The first was a letter to the editor of the Times of Ticonderoga from a Boy Scout leader, Charles Smith, arguing passionately against the inclusion of gay men and boys in scouting culture.
“I urge every scout leader and parent to resist to the fullest extent of your ability [the involvement of gay men and boys],” Smith wrote, “and let national headquarters in Texas know of your resistance.”
The second was an editorial written by Denton Publications publisher Dan Alexander, arguing in favor of public prayer before meetings of the Essex County board of supervisors.
“The concept that we are “One nation under God” continues to be challenged by groups offended by the concept that so many hold dear,” Alexander argued.
These views are laid out sincerely, confidently, and in both cases there is an underlying assumption that the normal framework of American life is under attack.
What’s fascinating is that so many people see this with equal sincerity, and equal confidence, entirely differently.
Their view of a normal, moral America is one in which gays and lesbians are treated with equality.
In this other America, Christian faith has no place framing civic business in a society where growing numbers of citizens are non-Christian or non-religious.
This reflection isn’t particularly new or fresh. But every once in a while it strikes me anew just how far apart on these issues good and decent and well-meaning people are.
We lament our polarized politics, but the truth is that we are a polarized society.
That well-meaning scout master doesn’t want gays at his events, or taking part in his programs. He sees people who want to change those rules as aggressors, and sees himself as part of a noble resistance.
There are equally well-meaning people who see him as a bigot, who interpret his stance as hateful and would balk at the idea of Mr. Smith serving as a mentor for their children.
As I’ve written before, I suspect that a lot of this tension and animosity stems from the fact that America is changing. We are, year by year, a nation that is less white, less rural, less Christian and more openly diverse in our sexuality.
The role of women in society has also changed profoundly in a short time. This kind of thing provokes deep responses, visceral passions.
I suppose on one level it’s remarkable that our debates about these things remain as civil as they do. We may not want to attend one-another’s dinner parties (or jamborees).
But in November we will vote for members of Congress, and for president, and the vast overwhelming majority of us will accept the results philosophically.
We grumble about America’s noisy, ugly politics, but the truth is that they do a pretty good job of harnessing and tempering our passions.
And in the end, I suspect that they are no noisier or uglier than we citizens choose to make them.