Escalation

As a child, I remember reading The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss.  I thought it was funny that people couldn't agree on how to eat toast (although, I also thought it was silly that anyone would insist that the butter be on the bottom as it was eaten).  And, the truth is, that that is a very silly thing to fight over.  Yet, it is the case in the real world that people fight over such silly things.  Obviously, it was commentary on the Cold War.  And many wars (actual wars, with fighting and invasion and everything) do arise because of silly disagreements.  For example, who has claim to the birthright of some particular plot of land.

But what I want to talk about today isn't so much the silliness or the content of the fight itself, but rather the concept of escalation.  Each side of the Butter Battle always tried to one-up the other side, just as the Eastern and Western Blocs tried to one-up each other.  As usual, I point out my own observations and not necessarily scientifically rigorous data on the matter.  But what I have personally noticed is that escalation often happens because each side feels that it is not being heard by the other.

For example, the Westboro Baptist Church.  Their message is that we need to interpret the Bible very strictly and if we do not live by what is written in there, we invite the wrath of God down upon us.  America is not listening to their message.  Several states have passed marriage equality laws, the Congress has repealed DADT, sodomy laws were eradicated a couple decades ago.  They are not being heard.  And so what do they do?  They speak louder.  They make themselves more obnoxious.  They protest funerals.  They pester people during a time of mourning and loss.  Why be so obnoxious?  Well, there are several theories.  They may just be trolling.  But I personally think it's because they feel like they're not being heard and want to make their message more prevalent.

I would offer myself as another example.  My message is that religion has done and continues to do much harm in our society and that the world would be better off without it.  This is not well received.  Nearly all of my acquaintances, friends, family, are religious.  Most of them actually feel that their religion makes them better and that the world would be worse off without religion.  So I speak louder.  I make more posts about the matter.  I make bolder and more extreme posts about it, to grab attention or to be more emphatic.  I really mean it.  I truly do believe this.  Listen to me.  Pay attention to me.  On a couple different occasions, I would even try to pressure my siblings into reading my blog more often or commenting on my posts more often.  I am frustrated at not being heard.  I want people to understand where I'm coming from.

And so radicalism is born.  One party feels one way, another feels another way and each, in the effort to broadcast eir own message, becomes more extreme on the matter.  What I find disturbingly amusing is to see this phenomenon in regards to politics.  When I watched the presidential debates last year, I kept thinking "They agree on just about every issue.  They're fighting with each other while both saying the same thing."  It was weird.  And yet Republicans and Democrats are more at odds with each other now than ever before.  I see so many posts of liberals and conservatives each completely misrepresenting, and in doing so also villifying, the other party.  They hate each other.  And yet the ones which are in office differ in very small ways from each other.

My sister told me that if I want Mormons to take me seriously, I need to talk about good things the church does.  Talking only about the things which I think are bad gives a false perspective of the reality.  If I were to give a more accurate picture, including facets other than those which are negative, I would have greater credibility.  That's probably true.  But I don't speak exclusively on the bad points simply because I want people to think there are only bad points.  I speak on them because I feel like no one is listening to me.  There are plenty of places that one can go--especially if one is an active Mormon--to hear good things about the church.  I think those are excellent sources of information.  If I felt that there weren't many good reliable sources to find things like that, I very well might make a more concerted effort to discuss the "positive things" about the church.  And I don't omit them out of malice.  I omit them because I feel that those things are highlighted well enough on their own and don't need more attention from me.  I say things about the church which are provocative because saying things which are not provocative yield no response.  I want a response from people.  I want to be heard.  I want my message to affect people.

And it seems that the harder one tries to be heard, the more extreme and provocative one makes one's message, the less likely people are to pay attention.  No one takes Westboro seriously, except possibly themselves and a very tiny following.  Even people who believe very strongly that marriage equality should not be put into law still distance themselves from Westboro.  And the more loudly an ex-Mormon points out the things which ey feels need to change within the church, th less likely Mormons are to listen.  As I became more vocal about it on Facebook, more of my Mormon friends unfriended me.  I believe this is what is called shooting oneself in the foot.

The last thing that I want is to make myself a Rush Limbaugh or a Bill Maher.