My first job, aside from mowing neighbors’ lawns for extra money, was at a local amusement park sweeping trash. The routes I worked included a caricature stand, where artists would draw pictures of people that exaggerated their physical features. Will Smith and his dopy ears, Jay Leno and his jutting jaw, Mr. T and his overly furrowed brow. Mine happened to be drawn during my formative years, when my face hadn’t quite caught up in size with my ears and nose. And that’s exactly how the artist drew me: a human incarnate of Dumbo.
While these pictures have elements of truth to them (you can easily identify the subjects in the drawings), they don’t tell the whole story. They conflate reality with perception.
Every day on social media, however, political dialogue resembles something of “discourse,” but it’s little more than shouting matches between polar caricatures of belief. This is why opponents of same-sex marriage are perceived as anti-gay and hateful, and those in favor of strict gun control laws want to strip us of our freedom and our 32 oz Big Gulps.
I’m afraid it’s too late to steer the discourse surrounding same-sex marriage to something more agreeable. After all, how can you compete with a successfully executed propaganda campaign that makes no attempt to disguise its intent to completely shutdown all dialogue?
This doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to avoid the same hijacking of the gun control debate. After the public shooting in New York City today, with images of the mass shooting in the Aurora movie theater still fresh on our minds, both sides are going to come riding in on their high horses, trampling on the graves of victims, while making grand accusations of their opponents.
Caricatures can be fun, but as Mr. T would say — I “pity the fools” who think themselves warriors after battling in a field of straw men.