This Is the Most Divisive Question of the Modern Era

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Question: If you do not directly oppose something, does that mean that you are in support of it or are supporting it?

When someone does not oppose having their cravings met at a Chick-fil-a, does it mean that they support anti-LGBTQIA agendas?

When someone watches a film starring an actor accused of sexual assault or harassment, does this mean that they support his purported actions?

When a professional athlete is accused of domestic violence and the team does not release them immediately, is this a sign that the team does not oppose such violence?

The not supporting is opposing and not opposing is supporting mindset has become the new normal for a portion of our population. To them, real change will only come from overt support of people who push for human rights and equality and overt opposition to those who do not. As such, they see a visit to Chick-fil-a or a bakery that refuses to make a cake for a gay couple as financially or morally supportive of anti-LGBTQIA efforts.

Financial — “Every dollar you give to them is keeping them in business longer or is not going to businesses who support equal rights for all.”

Moral — “Shopping there is demonstrating support or agreement with their values no matter what your actual values are.”

Bottom Line View — “We can no longer divorce our values from where we choose to spend our time, money, and energy. Otherwise, we are protesting injustices at the same time that we are supporting them.”

On the other side exists those who believe that such beliefs are shortsighted and presumptuous. From their lens, our current path to equality and fairness is introducing the same closemindedness that has prevented these very things from becoming a reality. Their moral and financial takes may sound something like this.

Moral —”My love for Chick-fil-a has everything to do with the food and nothing to do with my personal values. I can distinguish the two.”

Financial — “Should I deeply vet every potential place I hand over my money too? If so, I’d likely have nowhere to shop or eat.”

Bottom Line View— “Unfortunately, we are becoming a narrow minded country whose people cannot respect or do business with any company or person that they have value disagreements with”

These two very different views do not tow party, race, or generational lines. When Berkley decided that Anne Coulter could no longer speak on their campus, the not opposing is supporting crowd applauded the decision as a win against hate speech whilst the other side decried it as anti-free speech. This ‘other side’ included liberal Berkley students.

The national stir around any number of these like issues is both rampant and controversial. We will go out of our minds defending one side or the other. The ‘we’ in this scenario is us. When articles were written about lost friendships and divorces over the election of Trump, there was very little pomp. As #MeToo accusations surface, people will go to verbal and philosophical blows over the question of innocent until proven guilty. Bubbling under each of these examples is the question I posed at the beginning: If you do not directly oppose something, does that mean that you are in support of it or are supporting it?

“If you do not directly oppose Trump, you are supporting everything he stands for which, by the way, is in direct opposition to equality towards women and minorities.”

“If you do not directly oppose Clinton, you are supporting the lies and backstabbing that she has gotten away with her entire crooked career.”

“If you do not directly oppose a person accused of sexual assault, you are supporting the continued assault of sexual assault victims.”

“If you do not directly oppose the guilty until proven innocent standard, you are in support of dismantling our entire justice system.”

Whoopi Goldberg recently said, “you have to work with people you don’t like.” — this in reference to Joe Biden commenting on working side-by-side with a known segregationist. Someone else may reply with an absolute, “you do not have to do anything that you are not willing to do.”

Who’s right?

I could agree with Whoopi in that she was referring to a public servant (Biden) realizing that he could not influence positive change without learning how to work alongside people who disagree with his beliefs and values. Someone else with a similar train of thought could add that if we only chose to work with people we agree with, we would quickly devolve from United States to fractured ones.

I also could agree with the person who believes that we work with people and in environments of our own choosing and that our choices will influence said environments going forward. This is what movements look like and we have seen a lack of concessions reshape environments for the better under #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #BlackLivesMatter.

But again, who’s right? Ah, the billion dollar question of questions that can only be answered by each and every single living person who has an opinion. What we know for sure is that pointed statements peer from all sides of any given social topic. Take for instance the varying beliefs pouring from recent abortion rulings in Georgia and Alabama:

“If you do not support the pro-choice movement, you are in direct opposition to the rights of women everywhere”

“If you do not support the pro-life movement, you are in direct opposition to the rights of unborn children everywhere”

“If you do not oppose the pro-life movement, you are in direct support of the dismantling of women’s rights”

“If you do not oppose the pro-choice movement, you are in direct support of the killing of unborn children”

Statements such as these come from people who tire of culture sculptures and neutral stances. As a recent student of mine stated, “we are in the fight of our lives and we don’t have time for mere observers — too much is at stake.”

Such is life in the big city wherein the election of our current President and the subsequent impacts have sent shock and awe through the core of those who oppose his every belief and value. “If we can see fit to elect someone who brags about grabbing women by the p**sy, we have a long way to go, and the time for measured approaches is long gone.” These were the words of an audience member in a speaking engagement I had on American culture in 2019. They reverberated throughout the room and yielded a standing ovation.

Of note, the furor over one Donald J. Trump is not too distant than that some have over the potential electability of Joe Biden. As of today, he is outrunning every other 2020 Democrat by wide margins and it scares the bejeebus out of people who believe that not opposing is supporting and not supporting is opposing. For while he was the vice to one of the most popular presidents of all time, his moderate views and pragmatic approaches to important topics are viewed as archaic and insufficient. The latter is particularly true when it comes to how he responds to his own controversies.

When pictures surfaced that indicated a troubling pattern of touching women in inappropriate ways, he did not apologize and instead defended them as his means of demonstrating warmth and love. While Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders are demanding an apology for his latest comments on segregationists, Biden is staying the course of defending his intent while focusing squarely on election debates. In other words, he is not demonstrating outright opposition to his defense of working with segregationists or his handsy approach to women.

Will this approach prove to be the downfall of his candidacy? This remains to be seen but for some, his front runner status is proof that America is still too tolerant of racist and sexist comforts and undertones. To others, including House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Biden is a crafty statesman with good intent.

Clyburn opined:

“You don’t have to agree with people to work with them”

Pelosi noted:

“I think authenticity is the most important characteristic that candidates have to convey to the American people. And Joe Biden is authentic,” Pelosi told reporters in response to a question about the war of words between the former vice president and Booker.

“He has lived his life, he considers certain things a resource, that he has worked across the aisle. That’s what he was saying.”

In other words, don’t listen specifically to the words but the meaning behind the words.

For those who oppose anything that resembles a vail of support for segregationists, the words mean everything.

This is a difference in interpretation. This is a difference in vision. This is a difference in how American’s see and respond to social issues. Said differences are tearing a hole in the fiber of who we are. This may be a terribly divisive thing or it may be the wake up call that we need in order to get a closer look at who we really are.

With my culture facilitation fedora firmly on, I want the differences. I strongly believe that we need the not opposing is supporting and not supporting is opposing mindset as a forcing function to question long standing views, behaviors, and repercussions that have proven unfair to entire groups of people. As well, we need the other side who will continue to challenge the generalizations and broad brush criticisms that can come from those in the not opposing is supporting and not supporting is opposing camps.

Written by

Certified Master Facilitator / Certified Diversity Executive / Award-winning leader in empowerment and equality.

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