Monday, July 1, 2013

Red or Blue

When I was a child of four or five, red was my favorite color.  I was even Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween one year in a nod to my enthusiasm for all things red.  One day, I asked my mother what her favorite color was.  To my chagrin, she explained that she really like many colors, but that her favorite was probably blue.  I was devastated.  I couldn't articulate it at the time, but I felt that our different opinions divided us somehow--that our inability to agree on what was most beautiful in color drove a wedge between us.

As I grew older, having the same opinions about things as arbitrary as colors became less and less important. Having friends with some divergent ideas became interesting.  But there is still something important about how we connect and feel tied to one another based on similarities of opinion: Our good friends like the same music or books we do, and it confirms a pleasurable feeling in our gut that this person is a good match for us--hence the expression "something in common", which describes that feeling of recognition you get when you find you have the right combination of similarities, like you're home, understood, and somehow not really totally alone.

A recent email conversation with a friend remind me of this recently with the Supreme Court's rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8.  People I love and care about are on both sides of the issue--and I feel a sadness over how divisive this has become.  Of course it is connected to something much more sensitive and profound than colors; those on one side feel a religious duty to protect the notion of marriage and society they believe is ordained by God, and those on the other side feel compelled to protect a marginalized group from injustice and discrimination.  It's hard--perhaps impossible--to reconcile the openly moral judgment of the former against the latter's stance that they deserve the same rights and freedoms.  But I still can't help feeling like there could possibly be some middle ground where the conversation should be somehow safer and more accepting of difference.  I don't think opponents of proposition 8 could entirely escape the hurt and anger they might feel, but perhaps they could see that the intent of all proponents of prop 8 wasn't necessarily discrimination based only on fear, and acknowledge that even those supporting it might feel conflicted.  Likewise, perhaps the proponents of proposition 8 could openly admit understanding for why the other side is so offended, explaining that the response would be justifiable when looking at homosexuality from a completely different stance.  (Because opposition to gay marriage is becoming increasingly unpopular, I actually feel like this second scenario is currently more common, not because of any inherent moral superiority on the side of the pro-prop 8 faction, but simply due to their situation as being in the minority).  This would buck the current cultural trend of bitterly divided political discourse, but how healthy and powerful would it be to actually talk to each other with the intent to understand; so much of public discourse now is merely posturing for one's own supporters--we love hearing our own opinions echoed in the most eloquent discourse, in a more articulate or artistic voice.

Back to the colors of my childhood--I gradually stopped loving red.  Feeling that the red/blue disagreement was an insurmountable obstacle to having a deep connection with my mother, I promptly convinced myself that I liked blue better.  I was so successful that to this day I prefer blue to red.  And I sometimes still wonder how many of my opinions I have arrived at because I have sacrificed, consciously or not, ideas I have arrived at independently for those of the people I most admire and love--not to impress them, exactly, but in order to feel like we are one, and that I am not alone.

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