Engage.

I get messages. In the old days, we’d call it ‘mail’ because that’s what it was…either the analog, delivered-by-a-human-to-your-house variety, or the slightly less archaic electronic mail. But nowadays, it seems like most important missives I receive are via text or the forced-upon-us Facebook Messenger. (I don’t like it. It’s trying too hard to insinuate itself into everything, including group texts, which are bad enough without having some third-party app mucking things up. But I digress.)

Some of the messages that come my way are less than flattering. Some of them are downright shitty. Many of them are simply childish, ignorant ranting. And yeah, some of them have really excellent points wrapped up in vitriol and foul language. And you know what? I read them all. If what I’ve written or posted has evoked enough of a reaction for someone to commit the time needed to put their thoughts and emotions into words and then hit ‘send’? Good on them. And good on me for pushing buttons and moving the proverbial needle. I am, if nothing else, a social media provocateur.

My good friend and staunch Conservative (how come Liberals never get to be ‘staunch?’ Sort of elitist, if you ask me) Todd has a theory. He believes that Facebook (or any social media, really) forces people to encapsulate their point in easy-to-read fragments or memes. Our newsfeed and Twitter and Instagram and so on are all just like the major news outlets; competing for attention and trying to hold our interest. Add to that the audience, both real and perceived, witnessing the exchanges, and the stakes get higher, the arguments become polarized miniature brawls, mosh-pits of political slogans and pithy zingers. Nobody wants to look weak, nobody wants to concede, nobody backs down.

Todd’s point is that if he and I sit and have a discussion about religion or politics over a pint or nine at a quiet, out of the way table in a quiet, out of the way pub, why, the entire tone is different. We’ll actually say to one another “That’s a great point, but…” or “A compelling argument. However…” Maybe we don’t change anyone’s views, but we at least offer the chance to peek through one another’s personal lenses and get a better understanding of the opposing side. Add to all this the unspoken language of body, tone, tension in one’s voice, and the level and complexity of communication increases exponentially. Plus, consider this very important point: you will choose your words so very carefully if you must say them aloud, into the face of the man or woman across the table from you; a person who is quite within spitting or punching distance. That’s a level of enforced respect lacking in your average internet dust-up.

So, anyway. Messages. I recently received one in complaint of a meme I’d created which underscored Donald Trump’s repeated calls to prevent any sort of Syrian refugees from entering the country. And yes, the whole image macro was designed to shock, as well as it was intended to put a human face on the suffering which is a daily occurrence in Syria and other areas of the Middle East. This fellow named Shane engaged me via private message, and I’m so very glad he did. Because even though our conversation began with some the one-sided heat that Facebook is known for, something wonderful gradually happened: we listened to one another. We engaged one another. Shane and I didn’t simply throw insults and swear words. We had a discussion, just as if we were sitting in a booth facing one another over pints of Guinness.

Here is our entire exchange. Shane’s words are black, mine are red.

 

 

Ok I have to ask something….. Obama signed a bill to raise pay for the military….. were you aware that he also signed to hold military pay after that so he and all of Congress didn’t have to miss their cushy paychecks? I was very much aware when i had to figure out how to feed my kids and wife while fighting for him

You may not care but you lost a listener for life

 

I remember the commission’s recommendation to “restructure.” I also remember THIS from AFTER the so-called cuts were announced:

The Thursday veto will jeopardize a host of other specialty pays and bonuses, and has inflamed an already bitter budget standoff between Obama and congressional Republicans.

But it does not alter plans for a 1.3 percent raise for troops effective Jan. 1, which is ensured regardless of how the veto fight shakes out.

“That’s because the defense bill is silent on the 2016 military raise. Obama had pledged to set it at 1.3 percent — below expected civilian wage growth — and lawmakers chose to allow that target to stand unchallenged rather than officially substitute their own wage hike in the defense authorization bill.

It’s the same tack lawmakers took in the 2015 defense bill, and it leaves Obama’s order, issued in August, as the final word on military pay for 2016.

As such, the 1.3 percent raise will go into effect Jan. 1” – The Military Times, October 23, 2015

I know Congress is a whole sack of turds. I know they’re over-paid, especially by the lobbyists. But THEY are the ones fucking our troops.

Also, I haven’t been on the radio for over two years, so no biggie.

Can’t support once side of the fence while crushing the other and expect 100% support. Tell me 1 fact that would make Hillary Clinton a better president than Trump

 

She’s not Trump.

But okay, I like her support of a single-payer health care system.

I appreciate that she would appoint supreme court justices that would NOT overturn Roe versus Wade.

Trump, and to a greater extent Pence, have said they’d like to overturn marriage equality, making it illegal again for gays to marry.

Look, it’s America. The great thing is we can have this discussion.

Hell, we can say “FUCK OBAMA” or “GOD ISN’T REAL” or “NICKELBACK ROCKS!” And there’s nothing they can do to stop us.

I wore the uniform for 3 years. I wore our flag with pride every day and will walk with a limp for the rest of my life. Our society has come to selecting the lesser of 2 evils. I wouldn’t put the uniform back on for a single person in the upcoming election but a marriage license shouldn’t be a deciding factor in how my kids will grow up

The great thing about our system, though, is that we can change it every four years if we don’t like it.

But it’s going downhill consistently.

Also, ultimately Congress is at least as important as the President. They make the laws. They decide whether we go to war.

Those assholes have almost all got to go. Start fresh.

They may decide whether we go to war but the veterans (myself included) decide the true reasons we go and fight.

Anyway, look, you don’t have to like me or agree with me. And I appreciate your sacrifice. You may have seen that I’m doing the 22 pushups for 22 days challenge for the vets losing the war to PTSD. It’s something I care a great deal about, and it’s a tragic embarrassment that we let it happen.

And don’t let me influence who you listen to on the radio (although I think John the Mexican has the best show out there.)

Take care, bub.

I 100% support the support of the 22 a day that we lose. I served with most of them I just don’t want to shut the door on the one man that legitimately cares about them over a country 3000 miles away. You may have not been on for 2 years but I’ve listened to you for a lot longer than that.

Well, I appreciate you listening when you did (before you knew I was such a filthy bleeding heart libtard. Ha!)

I still live every day believing every man would choose his own family (country) before another. I know you would do the same if you were forced to choose between one or the other. It’s different when you don’t feel you can pick both

As every Christian I’m all about helping every man woman or child on this planet, but its time we take care of our own country.

And I think it’s totally possible to do both.

If our leaders would see it that way we’d be a lot better off sir

Take care in whatever ventures you are taking on wear the skates for both of us and God bless the USA

Next time I make it to the fort I’d feel honored to have a beer with you. Takes a strong man to fight off a herd to stick to his word

It would be my pleasure, sir.

I apologize if my intentions came off wrong I’m a man who values my family, my country, and the God I pray to every night. We are all entitled to our opinion I respect yours even if I don’t agree with it

Dude, I only wish more people would take the time to actually have a discussion, instead of just screaming and sharing memes. So, Thank you. And be well, bub. Let me know when you’re in town. I’ll get the first round.

Think we’d all be better off if we listened to our conscious a little more and spoke what we truly believed rather than trying to keep from offending ppl. Hope to have a beer and hopefully be on the ice with you Sir. God bless.

 

 

How about that? Civilized people, having a chat. Now, a couple notes. First, my use of the word “Libtard.” I really dislike that word. Not because it’s an attempt to smear or slur those of us whose opinions are left of center. Rather, because I have a friend raising a kid with Down Syndrome, and the word “retard” or any variation thereof, when hurled as an insult, rubs me the wrong way.

So, why use it in this conversation? Because I assumed, incorrectly, that Shane might be the sort of person to use that word. It was a vain, stupid attempt on my part to neutralize his weapon before he could use it. I shouldn’t have. Anyone scoring this debate would award a point to Shane.

Point number two: neither of us really budged. I don’t think for a second that Shane is going to run out and start polling for Hillary, no more than he believes I’ll cast a vote for Trump in November. And you know what? Thats totally okay. You’ve no doubt heard a friend remark “Never get into a political discussion on Facebook, because you aren’t gonna change anyone’s mind.” There’s a fair amount of truth to that, although I’ve seen it happen. I’ve watched opinions change during the course of a comment thread, and it’s amazing to see. But the point is, that’s not even the issue. The point is understanding each other a little better. The point is that this is still (ostensibly) a Democracy. The point is that the First Amendment owns that place of honor in the Bill of Rights because it is ultimately the most important one. Freedom of speech. Our gift to the world.

So, going forward, just engage a little more. Talk with people, not simply at them. By all means, share memes and stats and quotes…but use those as a starting point, a chance to spark a genuine conversation. Trust me, you’ll feel better, less stressed and anxious, especially as Election Day draws near. And who knows? Maybe you’ll make some new friends along the way. At the very least, you could potentially develop some of that mutual trust and respect people talk about.

Maybe this social media thing is gonna be okay after all. And, just maybe, so will we.

 

 

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6 responses to “Engage.

  1. I was just thinking of this during a Twitter exchange I was having with a fellow conservative that was somehow confused on how debates work. What I don’t understand is how people on social media don’t understand that even after the November election, we all still have to live and work together. Why would you be so cruel and call someone such cruel names when in a few short months, the elections will be over and we’ll all have to settle back in to our normal routines? People let politics change them and with the stakes of this election being so high, tempers are running red. I feel like points of view like this are even more important than who you’re voting for….but that’s just my opinion.

    Like

  2. See this is why you are a good COMMUNICATOR. This is a skill lost in today’s world. Your friend Todd has a point, I firmly believe that today’s social media has actually divided us more then ever because it is so easy to find like minded folks on the internet that share just ONE issue with you to rail at the wind.

    Look at politics, Regan and Tipp O’Niel would have drinks while discussing the path of the nation.

    Think the two sides could do that today?

    And I to would gladly share a beer with you pally.

    Like

    • Haha! Thanks, Teej. Of course, the other argument could be that social media simply gives an outlet, a mouthpiece, for people to share their opinions like never before. That people have always been this divided, but that social media has illustrated just how deeply those divisions run. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. I also think that once cable news networks started cropping up, journalism started to be cast aside in favor of programming and ratings. So now, in order to get the entire story, one must watch CNN, FOX, MSNBC, ABC, BBC, etc. Most people don’t have the time or desire to do that, so they stick with what’s comfortable.

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      • Very true, very true. But the point that you made about having to sit across from someone who you disagree with is the most important aspect of it to me.

        It is a lot harder to NOT see a human being, with real feelings and problems, when you are looking right at them.

        Also so much of communication (I believe it is somewhere in the neighborhood of 70%) is non-verbal cues. And these are lost in the social media medium.

        Snark can be misinterpreted as insult and meaning and understanding can be lost. Think of how often in a conversation you have seen your wife (or anyone for that matter) look at you sideways after you have said something. And you realize that what you said was NOT received how you had meant it to be received. In a face to face you have that opportunity to ask what was heard and try again to insure your message was understood.

        That unfortunately isn’t how things like tumbler and twitter work though.

        That PM you had with Shane was amazing…and unfortunately is a rarity.

        It takes real strength to disagree with the persons opinion, but still show respect for the person.

        Like

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