Using freedoms to vote away others' rights


MR Buxton's responseto the advertisement controversy in the Gippsland media recently is one I've been expecting and dreading since this whole marriage equality process began.

For me, it highlights why we should never have allowed any form of public vote on an issue of equality to take hold.

Mr Buxton writes: "The reaction from the yes case supporters can only be described as vilification, bullying, defamation and it even contained threats of violence towards individuals and groups in our community".

I'm surprised and disagree with Mr Buxton's rigid response and his resulting ways of thinking about this issue.

Seeking to understand how the anger from the "yes campaign" may have arisen could give some insight into its genesis.

It may perhaps be the result of a lifetime of being subjected to exactly what Mr Buxton has described above.

Indeed the threat of violence is something I've lived with for most of my life.

I left home at 14 because I was literally not safe there.

Violence has a lot of different faces. I recognise and have experienced many.

The idea that the civil rights of people like me which deeply concerns our welfare and future can be in the hands of people like Mr Buxton to vote on, is mind-boggling.

That politicians have allowed this to come about through fear and self-interest, is likewise extraordinary.

Politicians are elected and paid well to do an important task.

They have access to and are under an obligation to be knowledgeable about issues like equality in ways that often the general public does not.

Mr Buxton writes: "Freedom of thought, freedom of belief and freedom of speech are principles that we uphold as very important in our democratic society".

When we get down to it, what are thoughts, beliefs and speech?

In this instance they are ways we express individual personal social values, and all of us have a right to such freedoms.

The history of social justice issues, however, reveals two troubling things.

First, public sentiment is not always a good guide to what is right, just or acceptable.

Too often it is sentiment whipped up through the fervour of rallies, in the media, or as a result of the traditions of religious dogma.

Second, a major problem crops up when we put social issues and the personal social values they inspire to a public vote, for there are always competing versions of truth.

Politicians know this, yet they are now claiming that the current process will somehow unify the nation. It's baffling.

Already the water around marriage equality is being muddied, sometimes quite deliberately, as passions and emotions are stirred.

People like Mr Buxton, for example, enjoy all the rights and freedoms that are, by some, being falsely described as currently under threat.

Anybody can belong to whatever, or as many different churches as they choose.

All currently have the right to freedom of speech, religion, politics and to choose when and how they exercise and express those rights.

People have this by virtue of being Australian citizens and it would be virtually impossible for these rights to be rescinded.

They have been part of our nation-building process, and in many ways define who we are.

These issues are not the subject of debate.

They are distractions.

Same-sex marriage, at its core, is an issue of equality and parity.

Same-sex attracted people are not seeking anything more than anyone else in Australia.

They are seeking access to participate equally in society.

At present many seem to be ignoring or overlooking this.

Yet equality in all things is something we, as Australians, have a history of valuing almost sacredly.

Mr Buxton laments and then concludes: "One would have thought that they would have responded with sound and reasoned arguments to support their case".

"This angry reaction from supporters of the yes case have convinced me to vote no."

This is the response I've been dreading most of all.

What Mr Buxton is saying is in effect is "I'm angry so I'll vote no".

He's suspended his reasoning about the issue (the reasoned debate he himself laments) and is now voting spontaneously and emotionally.

For me, this highlights another key problem with allowing personal social values to hold sway in the public space. For Mr Buxton, it seems, his personal beliefs and reactions have now become his defining facts regardless of the wider implications for people like me, or all of us as a nation.

For the Mr Buxtons of this nation, reasoned debate is and may have always been conditional.

This is why a plebiscite of any kind on the issue of marriage equality was always destined for trouble.

Social policy is the preserve of politicians, not the conditional wavering of people like Mr Buxton.

The political cowardice we are witnessing in regard to the issue of marriage equality is breathtaking.

The notion that key social issues can be deferred to a public vote is, put simply, a tragic example of politicians being too fearful or self-interested to do their job.

As a result, marriage equality, whether we like it or not, has become the defining social and political issue of our time.

To be faced with the situation in which someone like Mr Buxton can use the rights and freedoms he already enjoys to vote away the rights of others, like me, seems to reflect deeply on us all as a nation posing larger questions about who we are and where we see ourselves going.

Gippsland Senior
More coming soon!!!