My circle of friends is unusual. Let’s take Facebook as an example. I have my old high school, college, and W2 job friends. I also have family there. That’s pretty normal for most people, but because I write science fiction, I also have a substantial circle of people from that arena, as well.
Looking at my Facebook news feed is like standing in the middle of a firefight. A lot of my every day contacts and old friends are religious people. While there are a core of SFF writers who are spiritual and religious, overall, they tend to be libertarian (small L) to liberal. Many are agnostic or atheist.
I like all of these people, but I do tire easily of some of the vitriol that flies past my news feed. Take the Duck Dynasty guy, Phil Robertson.
I have never watched Duck Dynasty, so I have no idea what the show is about. I do know that Robertson spoke his mind and A&E suspended him. His picture is all over Facebook with captions both supporting and lambasting him.
Moving to more general observations, I see people on the right coming out with statements that start out “I’m not racist but…” It’s even more pronounced on the topic of homosexuality and gay marriage in particular. People are very opinionated about this, using their faith, and often unsubstantiated claims to back those opinions up. On the left, I see people demonizing Christians basically for being Christians.
None of the statements are directed specifically at me. Still, when I log into Facebook and I see somebody post in a comment thread “Merry Christ-ass” I have to shake my head in disbelief. How exactly is this kind of comment going to either mend fences or move a liberal agenda forward in any way? It’s nothing but lowbrow antagonism.
Another example is when I see discussion of Pope Francis, who is the most progressive Pope of the modern era. Barely nine months as Pontiff, and this man has seriously shaken up the Catholic Church. While some of the liberals in my extended circle laud what he has done, others are dismissively venomous because 2000 years of tradition and beliefs have not been shattered yet. People don’t appreciate what they have and are too quick to destroy instead of build.
It isn’t just left attacking the right. The comments I see about our president are not dissent, they are blatant racism. In addition, the right cherry-picks bad aspects of the healthcare law and relentlessly attacks without regard for the complete picture.
Quite honestly, it’s getting old. In fact, it has been old for a long time. Someone once said that opinions are like assholes. Everybody has got one. That doesn’t make all opinions equal. A well-researched and informed opinion means a lot more than a knee-jerk spewing of some verbatim quote from a talking head who probably didn’t research either.
We need to slow down and think about what we write–think about what we say. Perception is important, because respect can build bridges and help to form consensus.
Is it really too much to ask to show respect to people who disagree? The nastiness on both sides does nothing but escalate the hate.