The Militarization of the Tolerance Police

Earlier this Screenshot 2014-08-21 09.36.37week I sent out a tweet highlighting the fact that somebody at BYU messed up and put cards celebrating same sex marriage out in the BYU Store. Similar to other mixups that have occurred at the University over the years (like the run on a vending machine selling caffeinated Coke last year), I found humor in the situation. Others didn’t, to the point that it actually hit the mainstream media.

Here you have my alma mater selling cards that implied at least some marginal level of support (no matter how small) for same sex marriage when a scant four days prior they had a commencement ceremony where Elder Russell M. Nelson said “one of the more demanding opportunities of our time is to stand up for the truth regarding the sacred nature of marriage.” This truth is, according to LDS doctrine, marriage is reserved for a man and a woman – same sex couples need not apply.

By including the BYU Store in the tweet, it also gave them a heads up. I knew that it wasn’t something that they wanted in the store. Ultimately it doesn’t matter to me what they sell, but it was a courtesy as it had already popped up on social media. With BYU’s Education Week starting that day, I figured that they would have likely heard about it anyway.

Come to find out that I was the first to let them know. As a result, the BYU Store pulled the cards and thanked me for letting them know. While there were people disappointed with the decision, I didn’t think much of it until several hours later when I ended up getting into a back-and-forth with a gay activist on Twitter where the only right answer seemed to be “I’m a narrow-minded bigot.” Several others got into the fray and they seemed to be equally as vehement as the original activist I talked with.

IMG_1020This led me to a few conclusions, each of which I have seen evidence of in the past but haven’t had personal experience putting them together until now.

  1. Pushing people to accept your point of view, especially when you give ultimatums, isn’t the best policy. Same-sex marriage isn’t the lifestyle for me, but I’m not an especially ardent opponent of it either. I tend to lean more towards “live and let live.” Nonetheless, pushing me to either be a proponent or opponent of it pushes me further towards the opponent camp.
  2. Mere acceptance isn’t enough. I’ve seen this elsewhere in politics, especially among those who are on the more liberal side of the political spectrum. To appropriate a quote from President Bush, “either you’re with us…or you’re with the enemy.” Therefore, either you’re vocally pro-same-sex marriage or you’re against it. I would think that baby steps somewhere along the spectrum would be beneficial. Instead, this kind of black and white mentality doesn’t do any good – it’s not building any bridges, it’s not making people more sympathetic to your cause. It’s actively digging trenches and throwing up barbed wire to make it harder for anybody to get to your perspective.

Much like the current debate on militarizing the police, we as a society are militarizing our perspectives, using them as petards to hoist the opposition on. We armor ourselves in riot gear and bullet proof vests to try and prevent any other opinions from getting in and making us think a little more about where we are at and if we should tweak our views.

How do we get out of it? We can start by dropping the riot gear and being a little more vulnerable. Take a few minutes to think about the other side before immediately voicing opposition. Follow that up with actually listening to what they’re saying instead of tossing back our premeditated talking points. Perhaps with a little more listening and a little less defending we will find out that our positions aren’t so far apart after all and we can work together. We may find that isn’t the case, but we will be far more likely to leave with a respectful understanding than as recalcitrant enemies running back across no-man’s-land to get back to our machine gun nests so we can spray the opposition with everything we have.

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