Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Difference of Opinion

I generally like being around people whose backgrounds and opinions (religious, political, or otherwise) are different than mine. I like hearing different viewpoints, perhaps clarifying misperceptions, and hearing information that might even change my own attitudes. At the very least, I'll have a better understanding of an alternate point of view. However, I'm growing increasingly wary of political attacks that lead to arguments in which it is asserted that all those who are (in my case) Democrat or liberal are unscrupulous or otherwise judgmental. This is not to say that there aren't Democrats and liberals who are like that, it's just that I try very hard not to be like that.  I realize that on any side of the fence, there are people who have made up their minds, and no amount of discussion or argument will ever change their minds: They've become close-minded and vitriolic. I absolutely know this is not limited to any one group of people.

Because I go out of my way to surround myself with people who are not as close-minded, I find such overt malice unsettling. I do not have a thick skin. Things stick with me for longer than they probably should. It's not helpful to be told to just forget about things; that doesn't quite work for me as well as I wish it would, yet I know that not everything can be resolved. To that end, I tend to be hurt when such assumptions are made without any kind of discussion or open-mindedness. It's unfortunate that I can't  just let these things roll of my back; they stay with me for a long time.

Several months ago, a friend of a friend posted what was, in my opinion, an extremely anti-Democrat argument. I've seen this friend-of-a-friend post such things previously; I know from experience to ignore such comments. In this case, though, and against my better judgement, I tried to engage with this person, to merely say that there are those of us who are not like that, and I hoped that if this friend-of-a-friend hadn't encountered such people before, that she would meet them at some point.

Clearly this was the wrong thing to say. I was taken to task. My rhetoric was completely twisted. (Note: I come from a background of being able to understand deeper meanings of rhetoric, and I understand quite well how everything and anything can be distorted to be taken any which way.) However, generally speaking, when I interact with others, I am very careful to present my opinion in such a way that I mean what I say; there is no deeper meaning or animus meant.

Of course, here, I quickly realized my mistake, simply tried to say that I hoped she realized that not all Democrats and liberals were like that, to which she replied that I was intentionally trying to invalidate her experience (merely by stating that not others might have different experiences does not, in my opinion, invalidate others' experiences; whether I was clear on that matter or not, I no longer remember). At that point I turned off any notifications and blocked the user, but not before she apologized to our mutual friend for my rudeness. I just left it at that and didn't say anything else.

More recently, another friend, one from high school, had been posting anti-Obama messages. Now, the occasional anti-anyone remark doesn't really bother me; I'd previously had several "friends" who did that, but I quietly removed them from my social network feeds. Continued personal attacks aren't something I care to read, though, so this high school friend was unfriended.

I've been on the receiving end, too, of course. A cousin posted a picture of an Obama/Biden sticker on a car with a comment about how stupid Obama supporters must feel ("lol"), to which I responded something along the line of, not as silly as the other people feel ("lol"). I then got accused of I-don't-even-remember-what ("lol"), but I do remember responding along the lines of, "Well, you're probably right, but FaceBook might not be the best means to discuss these things anyway, although I'd love to talk to you about this in person, if you were inclined." Very soon thereafter I was unfriended.

(Because, really, any political stickers are ridiculous, aren't they: Either your guy wins and you feel great for a term or two, during which time you get accused of destroying the country; or your guy loses and everyone knows where your support went. After several political terms they're all redundant.)

I don't know if these types of responses are made out of fear or insecurity, or ignorance, or a lack of intelligence. I hope not, in any of these cases, but such responses do demonstrate a remarkable lack of ability to think and respond critically, responding to the issue and not the person, not taking it personally, and responding in such a way that's not a personal condemnation.