November 13th, 2016


The dangerous pastime

I thought I could maybe take the weekend to think some thinky thoughts about the election outcome and post stuff about it, but not surprisingly, the weekend has been slightly busy and not exactly conducive to sorting through everything going on in my head. Nevertheless, there are things I want to talk about, so I think I might try anyway.

I sort of wanted to talk about an extended family situation. An aunt of ours posted something about the election, blaming a certain group of people that our sister is a part of. Our sister felt attacked (as people tend to do when others blame them) and spoke up to say hey that's not cool and none of the people I know in the group wanted that man for president...or something like that. Somehow we're actually not Facebook friends with this aunt, so we didn't see any of the exchange until some comments had been deleted. But our sister was upset so she texted us to let off some steam, which is how we learned what happened afterward. Our aunt first unfriended her (I had to pause for a moment to be amused at the fact that Chrome doesn't mark "unfriended" as misspelled; ah, how language evolves), then sent her a friend request to say hey, just so you know, I'm too good to unfriend people, so we can be friends again but I don't want you posting on my wall ever again. Or at least that's how our sister tells it. Lately, we're more and more aware of how the source of information is an important factor in its reliability (do you mean to tell me that people sometimes skew the facts to present themselves or their point of view in a favorable light!? gasp!!).

And this is where I wanted to type some eloquent essay about...something about that whole incident, but as I said, I haven't had the time to compose my thoughts properly. First of all, I think it's a bad idea to unfriend people over disagreements. I also know that some people are toxic and it's important to not let that toxicity into your Facebook feed, so that's fine, but one disagreement is hardly enough to prove toxicity. I think you should probably allow for about three. (According to our sister's account, she hadn't said a word to this aunt in like a decade, so.) Presumably you have to be thirteen to have a Facebook account, and by then, we hope all of us have grown out of the "I'm never speaking to you again" style of debate. (My inability to believe that this is true of anybody, on the other hand, is a large contributor to my misanthropy.)

I had this thought a while ago, when one of our Facebook friends asked for anybody who was looking forward to "The Killing Joke" movie to let him know so he could unfriend them. I understand the massive problem with The Killing Joke, I haven't seen the movie, and I certainly don't think I need it in my life, but I thought there was something wrong about the idea of unfriending people who don't understand the problems, and that's this: If you cut those people out of your life, how are you ever going to influence them for good? How will they ever learn the problems with that movie if the people who can teach them refuse to engage in any interaction with them?

On the other hand, there also seems to be an idea going around that the only reason people disagree with "my" ideology is that they don't know the facts, and if they just knew the facts, they would automatically change their mind. They would see the light and finally become a force for good...or at least someone I'm allowed to be friends with and not lose any of my cred. This, of course, is all the more reason not to cut them out of your life, because how else can they learn these facts?

But then there was the time that someone found out we weren't fans of baseball, and immediately decided that this was because we just didn't know what it was (as if we had never gone to P.E. in school), so this person started to explain how the game worked. We were like, "No, we know how the game works; we just still don't care." And WHAT IF! that were to happen with someone who, for example, thinks fracking is okay? ...I don't know if there really is anything okay about fracking, but we just wanted a controversial topic that isn't currently a major point of debate (at least among the people we know on the internet). But I don't know, pulling ideas from absolutely no research, maybe this person was in an small town that had a serious unemployment problem for decades, and then a power company came along and said, "Hey, how about fracking?" and they said, "I need to feed my family somehow, so sure!" But you tell them all the facts about fracking and how unsafe it is and how bad it is for the environment, and they're like, "Okay, dude, I work at a fracking facility, if anybody knows how dangerous it is, I do, but come on, man, I finally have a way to pay my bills!"

In that case, do we cut them out of our life, because they'll never see the light? Do we deny them the right to make a living because of our personal ideologies? I mean, if you ask me, I would definitely want to subsidize some alternative form of energy that would also create jobs in that person's area, but until we can get that to happen, is it really a good idea to write them off like that? I kind of think that if we decided we could never be friends, they would take a harder stance for fracking, and then when somebody comes along with another idea, they'll be that much more reluctant to try it.

Because what happens when you come along and tell somebody they're wrong, and you're angry and accusatory, the automatic response is fight or flight, not, "Hey, let's listen to this new friend who clearly knows what's best." So they're going to get defensive, and when people get defensive, they convince themselves they're even more right than before, whether or not they have any facts to back it up. So they fight me back, and that makes me angry and defensive, so I dig in my heels, and we get even more polarized and everybody becomes so invested in proving they're right, in making the other team cry uncle, that what really happens is they grow farther and farther apart, and the enmity gets stronger and stronger until everybody decides that the only way to make the problem go away is to literally eradicate the problem, and we all go to war.

So I guess basically what it all comes down to is the speech that Abraham Lincoln gives at Disneyland several times a day. I believe it's patched together from several of Mr. Lincoln's speeches. And Wikipedia is kind enough to have the entire text of that speech, so I'm just going to copy and paste it, and then I'm going to be done with this rambling post. Also, when you read it, I want you to hear it in the voice of Abraham Lincoln. If you don't know what that sounds like, I'm sure YouTube can help you out.

"The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.

What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not our frowning embattlements, our bristling sea coasts. These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, [that] if it ever reach us, it must spring [from] amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we [ourselves must] be [the] author[s] and finisher[s]. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time[s], or die by suicide.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by [the] menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

—Abraham Lincoln

Okay, so I'm not quite done. I just wanted to repeat this: "As a nation of free men, we must live through all times, or die by suicide." Let's not fight each other.

Today I'm thankful for this great nation, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Primary going relatively well today, the helpfulness of Wikipedia, and all the men and women who sacrificed to win us the freedoms we have today.