I listened recently to a conversation between two people who have played a significant historical role in the peer/human rights movement (I apologize if that is a politically incorrect term). Both have been involved for many years at a national and state level. They talked about being burnt out, but more than that sad and maybe a little bit disillusioned. They thought the movement that meant so much to them was dying. It wasn’t being killed by psychiatry or by any other adversarial forces. They were no longer convinced that we could survive each other.
Since the 60’s I have watched more than one group, more than one movement either collapse or simply evolve into impotency and irrelevance. The culprit is normally the same. They split, they evolve different denominations, and find the people they are in the most passionate battle with is the same as those who at one time seemed to want the same thing they do. To one degree or another advocacy becomes cannibalistic. We eat our own.
Is that going on now? I don’t know. Several weeks ago I wrote a post about what I saw as a progressively negative and attacking stance that many people who identify with this movement were taking towards others. There seemed to be a rising battle and demand for orthodoxy and coming from people who were about human rights and freedom that seemed to be very disturbing.
Perhaps I was wrong. The reaction I have gotten since then from most people was that I was not. More than one person told me they had to be careful about public statements for fear of attack from those who disagreed with them. One person wrote: “It is not just that they attack what I say. That is okay. They attack who I am. They question my motives, my honesty and my integrity. And that is not okay.”
One person told me that a certain Facebook group was not on safe. I asked her what she meant. “I told them treatment had helped me. They told me I was delusional.”
There is a point where people who argue and attack each other with gusto and passion become unable to argue for anything. Everything becomes about victory. Nothing is about change.
I don’t know. I really don’t know. But I am concerned. And I wonder if you are too?
When people talk to me privately the words they often use are “it’s become so mean… So intolerant.”
Everything I have been told by people I trust and believe have more access to information that I ever had tells me the Murphy Bill is not going to happen this year. It is late in the year, much needs to be done to even reach resolution on any proposal and the legislative process (as all of us have noticed) is not exactly effective or conclusive. Not much really happens. And with the presidential campaign and the possibility of some trying to shut down the government to prove a point about Planned Parenthood focus on anything may be in short supply.
All that may be totally wrong. Events may change everything and it is certain Tim Murphy is not going to give up because the time is running late.
I have also been told that it will be much harder to stop this next year. Leadership in the Senate may get behind some proposal and as long as it doesn’t give one presidential candidate some kind of political advantage it may be hard to stop. Perhaps the presidential campaign may buy us another year. It is all guesses from where I sit.
But what will we do? Will we be an effective voice? Will we get so caught up in the battles that we forget the war? I don’t claim to know the answers to any of this. I am concerned and I believe there is reason to be concerned. And if I am wrong I am relieved.
A final word from another friend: “The biggest problem with the Torrey people is that they think there is only one story…. Their story. And they are so wrong. This is not just about one thing…. One truth. I fear that many on our side believe the same thing. There is only one story and it is theirs. The truth of your story need not threaten the validity of mine. Treatment can work for you but it does not mean it was not a harmful poisonous thing for me. And I wonder if we do not welcome all truths if in the end we have any. ”
If this all seems a silly concern to you I encourage you to ignore everything I have said. If this seems an attack to you it is not intended to be that way and should you decide to come hunting for my head please be a little gentle. But in the end I don’t think my head solves any of your problems. If you are worried too know that your concerns are shared. I don’t know the answer. But maybe part of the answer is first asking the question. Perhaps that is a good place to start.