If “Silence is Violence” I am a terrorist. Our nation has been through a lot. I don’t have to tick through all the stuff, we can all look back over the last few weeks, months, and years and pick out some singular events, and know that a lot of history has been made recently. As a guy who is interested in history, has studied it, and loves to see the lessons before offering examples for the present and the future, it’s easy to say that historians, educators, politicians, and even we lowly proletariat here in Flyover Country have lots of things to ponder and discuss, and then react to how all of these things will surely impact us.
One of the mistakes that I have made is scrolling through the internet and social media to try to digest what to make of all the stuff that we see happening.
The recently ended session of the Supreme Court has indelibly touched a lot of lives and the effects of the decisions that the Court has made will be felt for a long time. Economic news is disheartening, supply chain news is not encouraging, and news on the employment situation does not reflect the reality that businesses simply cannot find functional bodies to maintain decent operating margins. Take your pick of some of these stories and you will find a wide spectrum of opinions, passions, and philosophies about everything that is taking place.
My own opinions are my own. I don’t take to any platform with a screed about anything anymore. You will see me with admittedly “vanilla” posts about sunsets, walks with my dog, places I like to visit, and people that I love. I have no desire to stick my fingers into the light sockets of hot button topics, and it makes me uncomfortable to stay silent sometimes… but here is my thinking. My column for BizCatalyst 360° is called “Nuance with Me.” I picked it in a moment of inspiration that I can’t quite explain right now, but I am mostly glad that I did pick that.
It might be fair to tag me with the label of “fence-sitter” or to think of me as someone who is not loyal to any point of view, as someone who is afraid to offend people, so he straddles every issue. That is fair. But I am loyal to this thought, and it will be my joy and satisfaction to see if I can thread this needle: I love ideas, I love discussion, I love the exchange of ideas – BUT, I am much more partial to the people who have ideas, engage in discussion and who want to honestly exchange ideas.
One of the most perplexing, dismaying, and yes, disappointing things about surveying social media is that when someone goes on a rant, and really dials up their blood pressure and tries to tear apart anyone who is not in agreement with them, it seems as if their goal is to disqualify anyone and everyone who disagrees with them – to shut them out of the argument, to totally leave them out or cut them off before beginning a dialogue of any kind. It’s as if to say: “You are wrong, 100% wrong, not qualified to give an opinion, I don’t want to hear it, you just shut up and sit there because you have nothing to offer.” Period, end of discussion.
What invariably follows are the kudos, cyber high fives, “amens” and all the love and encouragement from like-minded people. The flag is stuck in the hilltop and it ain’t being dislodged for nobody, no how, no way, uh uh uh… Ok. Maybe that person has spoken eloquently, passionately, and supposedly poked holes in all the opposing straw people arguments and disarmed anyone that could possibly dispute anything. It might be outstanding prose that makes a lot of salient points that do a bang-up job of making the arguments that the writer wants made.
And even if I disagree with that person, I might want to applaud their efforts and allow that they have done a good job of making their case. I would love to enter the discussion with questions and respectfully disagree with points that I could make and see what kind of back and forth we might achieve and how we could educate each other in areas of disagreement.
Not gonna do that. Not now, not in the foreseeable future. Our current environment is not about discussion, or education or even debate. It’s about choosing sides. It’s about labeling. It’s about painting someone a certain color and then using that paint job to fling into every other arena to bash and disqualify them for any and all future discussions. “You’re an ignorant sloth who wants to use clip-on clothespins with a spring instead of the one-piece ones that my grandmother swore by.” I am forever painted with that brush and from that point onward, everything that I do or say is colored with that as my chief identifier.
It might appear that I am trying to thread a needle that can’t be threaded. Gun violence, abortion, election integrity, the crisis at the border… all of that is really, really heady stuff. You might think that I deserve to be disqualified for trying to come in on both sides of such highly fraught issues. Certainly, I can’t feel as if half a dozen of one is equal to six of the other?
It’s not that way at all. I am passionate about those issues and more. I have definite feelings and opinions and my life has been touched by nearly every issue that is showing up in your news feed. I will vote in this year’s elections, as I have in nearly every election since 1976.
Here is what I find difficult, and I will say, almost without a second’s hesitation:
I don’t want to disqualify anyone from anything. Most of all, I don’t want to disqualify you if you feel differently about something than I do.
Why, pray tell why, and I am deadly serious here, does it do any good to shun people who have different opinions than me? If I am not mistaken, the most rigid, uncompromising, and narrow-minded religious sects are best known for shunning members who they believe have abandoned the “true faith” and therefore no longer deserve to be held in any kind of esteem nor should they be allowed to participate in any of the benefits of being a member in close association with the group. Is that where we have come to?
If I have failed at threading the needle thus far, let me be as plain as I can be here. I believe that the friendships and the associations and the connections and the relationships that I have worked on curating all my life are far more important than turning away from those people because they might feel differently, believe differently, express themselves differently or vote differently than I do. If challenged for my beliefs, I can defend them. If necessary, I can hold my ground in any argument – usually, probably… I think so? When it’s over, I prefer to quaff fermented beverages with my adversaries and toast each other for their knowledge, wisdom, acumen, and verbal dexterity. I don’t believe that either of us must leave this country, that either of us is morally bankrupt, devoid of feeling, lacking in empathy or common sense.
Your friendship, your acquaintance, and your presence in my life is paramount. Social media has allowed all of us the opportunity to cut a wide swath of opposition out of the way, and to leave us feeling as if it’s me and my team versus all you other dumb heads. I am not saying that the topics of discussion are not divisive, not polarizing or of little consequence and why can’t we all just be friends. On the contrary, we should all remain decent, respectful, and level-headed so that we might be able to talk and learn and maybe hold onto all the common ground that unites us. We probably agree on many more things than we disagree. I value you as much as any of us value the things in which we believe. If it’s necessary to sanitize everyone around us to make sure that we all believe the same way, talk the same way, and think the same way, I will go the way of the legendary Yogi Berra: “Include me out.”