Over the weekend I wrote a post responding to the court decision to overturn Prop. 8. It was very cathartic for me. I took everything that I’d ever thought or tried to write about same-sex marriage and distilled it to its essence, which was 1,841 words–long for a blog post, but most of my blog posts are (too) long, and when you consider the tens of thousands of words I had to work with, I’d call it a pretty awesome distillation. Of course, you will just have to take my word for it because once I had finished writing, I knew that I wouldn’t publish it.
For one thing, I could get no further personal satisfaction out of my creation. I had brought order to chaos, but since I was the only person who knew what the chaos looked like to begin with, I couldn’t expect anyone else to be particularly impressed with the order. But more to the point, I knew that publishing something on this particular sensitive topic would only lead to bad things. Threads on same-sex marriage–like threads on a handful of other sensitive topics–tend to bring out the worst in people. And when I say “people,” I am including friends and family; I am including myself.
I can write reasonably and dispassionately–it’s what I strive to do always, when I’m not just striving to be silly–but really, I’m just not nearly as patient as one needs to be when participating in a conversation about an issue on which there can be no reconciliation. One tries to control the course of the discussion by setting parameters and establishing rules of conduct, but the parameters are inevitably ignored, rules are bent and broken, and in the end people just feel hurt and angry and possibly like they might need to take a shower. People lose respect for each other. Some of us–maybe most of us–get over it, in time, but time doesn’t change the fact that the conversation ultimately served no useful purpose. It just made Baby Jesus cry.
No matter how high-minded one’s intentions may be at the outset, there is an unbridgeable gulf between the two sides, and talking about it just makes the gulf deeper and wider–which is fine when your goal is intellectual clarity, but I can find intellectual clarity in a lot of places–including the privacy of my own brain, as it turns out. And as it also turns out, I’m in no particular mood to share. Those with ears to hear have most likely already heard; the rest is just shouting at each other for the sake of it. I find it unpleasant regardless of whether I’m the shouter or the shouted-at. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Bottom line: it’s pure narcissism for me to think that anyone cares about anything I say. I am a narcissist, of course, which is why I blog; the question is, do I want to use my narcissism for good or for evil? Shall I regale you with vaguely amusing scenes from my religious life, or shall I provoke you to wrath and possibly cause you to commit sin? I usually only do the latter when I’m all out of the former, which means I’m about due for a little wrath-provoking–and yet I find my heart just isn’t in it anymore. I find the prospect of launching yet another hate-spewing thread on same-sex marriage utterly repulsive. I’m not saying you kids can’t handle it. I’m not even saying I can’t handle it. I’m saying I don’t want to. I have enough contention and frustration in real life; I don’t need to seek out extra on the interwebs.
For sure this isn’t the first time I’ve sworn off political conversations, and I reckon it won’t be the last. Each time I hope it’s the last, but it never is; eventually the temptation to offer my opinion just becomes too much, and so I end up going where I promised myself I’d never go again–usually because it just irks me to see my side vilified or misrepresented (I’m sure you all know what this is like), and I think, “I can’t just say nothing. It isn’t right to let one side set the terms of debate or to let other perspectives be ignored.” Yes, it’s all very earnest and righteous on my part. (I’m sure you know what that’s like, too.) So I break my promise, and I say something, and quelle surprise, it all turns out to be pointless and I am sorry I did it. I have never not been, not even once. So you’d think I’d have learned by now. Believe me, I keep thinking I have! But I will say this much for my teachability: with each (bad) experience, I get a little smarter and a little more circumspect, and a little more apathetic. This is what people with no taste for battle do: we retreat. Is the world a better place for it? Well, for us personally, it is. And that’s something.
I like to focus my efforts where they’ll make the most difference–in this case, harnessing all my willpower to stay the heck out of stuff. Eventually the debate will be ceded to the loudest and most obnoxious voices–but as near as I can tell, they already own it anyway, so whatever. Until they abolish the secret ballot, I can live very happily keeping my own little thoughts to myself–voting quietly, seething quietly, inwardly clucking tsk-tsk as the world goes to hell in a handbag around me. It’s not emotionally satisfying, but then, it’s not emotionally wrenching, either, so it all evens out in the end. ‘Til Jesus gets here, of course. And then, I think we’re probably all in for a big surprise anyway.
One thing I will say with respect to the legal wrangling over Prop. 8: I think in part it’s borne of this distaste for and impatience with hashing out our differences amongst ourselves. We can’t work it out, so we let the courts decide, and depending on which side we’re on, there is either joyous exultation or weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Some of us will exult or gnash out loud; some of us will do it quietly. I see us retreating to our respective camps and hardening our hearts out of pride and emotional necessity. Who can handle all this drama? I realize that I’m hoping the Church just stays out of the public square in the future, that it adopts my strategy, which is the same one I’ve taken with my kids: I can’t get them to stay in Time Out, so I just put myself in Time Out instead. It doesn’t do a thing for the kids, but it does wonders for my own sanity. (Also, it keeps me from maiming them, so, bonus.) Is this the right choice? I’m sure I wouldn’t know. But it’s the one I can live with, for now.