To the editor:
Americans today certainly continue the grand tradition of ad hominem attacks (the practice of attacking the individual and ignoring their arguments). Now we do it in a new manner, by labeling our opponents with phobias despite how clinical it really is. A common term in my field of study has been “Islamophobia.” We also have “homophobia,” which is now a household word, and I know what it is like to be labeled as such. Never mind my friends who are homosexual. Never mind the fact that I never suffer anxieties or nervousness when spending time with someone who is homosexual, whether a stranger or a friend, over coffee. No, I am called “homophobic” because I am persuaded that legalizing same-sex marriage is bad public policy.
The Oxford dictionary defines a “phobia” as an extreme or irrational fear of something. People with genuine phobias are often handicapped and frustrated by fears that can limit otherwise normal behavior. They dislike their phobias and often undergo treatment to cure them. Behavior can be homophobic. The arguments of those opposed to same-sex marriage often are not. We Americans hurt ourselves in the long run when we reduce our opponents’ opinions to nothing more than phobias. It is insensitive to those who suffer genuine phobias, and it muddies the civil discourse as we label our opponents and completely sidestep their arguments.