Are issues just something to be debated and to pick sides on? Are policies just inanimate things to be debated in a vacuum? Are issues so ambiguous that we can separate them from the people that they affect? Do we really believe that issues and policies only really affect some people and not all people in some way?
When an issue comes up in public debate, it’s rather easy to rationalize an argument – even ones that seem irrational. Humans are really good at rationalizing their reasoning for supporting or opposing something. Just listen to any of the recent debates that fill our airwaves and social media feeds.
Sexual orientation, sexual misconduct, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, transgender people in the military are just a few “issues.” If these issues only remain at the level of issue, then they stay in the realm of partisan politics and are often weapons in a game of power.
In debates on these issues, it is easy for people to end up in the for or against camp, make their arguments in what seems like a vacuum, and go on living one’s life. Because when something is just an issue, it doesn’t have any impact on your life…supposedly. It’s just another issue to be debated that affects faceless, nameless other people.
An issue is something that can be simplified into two clear sides – right and wrong. End of discussion. Anyone who seeing things differently is wrong.
But the problem for the issue comes when issues become humanized – when a face and a life are attached to the issue. Things change dramatically then. It’s no longer abstract without any effect. It’s not a person we are talking about. And the way an issue is decided impacts a life – a real person’s life. But then we also start to see that it’s not just one person’s life that is impacted, but many. Maybe we are open enough to realize that our own life is impacted too as a result – we either build a wall of separation keeping anyone different from us away from our privileged life, or we tear down the wall and see those affected as more similar to us than we recognized before.
When we talk about people, as opposed to issues, we see the messiness of the situation. We see the gray. We see the brokenness of life. It isn’t pretty, or easy, or have a tidy solution wrapped up in a bow. People’s lives are impacted. And people’s lives go beyond simple black and white solutions.
Issues are nice to debate, they can even be fun. But if we leave it at that, then we aren’t seeing the whole issue. We are missing the most important part – people. There’s more to issues than being right. There’s people’s lives at stake.