On -isms: Maybe a Subtler Approach?

By | Thursday, March 20, 2014 Leave a Comment
In the most recent episode of Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson spent pretty much the whole show talking about evolution. And he brought up all the proofs we have, as well as explaining where some scientists got things wrong. While I wasn't watching the show when it initially aired, I could easily see my Facebook and Twitter feeds light up at the end of the show with praise for the episode, saying how great it was and how it was bound to change the minds of all the evolution-deniers who may have watched it.

Except it won't.

It was a great show, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but with all the proof already out there, do you really think an evolution denier is going to listen to one more guy present the same information? After spending their lives refuting irrefutable facts, what makes anyone think they're going to change their position now?

I read an article recently (which I can't seem to find now) which talked about how the tone of a debate can sway a person's view. If everyone involved kept a reasonable head about themselves, arguments for/against any given position were largely taken on their factual merits. (Obviously, personal bias and self-interests come into play regarding the ultimate decisions being made but people still tend to make rational decisions.) However, if anyone in the discussion starts getting irrational about things -- attacking someone's credibility, general name-calling, tapping into others' fear and anger as a defense, etc. -- then it winds up polarizing people more AND influences more people to reject anything that isn't what they're already comfortable and familiar with.

Which means that if you're talking with someone who's already entrenched in their ideas about, say, homosexuals and much of the rhetoric they've heard from other sources is of the Fred Phelps variety, you've basically got zero chance of changing their mind on things. Anything you say at that point is going to get rejected out of hand.

So there's no hope?

There is. Part of the trick, I think, is to present the argument in such a way that it doesn't seem like you're talking about it. If you simply present something like The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal. Gorgeous art and nice story. Although it has a couple of passing references to being gay, it doesn't really get into the characters' sexuality until chapter 11, and by then, you're hooked into a good story. O Human Star is similar in that respect, plus it's got an interesting sci-fi angle.

Or if that's too much of an issue, hand them something like Batman: Streets Of Gotham or the 2010 Predators comics, both by Marc Andreyko. Maybe Afterlife with Archie or the 2010 Loki series, both by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. After you've discovered they enjoyed those stories, then you can point out that Andreyko and Aguirre-Sacasa are gay.

In any of these cases, you're presenting something a straight, cis-gendered person would find "normal." The homosexual elements aren't down-played per se, but they're just part of the everyday tapestry of life. Just as love is with anyone. Sometimes it's in great focus, and sometimes you have deal with other life shit before you can even think about it. And sometimes it's just too damn early in the morning and you need some frickin' coffee!

It's the same shit we all deal with. And presenting that normalcy to your 'opponents' first brings you into their circle. It shows that we're all part of the same tribe, and have the same crap to deal with. Once they've become emotionally engaged, then present them with "yeah, she's transgender -- didn't you know?" They'll still get pissed, but then they have to go back and reconcile their irrational hatred with someone they like and respect.

But what do I know? I'm a straight, white, cis-gendered male who still recognizes his own privilege. I'm not the audience for that type of thing, nor am I really someone who needs to deal with it. The best I know how to do, at this point, is just to continue to use this forum to talk about things, and maybe catch the people who haven't gotten wrapped up in the hate yet. If you've got other ideas, please feel free to share them!
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