Nice or nothing at all?

(update: I’m not sure I deserve such thoughtful friends and/or comments but I really want to thank you for them, both here and on FB. The comments make much more sense than I do- you could skip directly to those. Several messages are clear (thank you for that honesty) and I take them to heart. First, I need to decide the tone and tenor of what I want out of social networking and really, it’s the lighter side of friendship and good natured sharing. I don’t much enjoy reading other people’s rants and the blogs I enjoy most are relatively free of them.

Belinda over on FB made a great point and here’s her comment, in case you don’t FB:

“The posts that are blatant lies or just baiting/trolling/hating, I used to speak up in a (hopefully, but not always successfully) positive manner, but now I ignore them. There’s no point wasting breath or getting your cortisol levels up. And no, President Obama does NOT “refuse at every turn” to salute the flag. Things that are utter poppycock, I feel no need to refute.

That said, I do believe that we can separate what people BELIEVE from who they ARE, and still maintain good relationships with those who think very, very differently from ourselves. I try, anyway, because when you break things down subject by subject, more people agree than disagree, and more people are good at heart than not. It’s like NPR’s Jay Smooth says–you want to separate the “what you did/said” conversation from the “what you are” conversation, because the two are often very very different.”

She then added this video link, which I think is just great. Click on it.

The second point, made most clearly by wise friend Judy, is about the power to pick and choose what you respond to in any one person’s postings and sometimes you take great exception to a part of what that person presents but there is value in the “friendship” in any case.

Finally, everyone seems to agree that yes, we are all preaching to our own choirs. Getting someone to open their mind and consider other possibilities is tough in most cases and impossible in some. Energy spent on those conversations is probably best reserved for real life encounters with friends and people where you can really have an open and honest and meaningful exchange of thoughts and ideas.

In this blog, while I did pull out a couple of identifying quotes that I found so offensive, unless you’re a reader of those posts, you wouldn’t know the person posting. And when I speak of how offensive I find them, I am truly commenting not just on those or the attitudes expressed by the person posting ( as opposed to the person) but the pervasively destructive spirit of so much political posting that shows up on FB and around the net. It’s an attitude that is blocking progress and change at every turn, in both political parties, when we are so desperately in need  of progress and change. It’s gotten to the point where we merely move from one election to the next with four years of uninterrupted, spurious and vicious attacks that divide rather than unite. “Free speech” has become cheap and hopelessly stupid, “Freedom of the Press” has largely become meaningless garbage.)

In the arena of social networking among all your virtual friends, is it a matter of only preaching to your own choir, be it the Mormon Tabernacle or Buddhist monks chanting? What happens if you sing out of tune or say “I don’t like that song”? What constitutes “trash talking?” I was accused of that this morning. Certainly mocking someone’s post or opinion is low and not nice. I did that. Not that it justifies my rude behavior but I felt provoked. Lately, I’ve gotten increasingly disturbed by the raging, divisive bigotry that seems to be cropping up, all under the guise of expressing a political stand or opinion, frosted over with a layer of Christian fervor. It’s not just here and there; it’s all over the place and when one person posts something vile, people seem to come out of the woodwork, laughing and hooting in disdain.

My father was a hard-core right-wing Republican all his life. He liked Ike, Ayn Rand and he hated big government and welfare. My mother was a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, a spoiled only child who could afford to be a bleeding heart Liberal. On Sundays, we would go alternately to the Congregational Church and the Unitarian Church and all week long they would fight like cat and dog over their respective viewpoints. It made for an interesting early childhood. But here’s the thing: They weren’t ignorant about their political beliefs and they weren’t disrespectful or dishonest or hypocritical. There was no tolerance in our household for racism and although my father would talk with a generalized disdain about the “welfare mentality” I never, ever witnessed him demeaning or disparaging someone because of their beliefs or station in life. They did not hold themselves up as paragons of anything and right about the time one or the other of us children would stick our nose in the air with an “ain’t no flies on me” attitude we’d get it with the fly swatter. It was clear from the get go that we were not to think we were better than someone else and we were not to believe that we had the definitive answer to anything. Ultimately, politics were politics and while it was important to be informed and take a stand, politicians and the media didn’t inform or define our moral values or way of life. Religion was personal.

So now I see and read what feels to me like hateful, misinformed and ignorant bigotry. Muslim and Islam: four letter words. Obama: I see pictures of him with a fly on his upper lip (I guess that means there are flies on him) with this caption:

The only reason we saw the Obama’s go to church is because there was an Islamist speaker there on Sunday.

Yep, Obama attended church, with ISLAMIC SPEAKERS!

I guess that doesn’t count as trash talk. How about a photograph of the president with four white military advisors and this caption:

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Don’t get me wrong; this is not a pro-Obama post (although ask me and I’ll work on one). It’s about the anger I feel over the destructive, petty and vile way this country is conducting itself politically. Yellow journalism leads, ignorance follows.

It’s also about how I conduct myself when social networking (I may permanently ground myself from FB) and that leads back to the question. When you’re on Facebook or roaming about the blogging neighborhood do you feel compelled to be nice and say nothing at all? Do you keep your mouth shut if one of your friends posts material that really flies in the face of your moral code? And when that sets off the proverbial shit storm of, well then, get off my friend list? (I know, I know- get off.) The thing I’m really mad about is that I didn’t have the guts to say hey! This is just unmitigated ignorance and self-righteous nastiness. Instead, I take a pot shot. Shame on me. My father would have at me with the fly swatter for that.

I have something really nice for tomorrow. Promise.


16 responses to “Nice or nothing at all?

  1. Nicely said Vicki – I can’t speak for everyone in the Aller family but I know that your Grandfather and his brother and sisters were all poorer than church mice but they were not too poor to welcome the hobos that rode the rails and other people (including even migrant workers – yes in the early 1900’s) into their home and providing food and shelter. They grew up not knowing anything about color or religious differences and I am thankful they passed it on to others in the family.

  2. Vickie:
    There’s a fine line to walk in cyberspace. In these times of instant gratification (and senseless rage and trash talk) so much is said and so little is truly understood. As my grandmother always said (though the woman definitely had a mouth on her) “You can’t help how you feel, but you can control how you act.”
    Blanket statements, blatant racism, ignorance and unwillingness to change that ignorance, pure out hate, these things can’t be left unchallenged. Social networking has so much insanely good potential, but as with all things that humans touch, it has the potential to inflame, to coerce, to run wildly down the street with an idea like a cat with its tail on fire. Personally, I love Facebook. It was made for people like me, a person whose life frequently throw inane, silly, downright hilarious situations her way. I’ve made friends (real ones, and damn good ones) and I’ve lost a few, too.
    This is just me, my personality, my way of being…I don’t suffer fools gladly. And by fools, I mean bigots/misogynists/asshats, that sort of person. Sometimes, in my opinion, people need a mirror put in front of their faces (people have done that for me, and after the shock, I thanked them for it).
    Though, there have been situations I have come across that screamed “walk away, don’t look back” because the person in question, the one being the asshat, would never in a million years see another side, another way to think.
    Pick your battles, maybe? Learn to ignore the asshats? I have no advice…just my version of things.
    P.S. Don’t ground yourself from FB. It’s a nicer place with you in it.

  3. Hmmm–so far it hasn’t happened–that is someone on FB posting something I find totally offensive.
    I don’t read every entry of my friends there, so I may have missed something. So I don’t know what I would do.
    I do have FB friends who click on every status thing with umpteen exclamation points–e.g. click like if you love Jesus !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well, I don’t click like. I just don’t find FB a forum for in depth theological discourse.
    I agree with Susan–it’s a place for lightness of being, and silliness.
    What I can say, as a kind of personal template, is if someone directly tells me something–e.g. a racially offensive joke–and I feel my silence would mean ASSENT to the point of view, I do comment.

  4. “Do you keep your mouth shut if one of your friends posts material that really flies in the face of your moral code? ”

    Yes, I do. I know the posts you mention and while they fire me up internally – I pass over them and try to forget what was said. In the past I have de-friended a few people for remarks like this, but it was mainly when they had little else to say of value. The blog in question has value in other ways, and so I try not to let the parts that offend me bother me enough to leave it. I have my limits, though, and who knows what will happen?

    Like Susan, I hope you will not leave FB.

  5. Well, I started to type a long comment but realized it was actually a blog post. So for now, I’ll just say that I am often frustrated by things that I read and I am guilty on occasion of mockery.

  6. Hmmm. I feel a blog post coming on too. Especially after I had to sit through an all day seminar at work about Government in the Sunshine and one session was related to social networking and anyomous posters. When confronted with something that affronts my moral code, generally, I cringe and then, quit reading. And don’t go back to that particular blog (I don’t do facebook). I look upon these things as a person’s right to free speech, but that doesn’t mean I am obliged to waste my time on them and listen. Same goes with TV.

  7. PS and, in the case of people frosting over offenses wtih a Christian label, I find myself working even harder to show the world how a true Christ follower acts and that not all people who call themselves Christians really are.

  8. I read all your comments on your blog this morning…I wanted to reply. They were thoughtful and honest, and gave me an insight into your parents. This internet is a new thing for everyone…especially those of us over 50. We are able to express ourselves instantly to thousands of people. We take pot shots. It’s not right…but it’s ssssssssooo tempting..just a few keys..push a button…and it makes us feel empowered. I am not really sure we should always say everything we are “feeling”…so I have to withhold lots of comments. I grew up with a right wing father that made Ronald Reagan look liberal. I have seen the other side. I have witnessed and am sensitive to the constant..and I mean constant criticism of anyone who is a Christian..anyone with any views other than mainstream liberalism. I have said this before to you and Rich…The only network that has a conservative bent is the one you can’t stand…Fox….and the only one that has a liberal bent are ALL the rest…ABC,NBC, CBS, MSNBC, the list goes on and on. (and almost all newspapers and magazines)For years and years, I put up with the trashing from the left…YOU never looked at it that way…you thought it was normal. Now…with the internet…and Facebook and all the blogs…everyone is blowing steam…including right wingers…and you just don’t like it. You use the famous liberal term “bigotry”…Vicki…there is as much hate on the far left as the far right…you just don’t mind it as much. I put up with 8 years of “Hate George Bush”…constant…every day….but it may not have bothered you…now it’s “Hate Obama”…same fervor…just a different name…Is it bigotry to fear an airplane full of Islamic people? Hmmm…I’ll bet 95% of people look around at who is on a plane with them to see if some wacko is going to blow it out of the sky…and they play the odds…it’s probably not the 80 year old white woman in 17c….could be….but probably not…so fear drives the dislike of Islamic terrorism and it spills over into suspicion of President Obama’s roots, etc. Ignorance…sure…but…Vicki…he is a hard core liberal. He would admit that. So don’t be surprised if conservatives don’t like him….I never met a liberal who didn’t despise George Bush…heck…in Ann Arbor…HE was certainly a four letter word…Okay…I say all this to say that you are right…people are expressing some hate (and fear)….but it’s not new..I have been trashed by many liberals in town for being a Christian..I don’t start riots…I don’t burn cars….I just realize some people hate what I believe…so the others need to “get a life”…I am used to it…they aren’t…if Obama loses in two years, which I doubt, the new Republican will get trashed also….civility has gone’s sad…how do we lighten up BOTH sides? I don’t know…I just wanted you to know that there IS hate spewing out of liberals every day on TV…I can name names and times….so…just don’t watch Fox (which I’m sure you don’t)…and I won’t watch MSNBC…we still have the freedom to switch the dial. Your house is absolutely gorgeous….keep those pictures coming

  9. I just wanted to say I’ve been feeling the exact same way about the state of mean spirited divisiveness that has become politics in the United States. And I feel sad that ordinary people have gotten caught up in the hate. I have a friend on FB (who also lives near me) who occasionally posts things that make me wonder “how can we have so many things in common and still be so politically polarized?”

  10. Nobody can say it like you can. As usual, I agree with you completely. I just wish I had your pan-achiness and swavitivity. 🙂

  11. I don’t think ANY of this is what the founding fathers had in mind. I do sometimes wonder what they would do if they had access to instant networking and the internet. I know you and I have different views politically, but I still love your spirit of family and your zest for life and your talents and how we have this deep love and concern for our children and THAT is what is most meaningful in life.

    Oh… if you think this is a blatant fishing expedition for an invite to the great outdoors that is your new home… well, maybe just a little. 😉

    Oh, I still do not understand facebook… why I am so dense about this, I just don’t know.. but I simply don’t get it.

  12. Those who disagree with me are heretics
    Which is why I have no time for politics.

    And who
    Is Lou?

    A Wolverine
    Can be quite mean.

    They are not always loving; Oftimes they get hately.
    They are giving out lots of spankings lately.

    My advice:
    More sugar, less spice.

    Get off the screen
    And Go Green!

    Hits and misses,

  13. I admit it. I left facebook for a while for a combination of reasons and most of them had to do with the fact that I was overwhelmed with the negativity spewing from so many of my friends about politics. I was silent to their comments. And decided I didn’t want facebook to be the place for politics because it had become so polarized and bitter.

    It’s just too easy a forum for the haters to spew and for seriously horrible things to be said and spread.

  14. Well, I don’t facebook, so I am assuming your transgression took place over there.
    So I am clueless except for your clues in this post.
    I think we are witnessing the results of 20 years of me,me, me and raising kids without the traditional civility rules. The educational world and the parenting world has been flooded with psychobabble that allows children to act out, values every expression, and tells very small children that they have a right to … say and do anything.
    Sorry, but your profession takes some of the heat and mine takes some too for adopting it.
    Parents get their fair share too.

    Now those little brats are grown up. A bunch of them work at MSNBC and FOX.
    They are the brat pack’s cheerleaders, but technology has made everyone a publishing magnate. It’s a cacophony of shrill, shrieking, electrons.

    The examples you give of other’s comments are mean and childish … they don’t argue policy, they simply denigrate. They name call, throw tantrums, and think only at the surface.
    Like 5 year olds.

    The difference is, we used to put a stop to that behavior at 5, not nurture it as freedom of expression.

    We are harvesting what we have sown.

  15. Much to the chagrin of my family and friends, I do not have a Facebook page and will not follow Facebook or Twitter. I refuse to have yet another reason to spend time on the computer and I know that is what I would do.

    As to responding to posts with which I vehemently disagree…I do not. Sometimes I wonder how I misjudged someone. Other times I simply cease reading their blogs.

    My feeling is that for most of us, our blogs are reflections of ourselves. Read it, don’t read it. It’s not as if I have any or all of the answers. Reserve conflicting statements for those who do political posts and provide an outlet for varying opinions.

  16. Having just come from DC yesterday, you might feel better to know that there were no rabid political demonstrations going on there at the mall. Just National Book Festival with author lectures and book signings. Our tour driver noted that the political vitriol you often see reflected on the internet is so often displayed in person on the Capitol lawn too. But then the next day, it’s the Jonas Brothers giving an impromptu concert. So I think people can turn it on, then turn it off, and even tune it out just as easily.

    Not sure sure about your Spartan buddy though. She’s meaner than any Wolverine I know 😉

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