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Monday
August 15th, 2022
L&T Opinions Page

earl wattL&T Publisher Earl Watt

 

Now that the polls are closed and the issue of the Value Them Both Amendment will be decided by the time this prints, I can address some of the outright hate and vitriol that is continually pushed by a handful of trolls.

I don’t know if the amendment passed or not at this point. We will report the election results on our website tonight once the vote has been counted.

And we have seen on these pages that people on both sides of the issue have clear reasons why they believe the Kansas Supreme Court should have the ability to create a right that isn’t written or whether the controversial issue of abortion should have some restrictions.

This idea that supporting the unborn, however, is actually meant to control women is absolutely asinine.

I can understand, even though I disagree, why some people want to keep abortion legal. I know when considering circumstances of a young mother facing financial challenges, attending college or high school, living in tough conditions, or just being poor, the choice of abortion seems to be the right one.

I’ve never denied the argument.

Where I differ is the loss of a human life. A reasonable person can disagree with my assessment that an unborn child can feel pain. They can deny the unborn child  the concept of being an individual since they are completely dependent on the mother. They can make those cases just as much as I can make the case that life begins at conception and that the unborn child has unique DNA making it a separate being worthy of legal protection.

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But one online troll claimed that opposing abortion makes you a “forced birth cult.” They claim that being pro life “is not and has never been about saving babies or pro life. It’s about controlling women.”

When I responded to a very well-intentioned letter from Sherrie Harrison supporting a No vote, this same online troll replied, “Notice Watt just can’t publish something that makes a good case for something he disagrees with. He has to follow up with forced birth rhetoric.”

Online trolls don’t bother me. If they did I would simply ban them and not allow their hatred under virtually every column I write.

But I believe in the freedom of speech and allow the hateful trolls to spew their venom. I’d rather be the target than other good people who just don’t want to expose themselves to this type of hate and vitriol.

There’s plenty of room to disagree on this issue, but online trolls don’t have the courage to show respect to the other side. Because if they can dehumanize an unborn child, they can certainly dehumanize anyone that disagrees with their world view.

And that’s where we are today.  We simply devalue and dehumanize anyone who disagrees with our politics.

I’m proud Sherrie Harrison shared a view that was different from my own. It also shows how differently many of us see the role of the Kansas Legislature and the Kansas Supreme Court. I hope to continue to have those conversations as we continue to seek a more perfect union and an improved state.

Many will disagree with my views, and I will disagree with theirs, but that does not and should not make us enemies.

It takes more courage to understand that both sides are trying to do what they believe to be right than to simply vilify the opposition.

Online trolls don’t know or understand this and that’s why they sit at a computer keyboard and just rail against anyone who disagrees with them.

I respect Sherrie Harrison because she kept the debate on the issue, not on the people who disagree.

Trolls never do that. They immediately attack the person. Again, it’s much easier to try to dehumanize a person than to listen to their reasons for seeing the issue differently.

The other tactic of the online troll is to try to determine the “real reason” someone believes the way they do. 

Clearly I don’t care about unborn children. I just want to control women. That’s how the troll somehow uses divine understanding. The reason is clear, if I truly care about the unborn, how do you really combat that? It makes it much more difficult to attack a person who really does care about unborn children. So they immediately ignore that issue altogether.

I never ignored that those who disagree with me are concerned about the women facing an unwanted pregnancy. It would be easy to simply say they are heartless and don’t care about children. But I never did that. When we dehumanize, we can do anything to anyone.

Racists dehumanize others. Online trolls dehumanize others. It’s a tactic to justify hate.

We face a crucial time in our nation when our leaders are starting to dehumanize the political opposition. They describe each other as “evil,” “dangerous to democracy,” and “a threat to our nation.”

We have survived Democratic presidencies, we have survived Republican presidencies, and we can survive even more if we stopped the dehumanization of those who want a better tomorrow, they just have a different plan for getting there. We can all discuss the issues if we have the courage to remain on topic rather than villainize and dehumanize the opposition. We might even find areas where we can agree or at least understand why someone has a concern about a different view.

We used to agree to disagree and respect one another.

Trolls never do. 

I can take it. I wonder if America can.