This is a rant.
Honest question. Has anyone figured out how to vehemently disagree with someone and still be their friend? Asking for a
I’m kidding. And I’m not.
If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that civic discourse has become anything, everything but civil. Conversation as a concept is fast becoming a bizarre exercise in pretending to listen, in nodding while actually just loading the cannon with much-circulated catchphrases that disarm, derail, or demean but don’t really mean anything, and in being first to the punch while the actual issues burn. Weird conversations where no one is truly listening are becoming common. We don’t stand for opinions we don’t like anymore and, the terrifying thing is, we don’t have to.
I’m going to be very honest.
If there’s one thing that makes my stomach turn, it’s the condescending nature of social media these days. We demand an answer where none has been earned. We accuse. We destroy. We celebrate the kind of bashing that keeps counselors in business. The moral superiority is like this giant hot potato that everyone is trying to heave onto everyone else’s back. It leads to pointless dead-in-the-water boycotts on both sides, to glib posts about gladly getting rid of Facebook friends we disagree with, to public threats of rescinded friendship if you land on one side of an issue. It leads to heavy-handed, high-handed vilification and attack of people who–on any other day, in any other time or place, and certainly face to face–could be a friend.
Sometimes, it turns us into miserable, lonely little human islands, where there is no push back against our beliefs or our thinking. Other times, it leads us to use the same, mutually destructive tactics of faux-argument we accuse others of using. Almost always, it makes our vision fatally narrow, bolsters our blind spots, and allows us to live in a vortex of our own beliefs. It atrophies our minds. It freeze-dries our hearts, and makes us shrug at cruelty, as long as it’s being directed at Them. It cackles at the timeless concept of stepping into another person’s shoes. It makes us lazy. Why bother dealing with views we don’t like, when we can just delete them?
People are not delete-able.
The more time that passes, the more thankful I become that my point of view is not popular or accepted. For a long time, I hated it. It’s hard to have people you like or respect say awful things about people who think like you, unaware of what you believe. Since my teen years, I have been constantly confronted by the questions, directly or indirectly: Do you really believe that? Why? Are you stupid? Are you evil? Do you just hate us? Who are you to disagree with so many cool, likeable people?
I don’t resent it anymore. I now know what it is to set my shoulders and say what I think, aware that it’s going to make someone within an arm’s length of me frightfully furious. I know what it is to be yelled at by someone who, until the exact moment I revealed my opinion, I had known to be kind. I have been forced to be clear and concise in why I believe what I believe, and honest about the foundation of those beliefs. Encountering harsh, even nasty disagreement has made me strong in a way that I wouldn’t be otherwise.
That’s because real life and real relationships are tension.
If we avoid that tension, we cheat ourselves of major growth. The price to pay for developing this kind of resilience is negligible, but the payoff is massive. You can literally sign off of Facebook, Instagram, whatever at any time. So what if that uncle or
newly-minted acquaintance friend or former college classmate posted something that makes your blood just fracking boil? Guess what.
You are stronger than you know or give yourself credit for. And, better yet, you’ll come out even stronger for having encountered it. Then, one day, when you meet someone face to face, who rubs you wrong by every conceivable measurement, you’ll be less likely to say something you’ll regret, something that is out of line with your truest self, or something that, ironically, confirms everything they already assume about you. You will be more likely to take a breath and represent your beliefs in the way that those beliefs, that person and you yourself deserve.
We need to be able to look at, listen to and care about people again. We need to be able to endure the knowledge that people of all walks of life, with all levels of IQ, of varying levels of education, from all ethnic backgrounds disagree with us. We need to remind ourselves that their lives are no less valuable, regardless of what we think or dare to speak into reality on social media. When someone’s very existence supposedly attacks our own (hint: this is rarely the case), we must be able to say–or at least think:
I hear you, but no.
P.S. – Realized I had already used that mountain picture. So I switched the featured photo to a picture of Lake Baikal, in the process of freezing. Pretty epic.