A couple of weeks ago a facebook friend of mine posted a graphic containing these words. “Alex and Chris want to get married. I don't know if they are male & female, male & male, or female & female, and I don't really care.... because it's none of my business.” Isn't that cute? Cute, but it is a crock.
The fact is, since marriage is a social institution, who marries whom is everybody's business. Saying that it is none of my (or your) business is merely a way to stifle dissent. Imagine what you would say to someone who declared, “I want to marry my brother and it's none of your business!” or “I'm gonna marry this ten year old girl AND IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!” You see, we all agree, at least in those two cases, that marriage IS other people's business.
But the saddest comment in all the lengthy discussion that followed came from my friend who posted the graphic. As I tried repeatedly to make my non-controversial point that marriage is a social institution and therefore everybody's business, she replied, “No, Ken, it is indeed NOT my business who marries whom. If I were to post something to that effect, countless people would jump all over my case just like you did this one. I will take ONE any day of the week and twice on Wednesday.”
While I take exception to the characterization of my disagreement with her as “jumping all over her case”, it is deeply troubling that she feels countless numbers of her friends would do just that if she simply acknowledged the truth. Talk about stifling dissent!
So, I can't help but wonder, who are these people and why would they jump all over a friend for speaking the truth. Perhaps my friend is overly sensitive to disagreement. But I don't think so. She has always struck me as strong and outspoken. No, I think the problem is in the “countless people” she fears. There are people who, rather than just disagree and argue a point, will insult and berate and demean those they disagree with. It leads to a kind of groupthink. Anyone who doesn't toe the party line is shamed into submission. “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”
So, I've come to see my friend as a kind of hostage surrounded by guardians of “right thinking”. It is unlikely that she sees herself that way. After all, as long as she makes no waves, she and all her friends get along swimmingly. But the fear she expressed in her comment is certainly sufficient to prevent any divergent expression.
So I will continue to try and reach out to her and her friends. I hope that one day they will learn to disagree agreeably. If you have any suggestions about how to help, I'd welcome any advice.