COLUMN: Column response unexpected
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 13:02
My last opinion column appears to me to have caused quite the stir. I have received several emails in support of my position and several denouncing it. One thing has been made abundantly clear: I cannot take a shotgun approach to such important issues. I was trying to cover three important topics — pornography, promiscuity, and homosexuality — at once, in response to previous articles published in The Statesman. I merely was stating my position on these issues with the whole-hearted intention to move forward into subjects less discussed and less sensationalized.
It has been made quite clear to me that this was unwise. On such important issues, one must elaborate. Needless to say the debate has been far less than civil in many cases, though, I hope this is not the case with those who agree with me. What I mean to say is I may be opposed to homosexuality, pornography, promiscuity, drug use or anything else, but that doesn’t mean I think people who do these things are of no value or deserve to be discarded. However, I must also be very clear that it doesn’t mean I endorse in any way the behavior itself.
Let me give you an example. Contrary to the apparently popular belief, I am not actually from Utah. I grew up in Missouri where promiscuity, drug use and especially drinking are the norm. Do I support or endorse any of these things? No, of course not. Did I have, and do I still, have friends who do? Absolutely. In fact, a year or two after high school a friend of mine who is gay needed a place to live. I had no extra bedroom but told him he was welcome to my couch. We cleared out our storage closet to give him space to put his things. He was grateful for the offer and moved in.
My friend Jim — not his real name — is gay. Yes, he is a homosexual. Did that bother me? I’ll admit it did a little bit, but not because I’m a homophobe or because I hated him. If so I wouldn’t have let him live in my house. Yes, he is gay, yet we still went to ball games, movies and out to eat. We still blew things up and went paintballing and did all of the things everyone else does. Does any of that mean I had to endorse what I felt was inappropriate? Did I have to let him bring his boyfriend home to get feisty? Of course not, and neither should you. I didn’t support Jim and I won’t support anyone else for that matter in premarital sexual acts regardless of gender, but that doesn’t mean I would kick them to the curb either.
We have to learn, myself included, to be better at treating people as people. We have to see and respect others for who they are and not what they do, even and especially when they have different views than our own. At the same time, the most important thing, perhaps, is to have civil discussion. Debates such as this are often polarizing. In many ways that can’t be helped, but in some ways it can. Try to be a light to your friends without condemning them. I will do my best to do the same.
Many readers, particularly those who emailed me a less than cordial response, may not believe that. You are free to believe what you will. This is my stance: I do not believe in “gay rights.” I do not believe in “women’s rights.” I do not believe in “African-American rights” or any other kind of “group” rights. To view an individual through generic labeling is divisive and derogatory. A right is something that every single human being has simply by virtue of being a human being. If you accept that the government can grant you rights then you must accept the corollary that the government can take them away. Instead, we must recognize that rights are given to us by God and governments are instituted to protect them. Therefore, we should all advocate rights for ALL people, including life, the ability to protect our families, bearing arms and property, for example.
Now here is the rub: How can we, myself included, recognize and help to protect the rights of all individuals and yet not sustain what we consider to be immoral? The answer is simple. We treat others as we would want to be treated. Would I want someone to have an honest, civil and sincere conversation with me if they thought I was doing something detrimental to myself? Sure, but ultimately I would want them to leave the choice to me. Would I want them to discard me completely if I chose contrary to their beliefs and standards? No, of course I wouldn’t.
So this is my suggestion: Let’s have a real, honest and open dialogue with our friends and neighbors on any side of any issue. Let’s keep it civil, calm and open-minded while recognizing we need not throw away our standards in an attempt to conform in the process. Let’s just do our best to treat people with love and respect.
–Richard Winters is a senior majoring in Law and Constitution Studies and Communication Studies. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org