Well, I fully intended on posting this over the weekend, but, have needed time to process all of the churn and to “moderate my content” so as not to run afoul of Facebook, Twitter, et al. Time will tell if this was successful!
While I have a lot of thoughts on all that has gone on throughout 2020, culminating in the fiasco we saw last week, I want to refer to them, but I don’t want to overanalyze, debate or even acknowledge all of them. I’d rather take this limited time I have with you all to talk about us and how we fit in to all of it. I have categorically and unreservedly have been against violence in protests. I don’t care what side is doing it (and it is driven by the radical fringe of both sides), it is abhorrent and the perpetrators should be held liable to the fullest extent of the law. That said, there were a LOT of peaceful protesters (the mainstream of both sides) who have valid points they have wanted to raise, and, frankly, the valid points should be things we openly discuss, debate and address. We may disagree, but the issues are valid ones and they deserve an open and honest discussion among the citizenry and leadership of the country. Unfortunately, between the violence and hatred and the virtue signaling, the valid points get lost and marginalized and the discussion never happens.
The three of us don’t always agree on everything. We have had some energetic debates and even some heated conversations about things, but we have still remained the closest of friends/family. This is because of the way we disagree, and the way people used to disagree. I spent time analyzing it and it comes down to just a few principles, and, I personally believe, that if we all employed these on a wider basis, particularly with friends/colleagues/family, slowly but surely, we’d make a difference. So, here goes.
- We respect each other. This doesn’t mean that we acknowledge each other’s accomplishments. It means we legitimately believe that the others have value. We see each other as unique, thoughtful and having an opinion or point of view that has merit.
- We assume noble intent. This means that we believe that the others have a desire for improving and making things better. This also means that if something goes wrong or fails, we don’t question their motives, because we already believe that they are acting on what they believe to be for the best.
- We listen. This one is vitally important. When we are together and discussing a topic, we are actively listening, rather than sitting there figuring out what we want to say next. Many times we find discover that we aren’t as far apart on a topic as we think or that our approaches, while different can lead to similar outcomes.
- We seek to understand why there is a difference in our opinions. We don’t do it for the purposes of “fixing” the others’ faulty understanding, rather we do it to see if there is something in our understanding that we are either missing or haven’t considered.
- We sincerely apologize when we cross the line. Yes, we have crossed the line with each other before. It happens in every relationship, but we recognize that when we’ve done something or said something that crossed the line from debate into personal attack, we need to apologize because that is wrong.
- We understand that the value of each other is not in each one’s individual opinions, but in who they are as a whole. One decision or one opinion does not define who any of us are as people and anyone who tries to define people by only one or two data points isn’t trying to understand people but to segregate them.
- We push each other to understand and test why we believe what we believe. This is because we all are looking to better understand and grow, not because we are trying to bludgeon opposing viewpoints.
- We understand and accept changing opinions. We have learned that as we have gotten older, we have learned new things and some of our opinions have changed as some will probably change in the future. We recognize that this is a sign of growth or of understanding new information and that is generally a good thing.
- We agree to disagree…agreeably. If we don’t agree and after talking through it, we still don’t agree, we leave it at that. We don’t keep trying to hammer on the others to change, we don’t take cheap shots about the disagreement, and we revisit it only if warranted.
This list isn’t rocket science. It’s basically the golden rule. We treat each other as we want to be treated and we believe the best. Given what we have seen in the political discourse, the media bias, and the culture of “it isn’t enough to win, I have to destroy you” and “I am right and good, therefore you must be wrong and evil”, I don’t see this approach being adopted to widely by the leadership and exemplars of our society, so it is up to us to model it, practice it and influence others around us. I heard a suggestion for bringing civility back to online discourse. The suggestion was to make every comment and response a 2-way video rather than text. Force people to look at the person they are writing about and tell them directly rather than hide behind an anonymous keyboard.
At the end of the day, the division, strife, violence and name-calling will probably continue, for a number of reasons. We, however, have a choice. We can contribute to its longevity, or we can resolve to do what we can during the course of our daily lives to build bridges rather than burn them and encourage rather than tear down. One thing I have learned is that it is far easier and quicker to destroy than build, but there is much greater satisfaction from building. So, think before you post, resist the urge to press the send button on something you know is inflammatory, and assume noble intent, especially with friends and family. After all, they’ll be the ones helping you change a tire at midnight in the cold, not Pelosi or McConnell. Have a great week!
P.S. For those of you who believe 2020 was the worst year ever, take a look at 1968, or 1919, or 1944 or 1862. Those were some bad years.