"If you're trying to persuade people to do something... it seems to me you should use their language." - David Olgilvy
There are things that just make sense to a person, and usually, these are always the hardest to explain to someone else. For instance, the case of Prop 8 being a bad piece of legislation that needs to be done away with is obvious to me. It just makes sense. The same, of course, can be said of someone who feels it's a worthwhile piece of legislation. The problem, as you can plainly see, is what we choose to talk about. A Prop 8 opponent can't tell a Prop 8 supporter that he's obviously wrong, because the supporter wouldn't understand that. Instead, the focus would shift to something different, like the idea of people marrying dogs. We mismatch the arguments and the conclusion.
A Prop 8 opponent would be wise to speak the language of the Prop 8 supporter. Maybe, arguing that Prop 8 is against the church's teachings, or bad for the economy, or bad for schools. A Prop 8 supporter doesn't speak the language of civil rights violation or the conclusion would be as apodictic to everyone involved, and vice versa.
Which is why when "the sign" went up in Olympia, I was angry. Or, disappointed, would be a better word.
You may have heard about "the sign" as part of a larger issue so ignorantly declared a War on Christmas. (I hate that phrase, but I'm unfortunately stuck with it.) It was put on the opposite side of a Nativity Scene on Capitol grounds. It read:
At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no angels, no devils, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
You would be correct if you think that's harsh. I'm an atheist, and while I agree with everything that says, it's unnecessarily rude. (I'd like to point you to The Atheist Experience for a good view on this.)
I'm certain it was rude on purpose. This is an extremely frustrating time of year for atheists, and it's hard not to get angry. Christmas is such a ubiquitous part of our culture, and it's (I do not exaggerate the word) heart-wrenching not to be a part of that, with anger as well as sadness. The atheists that put it up there were angry. The Capitol building grounds, a place representing government, allowed a nativity scene to be put up. They welcomed their arms to it, and it crushes everyone who feels Church and State should be separate. I'm disappointed that there is even a debate as to whether it should be there.
So they put this up to get a reaction. Protesting doesn't mean anything when you represent 5% of the population. Nobody's going to care about the little guy, so let them the little guy is angry. All we have is words, so use them, right?
In addition to the Atheist Experience's view that the message is productive, I would take it a step further and argue that it's not even the same language. Let's find actual common ground on where we can agree.
This business with nativity scenes and holiday trees is getting ridiculous, isn't it? Can we agree on that? Both sides feel that if one religious or holiday scene can be put up, all can be put up. This opens up a hodgepodge of trouble. This is why we're fighting. My argument is that it's just plain simpler to forget the whole thing. That's it. That's all there is to it.
Can we agree that there will never be a solution to this problem? That's true, whether you've realized it or not. There will always be Christians in this country as well as atheists. Bleakly, I suspect we will always be at odds. But can't we also agree that there are much more important things to worry about than a holiday scene on a stupid lawn? If we dedicated half the energy we dedicate to fighting over dumb shit like this, we could accomplish so much.
So, can't we agree that this isn't worth it anymore? I see your point. Hopefully you see mine. But we can't agree. Perhaps, we never will. Let's call it a stalemate or a draw, or hell, you can even call it a win for your side, but let's keep off the lawn and enjoy our own separate holidays.
Please. I'm so sick of talking about this.