Sitting on the sidelines


World War I, I think, wins the award for Most Earnest Propaganda, a title that is pretty impressive, given the nature of propaganda in general. We know that WWI came about in part because of the jingoism of the European monarchies, but did they have to be so chipper and positive about it all? One of my favorites is the one shown above. A young girl asks her middle-aged father what he had done to fight back the Hun scourge. Apparently, his blank expression tells us that, rather than risk trench warfare for England, he had done something dishonorable, like working an office in London rather than dying horribly in a trench in France.

There's a powerful sense in this poster that Britain knew it was involved in shaping the history of tomorrow. Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option, you've got to man up and become part of the planned glory of victory. I also like the insecurity that's being played on here. Men seeing this poster are supposed to be shamed into signing up. But shamed by the possibility that, in the future, their as-yet-unborn kids will think less of them for not carrying a gun. It takes a certain kind of personality to be urged to get involved by this thought. And, apparently, I have that personality.

The current fight over gay marriage seems to me to be what we will all look back on as my generation's Vietnam. It's the major social issue that is spurs intense political action and ire from both sides of America. And I feel sort of like I'm sleeping through it. I'm frustrated by my church's involvement in the anti position enough to complain to everybody I cross paths with but not enough to sign a letter to the first presidency decrying it or to show up for a rally at Temple Square. In fact, the fallout of Proposition 8's passing has, unaccountably, put me on the defensive for Mormonism. Not so much for this particular PR nightmare, but for all the things on the periphery that seem to be roiled up by the issue. I'm halting between two opinions (which is the second half of my personal narrative after being designed contrary to happiness). And, being lukewarm, I'll be spewed out by both sides.

And it's not an issue that I want to be on the "winning" side, I don't think. As far as I can tell, there's no winner here. If the Church gets its way, gays are second-class citizens. If the civil rights wins, the church loses (though what they lose is entirely unclear to me). I still firmly believe the Church should just let it alone and that gay marriage is actually the right answer. I'm just a little hesitant to move myself to anything that might actually include any effort on my part. It seems like the only explanation here is some uncovered fear I'm holding onto. What, I wonder, am I really afraid of? And, at the other end of my life, what will I have to say to those people who ask me, expecting an exciting, brave story, what I did during the great war for equality?


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