Like heat, pressure and speed, does opinion have magnitude? Does opinion have character?
For example, does a visitor from North Dakota, sitting next to his friend in Bloomington, have the same intensity, the same degree of unrestricted loyalty and enthusiasm as his host who is an Indiana University alum, former athlete and donor? They both support the Hoosiers, but not with the same magnitude.
Sports is one thing. What about gun control? The arguments favoring methods to restrict distribution of murderous weapons appear intellectual, somewhat low key, and based on experiences in other nations. Wait. Did I say “murderous,” a powerful word? Yes, but the word defines the discussion between firearms used for sport and self-protection compared to arms having a single purpose: to kill human beings. Control advocates want only to keep murderous arms away from criminals, the mentally ill, and radical militias. The intensity of opinion is moderate.
Not so with gun defenders. They rise to glorious levels of constitutional interpretation while arguing vehemently that shootings will stop if any school teacher or pedestrian can instantly withdraw their concealed weapon to stop a threat of violence. They also pull out colorful language to hypothesize that any restriction on guns will ultimately result in an across-the-board ban on all guns everywhere though no person is asking for that. Is it thus fair to say that advocates of gun control have a lower magnitude of temperamental opinion than do defenders of unlimited rights to carry weapons? My view? Absolutely!
Another hot spot in our national conversation is abortion. On one hand, no one advocates abortion. No person conceives in order to abort. No person wants to face the decision. No business entity creates essays, political statements or advertisements declaring that abortion is a good thing. It is not a good thing. Everyone suffers: fathers and mothers, parents, siblings and friends. Still, they want the right to choose. They want the status quo, the right to make a decision to abort and availability of honest and reliable providers. On the opinion magnitude scale, theirs comes in around four.
Not so with opponents. They scream, yell, and pull out false statistics and doctored movies. They state as fact an unprovable theory about when embryos and fetuses experience pain. They protest in public with large signs and loud-speakers. On the opinion magnitude scale of 1-10, their expressions run to 10. If intensity were a game, abortion opponents would win: 10-5.
Persons in the LGBT community ask only for equal rights. They do not make a moral or biological argument that being homosexual is a good thing; they do not promote it as a lifestyle. Instead, they accept themselves, recognize awkwardness that might arise, and try to quietly live their lives in a fair and equitable legal and social context. Magnitude of opinion? Three, maybe four? Their opponents, however, are neither quiet not complacent. Groups campaign to prevent expanding the definition of marriage. Legislators pontificate. Laws and constitutional amendments are introduced. Most shocking of all, a knowledgeable friend tells me that in rural areas of some states, the lives of LGBT persons are constantly in danger. Combining all of the declarations of opponents, the violence of the past and possibly of the present, the magnitude of opinion rises to 10.
Compromise. Compromise. Compromise. That is the heart of peace in the body politic, and compromise is possible only when the magnitudes of opposing opinions are approximately equal, when all sides respect the opinions of others, and balance becomes the watchword of public policy.