Common ground

The outcry against conservative opponents of same-sex marriage goes a long way to proving the point - some views are not acceptable.

The Midland Express received a barrage of letters criticising Heather Juniper's defence of traditional marriage, whereas the rather strident defence of the rights of asylum seekers in three letters in the same edition caused barely a stir.

Sure, the staunch defence of 'traditional family' by opponents of same-sex marriage does not seem to include reuniting families that have been separated by Australia's practice of offshoring processing. But then refugee advocates rarely consider an increasing number of Australians who feel like strangers in their own country.

Politics in this country is dominated by ideas that are mean-spirited and inhumane at every level. Policy frameworks serving market interests are rarely sympathetic to the needs of families. Religious belief, citizenship status and sexual orientation are important identity issues, but they are also inescapably divisive. When combined with economic hardship, identity politics provides fertile ground for self-serving politicians because it deals in simplistic absolutes. In this respect, progressives and conservatives can be equally guilty of intolerance.

It is also a major distraction. Australia is a democracy in which the vast majority of people have no influence over public policy and no voice in public debate. We ignore this at our peril. Seemingly intractable opponents would realise there is a great deal of scope for common ground and solidarity if they looked a little further than their own narrow viewpoint.

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