Why do I defend the supporters, if not always the organizers, of things like the Tea Parties or the Arizona immigration law from charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, or all the other "isms" that get thrown around in UU blogs? Why did I speak up before the Presidential election against UU bloggers who said candidate Obama's poll numbers proved how racist America is?*
To begin with, it's simply not true. Tens- depending on the issue, hundreds- of millions of Americans are not "ists" who base all their decisions on "isms". That's a problem with calling our position on everything "Standing On The Side Of Love"- sometimes we come to really believe that those not standing with us are all haters. It seems to me that some UUs, despite all our vaunted reason, understanding, and tolerance are simply incapable of believing that anyone could genuinely care for people and still come to a different position than ours.
Secondly, it's counterproductive on many, many levels. To begin with, when you call someone an "ist" of any kind, you've just written them off in your mind. After all, "isms" are irrational, and irrational people cannot be convinced by rational argument. If you've been doing this, I give you the words of Benjamin Franklin from 1776: "These men, no matter how much we may disagree with them, they are not ribbon clerks to be ordered about - they are proud, accomplished men, the cream of their colonies. And whether you like them or not, they and the people they represent will be part of this new nation that YOU hope to create. Now, either learn how to live with them, or pack up and go home! In any case, stop acting like a Boston fishwife."
And, of course, they will write you off as well. You just deeply insulted them; they can here the contempt in your voice. They know that you, too, are incapable of being moved by their arguments, so why should they bother to enter a dialogue with you? For example, last night Mayor Bloomberg of New York speculated on the nature of the terrorist who planted the car bomb in Times Square: "Home-grown, maybe a mentally deranged person or somebody with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something." How do you think NY attendees of Tea Parties and Town Hall meetings who opposed the Healthcare reform bill felt, knowing that's how he sees them? What do you think the odds are that they'll ever listen to another word he says on the subject?
And, of course, if you assume irrational motivations for all your opposition, you won't even try to understand their actual motivations, their real fears. And since you don't understand what they really want, you'll miss all opportunities to find a genuine compromise, or an outside of the box answer. If, for example, you're convinced that all those against the "living wage" proposal are just a capitalist pigs operating on the "I got mine, Jack!" principle, you'll miss opportunities to get their cooperation on other assistance programs that don't trigger their fears of economic backlash.
And lastly, it's just plain unseemly. We're religious bloggers. We're supposed to be the good guys. If we can't discuss an issue without demonizing the opposition, who can? If UU bloggers- including ministers and religious professionals- cannot write with compassion, cannot display any faith in their fellow man, what does that tell the world about UU itself?
*To this day, I cannot understand how polling better before the election than any other candidate of his party since Roosevelt, and getting the highest first-term landslide in a century is evidence of racism. OK, technically, LBJ got a higher vote, but I don't think that counts as he was a sitting president, even though not elected.