Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Let's All Learn From 'The Fosters' Today...

Last night ABC Family's The Fosters held such an honest and in this day and age brave conversation about differences of opinion and perceived bigotry. It couldn't have come at a more (completely coincidental) perfect time, either. The show was talking specifically about a character's discomfort with his daughter being a lesbian and marrying another woman, but the points they made are ones we should all take to heart when stirring a discussion or having a debate of any kind with someone who doesn't agree with our individual, particular point of view. In the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman's overdose (and you know what, in the wake of that Coca Cola Super Bowl commercial, too), there has been an incredible amount of insensitivity through social media and the more mainstream media in general. Today's technological world has given us all a platform to speak our minds at any given time, and often that creates a whole lot of snap judgements and noise that result in us yelling our opinions and perspectives at each other without listening to anyone around us at all.

The Fosters won't make a blip on today's morning television headlines. It's a shame, but it's because the show is too respectful and therefore really hard to argue with or get mad about. But the point they made and the perhaps inadvertent lesson they gave last night is one we all need to hear and take to heart today.

Stef and Lena were offered a free car by Stef's dad. Stef's dad is a gruff, somewhat old-fashioned man who refers to their relationship and his daughter's lesbianism in general as "a lifestyle". He was not comfortable with his daughter coming out years ago, and their relationship has been strained ever since. He was even uninvited from their wedding because Stef felt he didn't truly support her. And now here he was, trying to make amends the way he knew how or trying to buy her love (depending on who you asked) by offering a free car. The conversation that followed was not just about the car, though, but about the point of view and approach in general.

Lena: "Intolerance works both ways."

Stef: "I'm sorry, exactly how am I intolerant?"

Lena: "You're not, but you're operating under the assumption that we're right and he's wrong...From his perspective, he's right and we're wrong."

When we were in school, we were taught that the proper way to write papers was to present a clear and decisive thesis or argument and show evidence to support our side. It was a way to educate us and teach us how to formulate a logical, rational, calm thought. But we had to acknowledge the opposing argument, too, even if briefly, to explain why we believed our side was correct or more advanced; we couldn't just cross our arms over our chests and huff and yell that it was our way or no way and everyone who disagreed was wrong and worse, stupid for believing what they did. There are reasons people are ill-informed or old-fashioned in their beliefs. We don't have to like them-- after we hear the reasons we don't always have to respect them-- but we have to be willing to hear them in order for everything to be well-rounded.

We may not have to write thesis papers once we graduate (though I would argue that those of us who work in the media have more of an obligation than most to acknowledge multiple sides, sources, and comments), but that doesn't mean we shouldn't still apply the same parameters and principles to the conversations we have in our real, daily lives. Understanding the other side of the argument actually helps you further develop and firm up your own stance, but it also helps you understand your fellow human beings. We're all flawed, but if we could all work together toward being a little less ignorant, intolerance would slowly but surely start to slip away, too.

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