In his July 23 column, “Let’s ease up on the personal attacks,” Graham Lang made a very good point about public discourse. Intolerance of opinions and beliefs that do not align with our own, and personal attacks on those who express them, discourage participation in the marketplace of ideas, values and policy alternatives and handicap our freedom to thoughtfully consider and choose among them, let alone leave the door open to the possibility of having a friendly and respectful, if not enjoyable, relationship with those “contrarians” with whom we may disagree on some point or other.
It seems to me strange that many Canadians who supposedly decry American style politics/attack ads, have no compunction about resorting to personal attacks themselves when it suits their purpose. Witness Jim Borisenko’s letter on the same page as Graham’s column which consisted primarily of labels and accusations no doubt intended to dissuade anyone who does not agree with him from saying so in the public forum. In resorting to a personal attack, it struck me that Jim actually owns the intolerance he accused me of, not to mention the intolerance, if not outright hostility, he expressed towards the Bible and the Christian church.
And that word “intolerance,” what does it really mean? When people disagree with each other, does that mean they are intolerant? “Intolerant” is a label that infects the whole character of the person accused of it and so ought to be used with utmost caution, if at all. Is it fair to label someone intolerant when the accuser does not even know the person he is accusing? If I were to agree with Jim on issues other than the forcing of a homosexual club on Vanier Catholic School, would he still think me intolerant?
Would it not be better for people who disagree on some issue to simply respectfully say so, preferably with their reasons why, and leave it at that? That was my approach with respect to the department of education’s Safe Schools Policy and with respect to the Vanier students who wore rainbow socks at the school’s graduation ceremony. I did not personally attack anyone and if anyone feels offended or embarrassed by my expressing my views, that is on them, not on me.
As to the instant issue of the department of eduction policy, it remains discriminatory and odious both for its disrespect of the Catholic Christian faith and teaching and for singling out homosexuality for special status in all schools even over individuals and groups that may be experiencing discrimination and safety issues much more serious than any facing those who may think themselves oriented towards homosexuality. A safe school policy is one thing. Kow-towing to a special interest group is another.