1.23.2015

"Can't we all be friends?"

I don't want to vent much on this blog, since I've been hoping it can be more of my "happy spot" to share things that I enjoy, but this has been pressing on my mind.

There seems to be an increasing lack of civility in discussing differing opinions in today's society. I remember a group of classmates in my advertising major caught wind of my different political leanings. A few were curious, asked questions, and we talked for a bit. It wasn't really a debate, it was a genuine discussion where we were trying to understand other viewpoints than our own. And it was a great experience. I feel like situations like that are becoming increasingly rare. (Or maybe I just need to return to a university setting--probably more open-mindedness?) There is a serious lack of civility in debates. I see posts on social media about controversial topics and the polarization is frustrating. There seems to be an increasingly common attitude of "If you don't agree with me then there's no point in us being friendly with one another. In fact, let's hash this out with a heated debate (generally in an emotionally-charged way, with little rational thought) on a public forum for anyone to see." I find it terribly awkward, not to mention intimidating, any time I think about voicing my own opinions and beliefs.

Looking at the two main political parties in the country, there is so much polarization. I don't feel like it's always been so extreme, and it seems to be escalating. It seems a lot like an "us-versus-them" mentality. You either lean 100% one way or 100% the other, and if you're somewhere in the middle, rather than focusing on similar beliefs, each side is going to belittle your differences from them. (And if you lean "green," no one will agree with anything you say ;) ) This makes compromise impossible, and results in poor leadership, poor representation, and a lot of corruption.

I'm all for loving people, but is my approval or even endorsement of every behavior necessary in order for me to not be a bigot? Really? It feels like society wants us to believe that if we aren't full supporters of something, we are hateful and close-minded. For example, I don't support same-sex marriage, just as I don't support premarital sex. People practice both things anyway, and I have no interest in judging or condemning them; these are my beliefs--mine. But I don't support these practices. Why do people feel the need to change others' beliefs? Only a few years ago, the gay community faced a lot of hate and persecution. That was wrong. I vividly remember as a pre-teen reading in the newspaper about the murder of Matthew Shepard and feeling sickened by the cruelty and hatred he faced. Hate is an ugly thing. Hate is not the same as disagreeing. So how can some of these same individuals, who have experienced hate, turn around and ridicule others who hold different beliefs than them, when they truly know the frustration of not being allowed a voice? Why create more division, hate and tension? As my dad said when my siblings and I fought: "Why can't we get along? Can't we all be friends?"

I can't even count how many times I've seen a status on facebook along the lines of "I believe this and anyone else who doesn't agree is an uneducated loser and can please go ahead and unfriend me now." Is that really the best way to share one's opinions? It's certainly not an optimal way to educate others who may believe differently, and will likely just isolate more people from each other when, in reality, we all have a lot to learn and contribute.

Why the cultural shift of interpreting differences and disagreement as the equivalent of hate and intolerance? Why can't we take an interest in hearing others' opinions and being civil in our disagreements, and be more willing to compromise and build (rather than burn) bridges? I know some people love drama, so this question won't mean much to those who are just looking for a good fight, but as one who dislikes any sort of contention and would much rather see more humanity and friendship in the world, I echo my dad: "Why can't we all just get along?"

4 comments:

  1. Thank you ladies, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way!

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  2. Wow! I am impressed. You said everything I believe and so very eloquently at that. For the past four days I have made a major effort to stay off Facebook for the very reasons you stated. I find I 1) waste time when I go on there and 2) get angry because of the intolerance, even when subtle. Recently I had an email from someone who told me they didn't want to discuss something because they "knew where it would go." I respectfully wrote back and told them to please not assume such a thing because that is not how I discuss things (and they should know that). Although I was kind, friendly and even ended the email with offers of service, they are no longer acknowledging me in any way. While it hurts, I also realize that that is who they are--a little, shallow individual who wants it their way. What really gets me though is that they don't realize I probably agree with them more than they know. Their loss. ;) I am rambling and this shows why I don't write a marvelous post like you did as it would confuse everyone. Anyway, thank you for this. I wholeheartedly agree and commend you for speaking it in a positive way.

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