Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On Dialogue

"I am not trying to create dialogue."

Coming from someone who holds very negative strong opinions about LGBT people, I cannot think of anything more sad to hear than someone's admission that his blog does not exist for the exchange of ideas and opinions.

People write blogs for many different reasons, and I respect many of the reasons that people create their own online spaces. What, for me, started as a somewhat self-indulgent exercise in political venting has turned into something that I've toned down a bit while, I hope, still retaining a critical edge. For one, even though my pieces can be quite critical, I try not to say anything that I would not say to someone in person. While blogging, I have been the target of very abusive personal attacks- attacks that I believe would not have occurred had I been engaging in, say, a face-to-face academic debate. However, rather than letting those experiences harden me, I continually use them to remind myself that real human beings are on the other end of my critiques, even though I cannot see their faces when I write. Even if some of the writings I critique are quite tool-ish, I continually try to keep the focus on the toolishness of what various people write, rather than the perceived toolishness of the writer.

Two, I have come to have a better appreciation for the humbling and rewarding experience of learning why others think what they do via the exchange of ideas and opinions, especially those with whom I disagree. Once those on all sides of a conversation shelve the personal attacks, respectful ans sincere dialogue can be quite insightful. That's not to say that dialogue necessarily changes one's mind; that doesn't have to be the point. However, it can render a better understanding of the "other side's" position and remind us all of our shared humanity.

Reading some of the vehemently anti-gay, anti-liberal websites that I read, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that some bloggers take a quite different tone when actually conversing with the targets of their animus. I have found more than a few people I disagree with to be quite capable of respectful dialogue and I believe that, in my own small way, I have chipped away at their erroneous caricatured perceptions of what All Gay/Feminist/Liberalish People are like even when they choose to "ignore" my comments at their blogs.

Euripides, the blogger whom I quoted above, is one who I have found to be respectful when he has chosen to substantively engage an issue. He has a sense of humor and in the past has been willing to listen to what those on the "other side" have to say. Unlike others who I have engaged with in the past, he has not ridiculed, mocked, or misrepresented my words and intentions at his blog. That's why, while I respect his choice, I find it unfortunate that he has professed a disinterest in creating dialogue over at his blog. Although, maybe it is just a given, at a blog entitled "Self-Evident Truths," that all information he posts is true and, therefore, requires no further conversation.

But more seriously, part of the reason that I read and comment on anti-gay/anti-liberal blogs is because I find it enriching to go beyond echo chamber participation. I do appreciate a consensus as it helps to build a sense of community; but I believe that our characters and our own "self-evident truths" are most tested when we engage with people who have different opinions and ideas about important things. Dialogue is hard, especially via the internet with people one doesn't know. Obstacles include that-all-too human unwillingness to put away the ego-satisfying desire to publicly "win" a conversation, the hesitancy to trust someone on the "other side," and that all-too pervasive inability to communicate well and with precision. Yet, whenever I write a critique of another blogger's commentary, it is my sincere hope that the author will, at least, consider what I have said and, at most, respond and perhaps venture to my blog for a civil discussion.

At it stands, I have seen a real lack of accountability when it comes to the inaccuracies that professional and amateur anti-gay bloggers create and promote. I fear that, when LGBT bloggers expose the dishonesty of the anti-gay industry, the anti-gay industry and bloggers present our critiques as more proof that we are being "mean" to them or are just being "intolerant" of their opinions. I have found that some people believe that they are entitled to their own facts, as well as their own opinions. Within such a worldview, pointing out inaccurate "facts" is akin to not tolerating their religious, moral, or political beliefs.

But more often than not, anti-gay bloggers and those whose incomes derive from their anti-gay messages fail to address charges of dishonesty at all. Without acknowledging their errors, they ignore critique and all charges of inaccuracy whilst simultaneously pointing their long fingers at how others ("homosexuals," namely) are immoral. I sincerely question whether such folks are interested in creating dialogue, as well. Perhaps presenting an "other" side that counters The Gay Agenda trumps presenting evidence that is accurate and true.

That's why the purpose of my critiques here has never been to scold people, but rather to correct dishonesty, inaccuracy, and misinformation about LGBT people when I find it in the hopes that I can appeal to the reason of at least some people who oppose the so-called Gay Agenda. Many of the people promoting untruths about LGBT people are educated and many of them claim to be religious folks of upstanding moral values. Accordingly, I see a real disconnect between the public presentation of these selves when coupled with the uncritical promotion and/or creation of blatant dishonesty.

I hold out hope that dialogue can help me reconcile that disconnect and, in my heart of hearts, I sincerely hope in my own small way to keep criticisms of LGBT people grounded in reality, fact, and truth.

Nobody wins this "culture war" when people remain within the safe, repetitious cults of agreeability.

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