Eric Frazier

No ‘common’ left in our common sense

By Eric Frazier

Lee Churchill, of Raleigh, shows her support of House Bill 2 during a rally in Raleigh Monday.
Lee Churchill, of Raleigh, shows her support of House Bill 2 during a rally in Raleigh Monday. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Merriam-Webster defines common sense this way: “Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.”

Nothing vague about that. So why does everybody arguing about House Bill 2 declare that they’re just speaking common sense – even though they’re arguing exactly opposite points?

To recap the claims:

▪ HB 2 backers say it’s just common sense to make sure people use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate gender. Otherwise, you’re going to have madness – men using the bathroom alongside women and little girls, and we all know what comes next.

▪ Not so fast, HB 2 opponents say. In a world where hormone therapy gives birth-certificate females full-blown beards and man-sized muscles, they say it’s just common sense to let transgender people use the bathroom of the gender with whom they identify.

Otherwise, you’re going to have beefed-up transgender men startling women and girls by striding into women’s restrooms – courtesy of Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly.

Sadly enough, we can’t even agree on what common sense is anymore. It’s not because we’ve lost our good sense, as some on the right declare. It’s because we’ve lost touch with the “common” part of that phrase.

Thanks to today’s hyper-segmented digital media, you can live in your own vacuum-sealed ideological universe where it’s you and other good folk against the “establishment” or the “takers” or the “1 percent” or whomever your cartoon-character bad guys happen to be.

Wouldn’t it help – at least a smidgen? – if we occasionally talked to folks on the other side of the barricades?

Could we begin to reclaim at least a little piece of the “common” part of common sense, even on an issue as divisive as HB 2?

“It’s certainly possible,” John Rustin, head of the pro-HB 2 N.C. Family Policy Council, replied recently when I asked him about this. “Any time people can have reasonable, measured dialogue, I think that’s a good thing – as long as there is interest on both sides in having a constructive dialogue.”

What say you to that, Stephen Peters, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign?

“Supporters of this radical law have called us – lesbian, gay, bisexual and, specifically, transgender people – child predators, and some have even threatened us with physical violence,” he said in an email. “How constructive is that?”

Peters said his group, a leader of the anti-HB 2 effort, is having conversations – but they’re with business leaders, child welfare advocates, civil rights and faith leaders, and victim advocates.

HB 2 must be completely repealed, he added, noting that the Human Rights Campaign will focus on exposing the “lies, fear-mongering and even scare tactics” of the other side.

There will be no dialogue on HB 2, it seems. At least not publicly. It’s war, and war only.

I hope we never reach the point where we as a nation – no matter how divided – see no point in talking to our opponents.

At that point, we all lose.

Eric: 704-358-5145; efrazier@charlotteobserver.com

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