For the past two weeks I've been struggling with what to write in my last post for 2010. After all, everyone was writing some type of year-in-review post so, if I was going to add my two cents to the blogosphere, I really didn't want it to be just one more rehash of the year in politics. Nor did I want to write just another tome about the ups and downs of care-giving. I waited and while I was waiting for inspiration, my social media friends were all but writing this post for me. So here I am in the last few hours of the last day of 2010, writing a blog post about what I will take away from ( or would rather forget about ) the year 2010.
If there is on lesson that I learned in 2010, it is that the chief reason that we, as a society, remain so divided is because we simply love to argue. More often than not, we would rather spend days and weeks arguing with and belittling those with opposing views, rather than making the effort to listen to and try to understand opinions that don't concur with our own. Sadly, there are even some who when they can't find an enemy to argue with, pick arguments with their "friends".
Think I'm wrong?
For instance, I recently posted a link on my Facebook wall to a petition that asks the European Commission to stop the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD), Directive 2004/24/EC, which is set to remove access to the vast majority of herbal medicinal products beginning 30 April 2011. Most people who really know me know that I am a true believer in alternative medicine. They also know that I am not opposed to traditional medicine but I believe in a more holistic approach to good health and healing.
So what happens? A person whom I truly respect and whom I know shares a very different view on the subject of alternative medicine posts the comment, "Not feeling that petition, I'm afraid." Ok, I respect this person's opinion and I would have never sent them this link directly because I know that this would not interest them. So, I ask myself, if this person knows that I strongly support this issue and they don't, why did they feel the need to leave a comment? They could have just glanced at the post, found it to be of no interest, and then moved on. After all, a Facebook wall isn't really a place for a serious exchange of information and in depth discussion. Of course, I could have read their comment and just moved on too. But sadly, I wrote a snarky reply. Now the "friend" has written that they think that I must think very little of them. All part of the lesson of 2010.
So you say, "that's just one incident and doesn't prove that we are a society that loves to argue".
OK, before you dismiss my theory and start writing your comment to convince me that I am totally off base, let me offer as evidence two stories, straight from recent headlines, that have more than proven my point.
Feminists Against Julian Assange v. Feminist Supporters of Julian Assange
Animals Lovers who Hate Michael Vick v. Animal Lovers who believe that humans deserve a second chance. ( Ok, I was a little biased in the way that I worded that one. )
I promise that I won't bore you to tears exploring the merits of the various positions on either case because, if you're like most people, your mind is already made up and you don't care what the other side thinks because, "THEY ARE WRONG". Right? Besides, if you frequent social media sites you've seen these issues debated in ultimate fighting style matches of 140 characters or less. However, if you are following these debates closely, you have to admit that people are talking "at" each other rather than listening to each other.
Not long ago, I shared my thoughts on the DemocracyNow broadcast of the debate between feminists Jaclyn Friedman and Naomi Wolf over the sex crimes allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Naomi Wolf's Facebook page. Later that day, I received several messages from Facebook friends letting me that they did not share my "misguided" opinion. After receiving one of many links that day, I responded to one friend as follows:
"I appreciate your points. However, I've also read the actual police reports as they were documented by the Guardian.uk. And while I would concur that Julian Assange may have acted inappropriately, I believe that the media's repetitive use of the word 'rape' is pure sensationalism."
In reply my friend wrote:
"So 'the no means no' thing we grew up with only applies if she says 'no' before hand? or does it only apply to men with whom aren't progressive heroes? I read the charges as well. And the legal definition of rape -- this from the woman who said she told him no after the condom broke -- is that it is not consensual if she says no and you continue. I have not watched CNN in weeks and try not to watch Fox News, so the only televised reports I've seen have been msnbc and they have nothing but try to provide cover for him."
Yes, in 2010, I learned that sometimes you just have to end a discussion before it turns into an argument. I did, of course, reply to that comment but I promise you that I was polite.
On the topic of Michael Vick .. well let's just say that I often found myself of the opposite side of that debate too.
When the full story of Michael Vick's involvement in dog fighting first broke, I drew fire from some of my friends for my statement that he deserved jail time and to be banned from professional football. Later, I drew fire when I wrote a post on my view that parties were using the Michael Vick story to manipulate the animal rights movement. Subsequent to that, when Michael Vick was released from prison and signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, I took heat for saying that he had served his time in prison and deserved a chance to redeem himself. So, now I'm sure that you can imagine that my view that if Michael Vick is sincere about ever owning another dog, he should be allowed to begin ( under close supervision) with rehabilitating formerly abused dogs, has thoroughly pissed offed several of my fellow animal lovers.
Let's face it friends, our true national past time is argument and the blogosphere is thriving because of it. And second to arguing is pointing out each other's faults. After all, why would people spend their day reading The Huffington Post or watching FoxNews when they absolutely hate them. I know one person who expresses such a passionate dislike for Arianna Huffington that I wonder exactly what Ms. Huffington did to her. It had to be something personal.
Yes, I've learned this lesson well.
Fortunately, I learned another lesson a long, long time ago. The many wonderful people that I've know throughout my life have taught me that we all have more things in common than we have differences. Basically, we all want the same things for ourselves and our families. We each just approach life from our personal worldview. So when I am tempted to be too snarky and dogmatic, I am reminded by the voices from my past, to bite my tongue, listen and try to understand where the other person is coming from. Honestly, I don't always do this well. But I do try and will keep trying to do better.
Someone has to keep fighting the spirit of Leland Gaunt :-)
So that's it. My last post for 2010. A promise to keep sharing my opinions, listening to your comments and try to understand. I also have no doubt that I'll probably be on the opposite side of the argument more than a few times next year too.
I wish you all the very best in the year ahead and thank you for your support.
I leave you with these thoughts.
" This is the moment of the year when we inhabit inwardly both sunset and sunrise. God created them both, but we ourselves decide how to paint them. Next year will bring whatever next year brings, but what we bring TO it will make all the difference. And the greatest thing we can bring to it is our love. " --- Marianne Williamson