I accepted that NaBloPoMo challenge for BlogHer, right? A post a day for 30 days. I’ve already accepted that I won’t have 1500 words on an important topic expressing my strongly held belief in succinct and eloquent prose every single day. Obviously I’ve posted some pretty random and off-the-cuff stuff since beginning this challenge. But today is Sunday and I was hoping I would come up with something fabulous. Not so much. I was thisclose to heading over to BlogHer or WordPress to look for some generic writing prompt. I may do that, yet, but today I’ve got something I want to spout off about. It isn’t really important, and I’m sure it won’t be eloquent prose, but here’s a strongly held belief of mine. How about some stuff that makes me CRAZY?
First up, folks who use the phrase, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Why can’t we just argue? What’s so bad about disagreeing on some important topic? I don’t mean that we should all just fight and feud all the time, but why can’t we engage in civilized, even heated, disagreements and remain friends? I know it’s human nature to be drawn toward groups of people who agree with our own deeply held personal convictions, but shouldn’t we look to see what other people believe, too? And if I feel my belief strongly, and you feel yours strongly, doesn’t it stand to reason that the discussion might be a little loud, or slightly heated? Name calling and unfair fights are always rude, but what’s wrong with me saying, “Hey, that doesn’t make sense to me and here’s why…” Why does that have to be offensive?
Today I posted a blog of a friend’s sister-in-law on Facebook. (This blog is HYSTERICAL and you should totally read everything the blogger has put up. It’s called Cats with Knives and it’s brilliant.) The post I put on Facebook was this one about the nurse from Maine who was quarantined in New Jersey over the Ebola thing. She perfectly expresses what I’ve been thinking for weeks but have been unable to work myself up to post about. I might have tried to be a wee bit nicer about some of my phrasing, but she nailed it. Nailed it, I say! But here’s the thing, one of my friends on Facebook, Jared, disagreed. And he said so, with a well written and calm explanation of why he disagreed. And then I disagreed with him, and I rattled off a response that maybe wasn’t quite as patient, but still followed all the rules of fair engagement. But then I got to worrying that maybe I’d picked a fight with the guy. I mean, we’re Facebook friends, but really we’re just acquaintances from church with kids about the same age. I don’t want to make Jared mad at me over a disagreement about a nurse multiple states away. It’s not like either he or I have any real say in the immediate formulation of the policies that will affect this issue. So, I posted that I was sorry for phrasing things like it might start a fight, but he responded and said he saw my point but still disagreed, then a few words about why, and I responded to that, and he responded, and we agreed that each had a point but we disagreed and yada yada. Guess what. Still friends. How ’bout that? We never came to some great mutual solution, just a simple acknowledgement that we see the other’s point, but we don’t agree. All of this notable namely because of its novelty. It just doesn’t seem to be the way things usually go down!
So many folks are afraid to discuss anything, so too often we follow that basic human instinct to stick with those who agree with us and never disagree with anyone publicly. We watch FOXNews or MSNBC and only socialize with viewers of the same extreme. Our views get more and more extreme and we don’t let anyone question them. If we post something on social media indicating our views on some subject, we either post it for a select audience, or if someone disagrees, suddenly it’s a fight and BAM, UNFRIEND! I’ve posted before about my thoughts on unfriending. I have to say that since I wrote this post, my views on that have evolved a bit, not so much on this topic, though. If you unfriend someone for simply disagreeing with you, that’s just sad! Now, unfriending someone for being a big jerk and calling names or generally disagreeing in a rude manner, well, that’s different, but just because you disagree? Not so much.
But what about in real life? It’s worse there, isn’t it? No discussion of politics or religion. Ever. Why? Well, as one husband of a friend once explained to me, because we might disagree and if we disagree someone always goes away angry. WHAT? Someone ALWAYS goes away angry? Well, that’s just what makes me so angry, isn’t it? Just because I believe deeply in a God who created me and everything I see and he believes that I’m a soft-headed fool for accepting such nonsense doesn’t mean one or both of us MUST go away angry. We could, for instance, be respectful of the other’s position and only try to explain our own without denigrating the position of the other. Just a thought, but maybe I won’t tell him that he’s going to burn in hell, and he could maybe not say that my faith is pure foolishness. I’ve had this discussion with people. I KNOW it’s possible. If I don’t assume that the only outcome acceptable is his complete conversion to Christianity and he doesn’t assume that he’s failed to make his case if I don’t denounce the God I’ve worshiped all my life, than we might actually learn something about the other person. But he won’t have that conversation, and that makes me sad.
I’m thankful for a handful of really wonderful friends who are willing to disagree with me. In fact, I consider it a minimum qualification for being more than an acquaintance. If you can’t tell me you think I’m wrong, listen to why I think you’re wrong, and still want to have coffee with me next week, than maybe we really shouldn’t be more than acquaintances. Maybe we can’t be. I mean, if you really get to know someone, you’re going to disagree about SOMETHING, right? Most likely. The idea isn’t to agree on all things. The idea is to be respectful of the person you disagree with. Honestly, my Facebook disagreement today moved Jared from acquaintance to friend, in my mind. He apologized for derailing my post, which made me laugh. No, don’t keep quiet, Jared! Please keep talking, at least to folks like me who appreciate a good disagreement. You were thoughtful and respectful and that is so refreshing.
As for all you fine folks who agree with me on stuff, well, obviously I love you, too. I mean, you guys are brilliant. We’ve found stuff to fight about, haven’t we? Well, I’m sure we will. Except you, Mike Neason. We’ve got a good run going, 25 years of no disagreements. Wouldn’t want to ruin that.