Can’t we just talk about it?

Yet again, the depressing reality that we’re apparently no longer allowed to talk about our differences has been reinforced–so good luck to us in ever solving any of this stuff. We’re seriously going to need it.

These smug, lazy new ground rules were made freshly obvious last week after Green Party leader Elizabeth May told CBC’s Power and Politics host Vassy Kapelos that she couldn’t control whether or not a member of her party might reopen the abortion issue because the Greens don’t whip votes or silence members. The party had dialed that back before the day was out, putting out a statement that there was “zero chance” any member of the party would want to revisit the question.

May, who says she is firmly pro-choice herself, confirmed the zero-chance position later, saying that–absence of whipping and silencing aside–there are no Green Party members who would raise the issue because there are vetting measures in place to weed such people out at the door. She went on to say that if any had somehow danced their way between the vetting-measures raindrops and into the tent, she’d recommend that they be booted from the party.

That is one rapidly evolving position, and, while this is unlikely to be a widely shared opinion, I’m going to suggest that it’s unfortunate that any backpedaling was considered necessary. That’s not disagreement with the pro-choice position that prompted so many to respond negatively to May’s original statement. It’s weariness with the all-or-nothing, over-the-top, way the response was presented. The way responses to anything we disagree with are almost always framed these days. On both sides of any question.

Like religion for example. In the same interview, asked who she’d identify as her personal hero, May quickly and without overthinking (read: being real) answered “Jesus Christ”.

She then just as quickly–and very weirdly–apologized for her apparent faux pas, right before upping the weird ante by explaining that she felt the need to apologize for having beliefs that aren’t currently on the menu at any acceptable political table because the Green Party is “inclusive and all-embracing”. So, just in case there’s any doubt that that made zero sense, May felt she should apologize for including the beliefs she embraces because… right, good luck to us, indeed. There’s no bias involved here, by the way, I don’t believe in any of the gods, although many of the better people I know do. This is just broken because it’s broken. Because redacted statements are guaranteed to include everything you don’t need to know, and not much else.

This may just be delusional nostalgia, but it really does seem that there was a time not so long ago when we routinely held widely different positions on issues, debated them vigorously and even angrily, and then went about our business, never once making the now commonplace leap to such conclusions as that our neighbours were fascists or into murdering babies or whatever other wild-eyed, hyperbolic nonsense.

This is, of course, mostly a social media phenomenon. Nobody’s hurling these sorts of accusations as they wait in line at local stores. But it would be a big mistake to assume that that means that this isn’t a real problem. That social media conversation, if you can call it that, is happening non-stop while we’re busy being civil in our face-to-face encounters, and it is defining the boundaries of acceptable discourse in places where it really matters–like the halls of political power–in a pretty dysfunctional way.

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