Thursday, May 10, 2012

Yesterday's news

Among some of my friends, we have discussed the vote in NC to ban marriage between two members of the same sex by specifying that a legal union or marriage can only be between a man and woman in the state. The law will also make it impossible for so-called “civil unions” that can afford some legal rights to gay partners, even if it does not carry the same religious and traditional connotations that being “married” would entail.

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.


  1. what a smart woman that was...i def think we have or should have the right for voices to be the majority is not always right...

  2. I believe we are all "deviant" in some way. And as my son said, "Why does the majority get to vote on the rights of the minority? When do gays get to vote on marriage rights for straights?"
    I think there is too much fear. Hopefully, things will change, even in states like NC and FL, especially with leaders like Obama who come out for the right thing- freedom for all.

  3. Which is why I enjoy reading your blog and come back to read how articulately you state whatever your opinion is. I can take what I like an leave the rest.

  4. Good post, Syd. As one of the voters in North Carolina I can say that I was very disappointed with the outcome but I was thrilled that President Obama had the guts to come out in favor of gay marriage. There's way too little love in the world to try to take it away from those who are unlike us.

  5. Do you ever notice the words you use to describe people who disagree with you? Could you take a moment to do that now?

  6. I want to voice my opinion. I am one of those that shy's away from it when I know it's a hot topic. I have two gay brothers. One has been with his partner for over 20 years. I think they should be able to get married in any sense of the word they want.

  7. I'm not sure what the traditions of AA or Alanon have to do with gay marriage, but...

    I do notice the longer we blog the more we express our real opinions. A year ago I would not have written about my belief in God for fear of offending some readers. I sense the same about your blog, and others that have been around a long time. You reach a point where it is more important to be honest, than try to please all the people all the time.

  8. Syd,

    Very good words in explaining a touchy issue.

    I understand that some may have tightly held beliefs about this subject due to various beliefs or information streams. However, no matter what values you personally hold concerning being gay the long and short of it is that every person that is gay is first human.

    Every person deserves the respect of living a life of love in the way they choose or have been born.

    I have been married to a wonderful woman for over 36 years. If two other people love each and want to be married, no matter, man/man, woman/woman or man/woman it will make my life and marriage with my wife much stronger as love grows for all.

  9. MC--the people who voiced their opinions about the issue described themselves when talking to me. And yes, I do take my inventory. When someone is filled with anger, I recognize it as fear based because I have that same emotion.

    Lou--I'm using the polarity of an issue to explain how important concept 5 is. Not many meetings discuss the concepts of Al-Anon or AA. But I do believe that it is important for all sides to be heard both in meetings and in our every day life.

  10. This moved me so much Syd -- it is crucial people be able to voice minority or dissenting opinions without being dismissed or shouted down or labelled.

  11. As the GR for my group, I work very hard in our group conscience to implement concept 5 and ensure everyone has a chance to voice their opinion. There has been a lot of growth in our group because the minority voice is heard.

    I often think when I hear "hot" topic issues being discussed, that only if they used the traditions and concepts, this disucssion might be productive someday, instead of everyone getting angry and driven by fear with the constant cycle of everyone trying to change everyone else's point of view.

  12. Wonderful post, wonderfully written and supported.

  13. I love your honesty and what I learned from you about how the principle... of hearing the minority.. can work in the most heated of situations.

    Imagine calling a gay person a "deviant." In a conference. Wow.

    I sometimes wish that our votes were consensus votes and not "majority" votes. Sometimes a majority vote prevents change.

  14. I'm in complete agreement with the principle of Concept 5. As someone who was also raised in an alcoholic home where the loudest voice won, it's been a very long, and sometimes painful, process to learn to speak up with my own minority opinion. My Al-Anon group has devoted every Friday of every month to the study of the Traditions and Concepts, and the transformation of our group has been amazing to watch. I agree with "Simply Me" that it's too bad the world doesn't adopt these principles--what a freedom we would all experience. Thanks for the topic.

  15. "sic semper tyrannis"... the state motto of Virginia, right? ... My Quaker practice and my 12-step practice have informed each other. In both, we pause to hear all voices and to allow spirit into the discourse.

    Thanks, Syd. /G


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