Why I Argue

The importance of speaking up, getting involved and not being afraid of a fight

Over the past couple of years, I’ve found myself in several lengthy and heated discussions with friends and friends of friends, mostly occurring on Facebook. The longer posting format of Facebook provided a good means to explore ideas and opinions in depth.

I know, I know. What kind of discussions could possibly come from arguing with your aunt on Facebook? It depends on the aunt. And in my case it depended on the friends. I grew up in San Diego, which is a predominantly conservative area, with many religious family and friends. I was raised Catholic, but that came to an abrupt end when I was nine. I was asked to leave Sunday school because I got into a small disagreement with a nun over a bit of history. Jesus did not ride a dinosaur. But that would have been awesome.

Fear, Shame, Stigma.

These are the mechanisms of an unhappy life. A life that may have had a chance at happiness and fulfillment can be torn apart by just one of those. In my experience the biggest purveyors of those three have been from people claiming to speak for one religion or another. These people are not bad people and of course not every religious person behaves that way. The ones that do were not born thinking and feeling this way. They were taught to think and feel this way. They were taught to fear the unusual, to fight against the ideas which they were told are against the laws of their creator. Which, for the rest of the people on the planet, amounts to progress.

That being said, progress cannot be stopped. It may be shaped and guided, but not prevented. Change is constant. It’s been said it’s the only constant.

If you understand their perspective, who can blame them for making such a big fuss? I don’t. In fact, their standing up and fighting for what they believe is exactly what I’m suggesting everyone do.

Sometimes I think as you might. That I should just leave them be with their beliefs and let time erode their ideas away. But it occurs to me that time alone doesn’t erode anything. It’s action of something over time. The future is shaped and guided, it doesn’t just happen. Whatever tiny role you and I play in the grand story of humanity is like water rushing over a stone. We may feel insignificant, at times, like a pair of water molecules hitting the stone. But if we keep going back, hitting it again and again and if a few million friends join in, in relatively little time that stone becomes sand.

When I engaged in arguments on the topic of my Mormon friend’s beliefs on homosexuality, the goal for me was never to change their minds. It was not to convince them that I am right and they are wrong. It was for everyone else standing on the sidelines watching. It was to show them that you shouldn’t be afraid to take a stand against something that is wrong because you would rather not argue or get involved. It was to lend strength to people who may feel the way I do, but who maybe couldn’t quite express it. And finally, it was for the friends who I know are gay and any that might still be too fearful or ashamed to come out. I wanted them to know that I would stand up with them or for them. That is why I argue.

It was a guess that this would have a net-positive effect on people I knew. It pissed quite a few people off, sure, but I can take their disappointment. The private and public messages I received from people I knew well and those I barely knew at all was more than I guessed. A number of people said they agreed and were glad to see someone say something. A few of these people were publicly quiet on this topic prior to this point. Over the past several months though, I’ve seen almost all of them come out in support of marriage equality and take a stand either by simply liking a status in support, changing their profile picture or speaking up.

When a celebrity speaks out in favor of something, it can strengthen opinions, but rarely seems to result in the changing of them. When someone you know and care about speaks up, it can having a deep and lasting change in the way you feel and think about something.

It’s my opinion that what does the most damage isn’t the harmful words that come from a particular group, it’s the silence of support and love from those not wanting to rock the boat. Let’s be water molecules together. Help rock the boat, help grind down the stone, help me think of better metaphors.

Love, Jesse