Once upon a time in a world long ago, there were two topics most folks knew to avoid, religion and politics. It seems folks back in the old days knew that these were two of the most volatile subjects around and unless you were surrounded by your nearest and dearest, chances are nothing good could come of bringing up such topics around folks in a casual setting. Of course back in this same world, people also knew that sometimes it was okay to agree to disagree and still be friends/family, etc. Now this old world might not have been a great place for those of us who weren’t white, male, heterosexual, privileged, you get the point. Funny thing is even in 2012 for all of us “others”, the world can still be a rough place, the more some things change, the more some stay the same.
Technology and social media have broken down many barriers and brought so much to our lives, I mean how many of us want to go back to the world where information was only available in dark cavernous spaces? I didn’t think so. I am rather fond of the internet and while I could live without it, if it’s available, why not use it?
The thing is technology has broken down many barriers including polite discourse. Thanks to technological advances we are inundated with information and world happenings. Shit, when I was a kid or even a young adult, you got your news via the nightly news; you weren’t being overwhelmed with news. So when something big happened, you had time to think about it and actually process it before you started talking about it. Generally you could talk about it with the folks in your house or you could call a friend up but basically you got to sleep on it before you went to school or work and talked with others. So by the time you did talk about whatever major happening with someone outside your family or inner circle, you weren’t coming from a place of pure emotion.
Unfortunately now thanks to social media, as soon as something happens, we can take to our blogs, Facebook, twitter, tumblr or whatever and often with no true and deep thought, offer up our immediate thoughts on the matter and this is where shit can get ugly.
Case in point earlier this week, Todd Akin, a US Representative from Missouri, recently put his foot in his mouth, hell one could say he put his foot and legs in his mouth and made a statement that is bothersome to say the least. No need to repeat it since chances are if you are reading this post, you know what happened. Akin, ia an old school conservative Republican and while he and I will never sit down to a beer, the truth for me is if that is what he truly believes he is entitled to believe it. Let me repeat that, he is entitled to believe what he wants to believe and if I lived in his district I would do everything in my power to mobilize to make sure he never serves again in any public capacity higher than dog catcher. However in the days since Akin’s cruel and insensitive remarks, the backlash from the left at times has been equally cruel and insensitive at times. Look, even Akin’s own party wants him to disappear, so he done fucked up, no need to hold his face in that steaming pile of shit.
When did it become alright to belittle those who don’t believe what we believe? Why is it okay to call someone who holds views different than our own views names? Look, I like my snark and I admit to occasionally joking but some of what I have seen leveled at people who align themselves with the GOP or hold more conservative views is wrong…insulting the intelligence of your opponent doesn’t change their views, it simply fans the flames.
The vast majority of Americans if you strip down the surface details want the same things. They want to live a happy life, that includes housing, healthcare, access to education for them and their kids, they want to know they can pay their bills and maybe just maybe get that vacation every few years and sock a few bucks away for their retirement. Where most of us differ is on how we will reach that outcome. Some of us believe that the role of government is to assist us in reaching our goals when it comes to basic needs and some of us believe that the government has no role in helping us reach our goals and achieve basic happiness. Now I will admit the differences in thought are large but the way to reach consensus is not to alienate the folks on the other side and insult them. In the end snide comments and belittling folks accomplishes nothing no matter how good it feels at the time.
Someone online recently asked me if I thought it was okay for people to have thoughts/feelings/opinions that were hurtful to certain other people. In other words is it okay for people to have openly homophobic, racist, misogynistic views? No, I don’t. In the ideal world, the isms and hate wouldn’t exist because we would all know it’s wrong and our internal GPS would tell us that it’s wrong. However we don’t live in an ideal world, we live in the real world, where you are entitled to your beliefs; however you aren’t necessarily entitled to act on them. We live in a world where we are often shaped by the views of our parents and others close to us, we live in a world where even in our access to opportunity or lack thereof also shapes us. In other words we aren’t all looking at the world from the same set of glasses yet as long as you don’t interfere with my rights, harm me or mine, think whatever you want to think. The problem in too many cases though is the actions we take and that includes the language we use. Words hold power, don’t believe me, think about if the person you love most told you they hated you, hated the sight of you…chances are those words would impact you in ways you couldn’t imagine.
In the end, we can’t be responsible for others; we aren’t even responsible for the humans we bring into the world once they reach a certain age. Yet we can choose to mind our words, our thoughts and if we don’t like the system we live in, get active and work to change it. We all have a say in both our actions and words but if we do nothing but attack others who we disagree with, use snide comments, tear others down, then in the end aren’t we as much a part of the problem as those others?