approved protest only

A to Z challenge, theme: anatomy, day 13: M
Flash fiction, 100 words 

Tyler stepped up to the microphone and opened his mouth to speak. His eyes scanned the small crowd before him, wondering if the gathered folks could tolerate, much less actually consider, his vital message.

Freedom of speech only applied if you were in compliance with approved themes and virtues. Anything outside the accepted conventions could be shunned, derided, and lead to loss of friends or family, job loss, arrest, or worse.

Tyler took in the well-meaning but empty eyes. He noticed the ever-present police politely stationed around the fringes of the group. 

He would look for another way.

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compassion, respect, dignity

In these times of fear, worry, and stress, it is really more important than ever that we demonstrate compassion, respect, and dignity. It helps us all if we can do that.

So it makes me sad when I read or hear vehement rhetoric concerning various issues that only serves to alienate and to shut down meaningful dialogue.  Yesterday, once again, I ran into a diatribe in which folks holding minority opinions on vaccines were written off as “anti-vaxxers” and in a very negative way. In the typical step further, too, they were dismissed as stupid.

It’s a pretty basic phenomenon that intolerance does not win hearts and minds. Nor are censorship, thought policing, and shunning markers of a healthy society.

The people being written off this way are just like anyone else finding their way through these difficult times. They have families and friends they deeply care about. 

There are a multitude of reasons why they may hold the position they do.  It’s not outlandish to consider them just because media, government, corporations, and the people around you espouse and promote a single point of view. The skeptics are just as much entitled to their opinions as anyone else, and sometimes well-buttressed with research too.

I can’t help but wonder if the folks doing the dismissing aren’t subconsciously and fearfully questioning the security of their own position. Such a person “doth protest too much, methinks,” borrowing from Shakespeare. Or, perhaps, there is simply a very strong need to put their virtue or their presumed intelligence on display. Or maybe it’s just groupthink.

And if you want to complain that the vaccine hesitant folks (or those with other similarly marginalized opinions) are the ones who are trolls, perhaps give some consideration to the notion that some of them are noisy because they are never given a real hearing. Vaccine skeptics have been vilified for decades with support from corporate media and government.

The skeptic’s position is perfectly legitimate in the context of “science.” Science necessarily involves skepticism, questions, doubts. It drives ever-closer looks at things. Science is not good science without it. The person who insists “the science is settled” especially in the midst of a huge, long-term experiment apparently does not understand science.

Regardless, whatever side of the fence a person is on relative to any issue, let us move past all the righteousness and approach each other with fundamental respect and compassion. We all have to get through this thing, through life indeed, together. We will be a healthier and stronger society if we can do that on this issue and others.

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