I'm thinking of this song by the Soup Dragons right now because it really fits a conversation I had earlier today (it's called I'm Free)
I was chatting with a friend earlier today about freedom of thought and how it's actually a bit hard to be completely honest about your feelings with everyone. No, I'm not talking about being a liar and withholding factual information, I'm talking about following the crowd because that's what the crowd wants. You could call it groupthink, if you want.
We were specifically talking about gay marriage. I'm pretty ambivalent about the issue. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, it's a non-issue for me. It doesn't affect my everyday life and I don't think it's a big enough issue that people in high places need to make definitive statements regarding it. My friend was pretty ambivalent about it too until recently. We didn't really get into his current opinion, but we did quickly agree that his recent change in opinion was because of the nature of the "left" in San Francisco (more generally, the Bay Area).
Here's where following the crowd comes in. You're expected to be for gay marriage because if you aren't you're a homophobe, a racist, a pig. Whatever you want to call it, you're not cool. And that's actually what my friend was focusing on. He just didn't like the fact that it wasn't cool to disagree with the general opinion on the issue.
This is something that's thrown back and forth between the Left and Right all the time. Neither side is all too tolerant of opposing ideas. They say college campuses (and the blogging universe) are the foundation of liberalism. They say talk radio is the bastion of conservative thought. If you're in college it's tough to be openly conservative. If you're on talk radio, it's tough to be liberal.
Of course, I've got no point here :) I'm just reminding folks of this fact. If you read this and decide to be more open to other people's thoughts, then great. If on top of that you want to re-but their arguments with solid facts, even better. If you don't wish to pay attention to any of this, you can just wrinkle up your face and blame the media and their sound bites :)
What do I do? Well, I generally let the person talk and give an internal shrug if I don't agree. I tend not to express my opinion back. Why? Because I've found that people are very proud of their opinions and I'm not in any position to challenge their pride. In fact, most of my opinions are not built solid facts so who I am to stop someone and make them re-think? The most I do is let the other person know that there are other opinions out there and try to explain why those people have a valid opinion as well.
Anyways, just food for thought. If nothing else, it's just interesting to recall the times when you've recently been faced with this whole thing. It happens to me less now that I live in San Jose and people are pretty much just concerned with their own suburban lives, but when we lived in San Francisco it was pretty evident every time I walked down the street.
Give it some thought. Then see if you'd change your behavior or not. It's a good self-check.