I am a member of all kinds of social networking groups fighting against hate groups. Against the policies of hate. But I’m noticing a growing pattern, of answering hate with ridicule or more hate. It’s always been there of course, it’s actually quite hard to avoid, because hate groups are just so bloody ANNOYING. But there’s a kind of ridiculousness about it, that undermines the whole attempt at good. And in the social networking arena it's becoming more and more common.
You see I have a pretty strong set of beliefs regarding human rights. I believe all humans are created equal, it’s your actions that define your worth. I believe that religion should stay away from politics. I believe that the government should keep its nose out of religion (unless a religious group is breaking the law of the land). I think that rights granted to one human should be granted to all. I believe that it’s possible to forfeit those rights. I believe that race, religion, sexual orientation, occupation, wealth, education, disability (there’s probably a lot more, I’m too brain dead to think of) make no difference to a person’s intrinsic value and that none of those things should affect their rights. And a bunch of other things related to all of that. I believe gay people should have the same right to marry and raise children as straight people. I believe women should have as much freedom as men. Yada yada, ad nauseum - equality for everybody.
There’s this whole other group of people who believe things that are totally contrary to my beliefs. I don’t like the things those people believe. But I do understand that those people are just as entitled to their beliefs as I am. I don’t have to like their beliefs, I do think it’s important to accept that they have them. Debate is healthy, it’s a good thing to have all sides opinions known, and to be willing to discuss those opinions. But it is not OK to force other people to follow your beliefs just because you don’t like theirs. It’s not ok to force people who don’t share your beliefs to live by them.
Every day, I watch the social networks roll. I have a lot of time on my hands – chronic illness is a bitch. Every day I watch the people who are claiming to abhor hate, hating on the people they are against. How can you claim the moral high ground when you are throwing THE SAME slings and arrows? It’s hard to remove yourself from the argument but it’s important to understand that as strongly as you feel about your beliefs, that’s how strongly they feel about theirs. Trying to force your beliefs on other people is not OK. From either side. They want you to believe the same things they do. If you want the moral high ground, it isn’t enough to believe you are right. You have to accept that they also believe they are right and that the thing we need to change or stop are not their beliefs but the things that are removing civil rights from others. The things that are forcing other people to have less, simply because they are different. I hope that people will change their minds about these things, and come to understand that equality has to be above beliefs. Because there are too many different belief sets to satisfy everyone.
The understanding that needs to come is that we are ALL different (I’m not*). That people are entitled to have different opinions. The thing they are not entitled to is to make other people’s lives LESS by their beliefs. This is why government needs to be entirely separate from religion. Because as long as we’re all believing a load of different things and squabbling with each other about them, someone needs to be able to smack everyone on the nose with a rolled up newspaper and decide the FAIR thing. Without bias. I don’t think that politicians need to abandon their beliefs, but I do think they need to be able to set them aside when making decisions that affect everyone.
So if we want to be taken seriously in the fight against hate, we must contain our ire. We must respect the others beliefs, and expect them to raise their game to meet ours. Why should they listen to us if all we yell at them is ‘DO IT OUR WAY’, that’s what they’re telling us and we don’t like it. We must explain our position and make it clear we are not asking them to change their beliefs only asking that they give us the same respect. We are not asking them to change the way they live, just to be allowed to live our own way.
Freedom. Everybody wants it, but we don’t have to take away other peoples freedom to achieve it.
*sorry, obligatory Life of Brian joke.