether homosexuality should be socially acceptable, but pushing for criminal prosecution of gays and lesbians? Transferring your child to a new school because they picked up one book from the library that you don’t agree with? Give me a break. “Dear God, Mary! Our daughter was exposed to a new idea! She might already be indwelt by Satan! Call the minister – we need an exorcism! If we don’t act soon, she just might start thinking for herself!!”

A family member (who shall remain nameless, for my protection) mentioned to me several months ago that social conservatives basically need their own country out here in the west. They believe that the values of the “liberal establishment” (my words, not theirs) are so far from their own that they can’t even live in the same country. I’m sure this sentiment is echoed on conservative talk radio, as well. What has happened to political discourse and community in this country that we’re not even willing to live with each other? Are we really at the point where it is “Believe what I do, or find your own country?”

The political polarization of this country is a major threat to liberal democracy. Extremists on both sides of the political spectrum are creating an environment where the only objective is winning (whatever the contest happens to be). We’re creating a political community characterized by winners and losers, rather than open and honest discourse. I think it’s sad.



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