“Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because he is wrong or even because he is right, but because he is human.”-John Cogley
Did you know that a barnacle spends its entire life stuck in one place? Yes, there a barnacle sits, with each year adding layer upon layer of calcification to cement it in place. They don’t exactly sit however, as their forehead glands contain the glue, so they fix themselves upside down to a solid surface and survive by using feathery limbs to pull in passing plankton for nutrients.
The common barnacle reminds me of our politicized culture, the way so many people seem permanently stuck to a fixed narrative way of thinking, with their heads planted firmly in the sand to protect against outside views. There they remain, asses up and arms flailing about to catch any and all news/information that confirms their views and hardens their positions.
It’s not surprising then that our political discourse has reached endemic levels of nastiness, the question is what’s to be done about it? Probably not much, as each side literally speaks a different language than the other and their differences too great. Some have hearts so hardened that those others can’t merely be human beings who want what’s best for society but have other ideas on how to get there, they must be morally deficient, evil, stupid, etc….
Beneath all the churn though lies the age old debate over the proper role of government in our society and the values we want it to represent. It’s been brewing for years and is finally coming to a head and thus we are only doing what Americans have always done, which is battle out differences of opinion via democratic means.
Admittedly this can be exhilarating. It’s exhausting though too because now EVERYTHING is political and thanks to social media, we are always in crisis mode. And Facebook has devolved in to a partisan swampland of half true “news” stories, preachy shaming essays (ha, this one kinda is too!) and snarky political memes. What happened to all the funny cat videos anyway?
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good spirited political debate and am a big believer in people expressing their views, if for no other reason than it helps shatter the cartoon character stereotype people hold about their “enemies”. Easy to do with a politician you abhor but don’t know personally, much harder if it’s your sweet uncle Joe or your super smart co-worker Shannon that supports that politician and his views.
So, sharing opinions is good and much needed for a healthy democracy to remain open and free, but there are helpful and unhelpful ways to go about doing this.
For example, while obsessively posting divisive political links/memes on Facebook may seem like just the right thing to do, (they will finally see the light!), you’re really only preaching to the choir, while the rest think it’s time for you to get help with your passive aggressive issues. Not helpful.
ALSO NOT HELPFUL:
- Responding to a politician’s obnoxious, disrespectful and crude behavior, by being obnoxious, disrespectful and crude.
- Dropping someone as a friend a because of their political positions.
- Continually posting insulting remarks about a political party/person without concern for the 50% of your friends/family that are supporters of that party/person
- Making comments on line that you would never say to someone in person.
- Succumbing to herd mentality outrage over the latest issue de jour instead of taking the time to objectively research things and form your own opinion.
- Comparisons of today’s political situation to Hitler, Nazism, etc…
- Demonizing a person’s political views so you can dismiss them instead of having to think critically and form a rational response.
- Blindly sharing “news” that blatantly serves a political agenda without vetting for accuracy.
- Only watching, reading and following news outlets that align with your political views and then lecturing others that don’t on how intolerant they are to outside ideas.
- Assuming negative character traits about someone (or groups of people) because of their political affiliation.
Keeping in mind the humanity of other people you disagree with. That the beliefs they hold and which you find so repulsive does not make them monsters or mindless simpletons, because truthfully you know nothing about them and why they think the way they do. Keep your heart soft and your mind open and you may even learn a thing or two.
And remember, you are not a barnacle, you are free to change your position, to think differently and, gasp, even be wrong about things!
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”-Confucius