I’ve had something on my mind for some time and so many instances come up almost daily it ultimately has delayed putting the concept forth. So many examples; so little time. But it was a tough weekend and it just seemed like the right moment.
My Irish Setter passed away this weekend. With all the things we know about the unconditional love of an animal it is more evident than ever what that really means. Our animals don’t care if we’re a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, atheist or Bible-thumper, black or white or anything else that doesn’t involve how we treat them directly. I guess you could say it’s the “No Judgment Zone.”
But conveniently, with an impending deadline for an essay I was to write, I received a pithy Facebook message from a friend I haven’t seen or heard from in many years.
“Goodbye Craig. Not an Obama fan.”
Now without getting into the notion that I am supporting President Obama, which anyone paying attention would know isn’t the case, does anyone else find it curious that this person contacted me after many years solely for the purpose of expressing that one sentiment and informing me that whatever our relationship has been based on in the past, it is now terminated?
Employing that same philosophy I would no longer be speaking to my parents.
I recently started hearing from another high school friend of 30 years, whom I haven’t seen in 25. He does not comment on my humorous pictures, or shots of my kids and animals or vacation pics. He also doesn’t say a word if and when we might agree on a something, which perhaps isn’t most of the time but I find occasional agreement even with my most ideological friends. Rather, he only adds his .02 when he disagrees with me. I am certain if I gave it any thought I would find others who fit that pattern as well.
Thankfully this isn’t universally true. Sure, there are surely those who have unsubscribed from my feed if they know how and are missing announcements I make about family, travel, humor and life events which, except for spurts of commentary, are still most of what I post. That doesn’t particularly surprise me and I can’t say I haven’t done the same.
However, this last weekend when Malcolm died the outpouring of sympathy from friends regardless of political ideology was heartwarming. It is encouraging to me that in my efforts to engage in civil conversation, at the end of the day despite being outspoken I have made far more friends than I have lost and they aren’t exclusively on one side or the other.
Still, after I made a comment a few weeks ago which stated I didn’t understand the Keynesian philosophy of dramatic increases in spending in spite of huge deficits, I received the following e-mail from a relative who has never once e-mailed me before, never made a comment of any kind on anything else I’ve ever posted including many pictures of our family, nor contacted me during the last year to see how I’m doing when he has known full well my parents have both been ill.
He began “If you had any understanding at all of government accounting systems…”
and it sorta went downhill from there.
He continued “It may be in fashion to lean toward the Tea Party line of right wing crap but Hannity, Limbaugh and the Fox news ilk are all talk and no substance”
and went on to make another remark about how I should be spending my time. As with the the unexpected contact I mentioned earlier, this person must have missed all of the roughly half-dozen posts in the last couple of months critical of El Rushbo and other divisive right-wing pundits.
I must admit, balancing my simultaneous devotion to both President Obama and the Tea Party has been a source of great internal conflict and stress for me but I have an excellent therapist and there is hope.
I am not here to lament the attacks on me personally from those I might have expected otherwise but to highlight an obvious but sometimes overlooked consequence of being able to express ourselves online and have the sentiments broadcast around the entire circumference of the globe in seconds. There is a lot of press when a celebrity tweets something stupid but needless to say, how it affects the rest of us is not front-page news.
Perhaps it should be.
By and large I have made numerous new friends through social media and managed to reconnect and stay in touch with family and old friends that I would not otherwise be in contact with. However, if the venue is used as an opportunity to discuss controversial issues, you may very well be falling on a double-edged sword.
Of course what could be more contentious than our political climate today. Politics has largely been a forbidden topic at family gatherings for years and yet, that example seems mild by today’s standards. As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, both of the major parties have moved away from the center and unfortunately the tail seems to be wagging the dog.
The rhetoric has become so contentious that I sometimes wonder if we’re on the verge of a civil war, or at least riots between OWS and Tea Party crowds. The media is largely complicit as well, dividing up cable news and online blogs largely along ideological lines who seem to generate the most audience by vilifying their opponents.
Should it really come as a surprise then that even those who have been our friends or who may be our family only feel obligated to express themselves in regard to that which pushes their buttons. The new mantra seems to be “to every reaction there an even greater and more ridiculous overreaction.” This is an alarming trend that we may find very hard to curtail.
I will continue to make every effort to speak my mind with civility and fairness. I don’t expect to always be right and I don’t expect everyone to agree but I will certainly try to be nonpartisan, even-handed and search for consensus where I can.
To everyone who reached out with condolences on the loss of my best canine friend even though you think I’m a pinhead, you have my gratitude and my friendship. To the rest of you who have decided I’m expendable or that contact need only based on taking me to task, it’s your loss.