Thursday, May 23, 2013

I Disagree … So You Must Be a Butthead

Whoopi and I are still hanging out, and today I read about how disagreeing with people ain’t what it used to be.

Goldberg writes:

“But the tone of things is definitely changing. You’ve seen it, I’m sure. Where it used to be, I disagree with you on this or that issue, now it’s ‘You’re an a—hole.’ Or ‘You’re un-American.”

She’s talking about disagreements in the public arena, and I get what she’s saying. I actually wonder how much of this has to do with reality television. Seriously. Apparently, calm disagreements don’t make for good television, so when people have differing opinions they act crazy and scream and shout and name call and so forth, and I wonder if all that has affected our view of the norm.

It’s no secret that civility is sorely lacking in social media and that online disagreements often are handled poorly. You don’t have to be online very long to experience this.

People should be allowed to disagree without one side calling the other side names. I can dislike your viewpoint and still like you. And I believe that you should be able to disagree with my viewpoint and still like me.

Now I get that if you don’t know me and all you hear is my displeasing viewpoint, you might be tempted to equate my views with my person. And without doubt this is part of the reason why so many online arguments among strangers get so nasty so quickly. But think about it. If a good friend offered an odious viewpoint, would your immediate reaction be to call him a name or label him with some offensive label? No. You’d ask a few questions or at the very least say something like, “Gee dude, I’m not seeing how you could believe that” and move on.

And I think this is what Goldberg is saying when she writes that a starting point for turning this state of affairs around is cutting each other some slack. Just give people the benefit of the doubt already.

I have friends who believe very differently from me. Some are more liberal, others are more conservative, some are atheists, some are spiritualists, and some are Jewish. Many are Christians, but we’re certainly not a homogeneous bunch. We don’t all agree on abortion or gay marriage or premarital sex or cohabitation or sex education or whatever. However, we can by and large have a conversation without coming to real or virtual fisticuffs (or at least agree to not talk about certain things).

But in the public arena darn near anything goes, and that’s no good. Because not only is it rude and even hurtful, it shuts down the exchange of good ideas. And this world needs a few more good ideas, in my opinion.

So, we can be a bit more gracious. I’m certain of it.

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