Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Culture Wars 2: Up is Down

One thing I'm realizing is that as I attempt to discuss relevant cultural issues with those of diverse opinions is that the words I use may be the same words they use yet the meanings have changed.

I'm a baby boomer, so for me words meanings go back to at least what they were in a generation past.  Not long past, but past.  But as we saw and heard in President Clinton's term, "is" may not mean "is" anymore to some.

Apparently the same is true with terms that are being hashed out in the cultural debates in 2012.  Here's what I've noticed.  In 2012...

..."Tolerance" means agreement.  If you disagree with me you must be intolerant.  Back in the day "tolerance" meant I may not agree with you.  I may think you are dead wrong.  But I'll respect your right to disagree.

..."Disagreement" means "hate".  If you disagree with me you hate me.  I grew up believing that it was possible for friends and families to love one another yet be on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Today's mantra is "Don't hate", which simply means, don't disagree and please don't verbalize that disagreement.  I still believe it is possible to disagree on major issues politically and morally and not want to kill the person you disagree with.  In fact, I think you can and should love even those you with whom you disagree.

..."Love" means acceptance.  If you love me you'll let me.  If you love me then you'll let me do my thing, whatever it might be, and respect my right to do it, even if you think it's wrong.  Yet my parents often stopped me from making major mistakes while growing up because of their love for me.  Love in my day didn't mean you didn't confront someone.  We believed in something called "tough love" if it was necessary.  Love didn't mean "I'm OK and you're OK".

..."Judge" means disagree.  If you disagree with me you're judging me, and everyone knows Jesus even said not to do that.  If you're judging me it means you think you or your opinion is better than my own.  There was a time in this country when to "judge" meant to use common moral sense about right and wrong.  And so, we made judgments - moral evaluations based on a greater, higher authority than our own.  Some call them "absolutes".  We believed them so deeply we were willing to stand up and protest.  But absolutes have gone the way of Blockbuster Video.  Seen one of those lately?

For example, there was a time when murder was always wrong (an absolute) because life was sacred (another absolute).  But then we began to redefine and water down those absolutes so that even the criminal became acceptable.

Abortion and assisted suicide somehow became acts of love.  Selfish love, perhaps, but we determined culturally that they were no longer wrong.  To speak out against them was judgmental, intolerant and hateful.

So, it becomes increasingly difficult to debate a point when the other person in the debate is essentially speaking a different, redefined language.  Hence the feeling of frustration.  Up is down when I think it is still up.    

I guess we'll have to learn to be bi-lingual if we're ever going to make sense.  And would someone please notify Webster of the changes?

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