I'm not going to debate what happened in yesterday's news. Suffice to say that most of my friends are liberal and are in favor of equal opportunity in marriage. But I've also been around some people who are so vehemently opposed to the idea, based on their Christian beliefs, that they become angry when anyone voices a differing opinion.
The other night we talked about Concept 5 in Al-Anon: The rights of appeal and petition protect minorities and insure that they be heard. I have seen how this concept works in meetings in which each person can feel free to express an opinion without fear of being shouted down. We sort things out through a civilized discourse and follow the group conscience.
I also like to apply the traditions and concepts in my life outside of meetings. I believe in civilized and spirited discussions. But when intolerance and bigoted fear causes people to shut their ears and open their mouths to shout, I am taken aback.
I did some reading and found that Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA, believed in the minority being heard. He quoted a French nobleman, De Touquerville who visited North America to witness the new Republic. As noted by Wilson, the nobleman expressed that, “the greatest threat to democracy would always be the tyranny of apathetic, self-seeking, uninformed or angry majorities. Only a truly dedicated citizenry, willing to protect and conserve minority rights and opinion, could guarantee the existence of a free and democratic society.”
I know that my opinion is not universally upheld. I'm okay with that. But I like the idea of being able to express my opinion. I don't want to be bullied in a discussion or hesitant to speak because I fear an angry majority/minority may ridicule or judge me.
My further reading in the literature about the history of AA tells of a time when the World Service Conference had to decide if gay meetings could be so identified in AA directories. Barry L. described the mood of that 1974 conference as being "dead-set against the idea. Remember that.... gay men and women were spoken of as deviants". He recalled that: “The discussion in 1974 went back and forth, back and forth for two days and two nights. Much of the agenda was whipped out. I remember one man saying, 'I guess if this year you list the sex deviants, next year you’ll list the rapist AA groups'."
Then, "a delightful woman from one of the northern States or maybe Canada, standing about three feet tall, came to the middle microphone and pulled it down to her face and said, ‘Where I come from alcoholics are considered deviants.’ The chairman astutely saw that the mood of the floor had changed and he asked if anyone wanted to call the question. The vote was cast and only two delegates voted against the gay and lesbian groups; it was almost unanimous, 129 votes to two.”
So the words of the minority can sometimes change the minds of others. Or at the very least, help to open the ears and even the hearts so that a healthy debate can occur. As Bill W. wrote: "The well-heard minority, therefore, is our chief protection against a, misinformed, hasty or angry majority.”
I am mindful more than ever of this concept in my daily life. I can remember work meetings where people would become so tyrannical about a point that the table would be pounded and one fellow fell over backwards in his chair out of anger. Life isn't like an Al-Anon meeting. But more and more, I see that I don't need to be fearful of ridicule or judgement when I stand up and express a minority opinion.