My daughter recently asked me:
why do you keep engaging these people on facebook?! I understand the desire for conversation across political sides, but they don’t seem capable of rationality, or reading comprehension (if they’d at least post counter-arguments that were coherent, that’d be something)
If you are a “friend” of mine on FaceBook, you’ll likely know what she’s talking about! And, quite a few of my non-virtual friends have asked me the same question.
I’ve mentioned before, in this space, the value I place on hearing arguments from across the political spectrum. I believe deeply that we will never arrive at new ideas or solutions to the many problems we face as a society, or worldwide, as long as we keep talking in our echo-chambers, and never stopping to listen to what the “other side” is saying.
But, it’s hard.
And, sometime, I’m really tempted to just click the “unfriend” option, or maybe less unkindly, the “hide” option.
But here are the factors that prevent me from backing away from the discomfort of the confrontation, which can seem a bit venomous, at times.
- On a few occasions, with two of my principle arguers, RB and MS (who I do actually know, in real life), have arrived at points of agreement with me – not necessarily that either side “won” a disagreement, but in the process of hashing out our opinions, we arrived at some point of common ground. Those are moments that I live for – it seems like this might be where Grace or God resides (if you happen to be a religious person, which both RB and MS – and I, as it happens – are.)
- With CP, who I do not know personally, I have only discovered one thing in common, but it is a point of such deep pain to me, and I’m guessing to CP as well, that I feel like we share something, even though we seem never to be able to cross the divide of antagonism. That shared experience is the Infertility, or challenges with having a child – I don’t know the particulars in CP’s case. Maybe I will someday. But the one discussion that this came up in, oh so briefly, gave me the tiniest insight into realizing that, as unlikely as it might seem on the surface, CP and I might have more in common than either of us might think.
- And, finally, in the case of my old friend MS, I find it miraculous that FaceBook has allowed me to reconnect with people who I never, ever would have imagined reconnecting with. I moved around so much as a kid – I remember finally counting up 27 separate residences I lived in, and 12 different schools, by the time I graduated from high school. So many people that I encountered over the years, who seemed forever lost to the mists of distant memories. MS and I knew each other as unhappy kids of “broken” families – we were the two oldest of twelve kids brought together very much against our wills by our four single parents who formed a commune in the mid-70’s to be able to afford a big house, and share the burdens and expenses of raising kids alone. We each have traveled a very complicated journey from that strange time to the present, and I deeply respect the challenges he has overcome.
So, I stay engaged with these folks who disagree with me, sometimes with great anger and passion.
I try to stay calm, and respond civilly. I’m not sure I always succeed.
I am grateful to my like-minded friends who often come to my aid with arguments that I might not see in the defensive mode that I sometimes find myself in.
And, I want to take this opportunity to say to RB, MS, and CP, that I am really not trying to change your world-view (except maybe on that one little silliness about not “believing” in Evolution – that’s getting really old). I am really just interested in finding out where we might have common ground.
That is the place where we can get to work on rebuilding our broken world.
In Hebrew – Tikkun Olam.
Shalom. Salaam. Namaste. Peace.