Its just not enough to be right.

Yesterday I got involved in a pretty big debate on Facebook where I ended up in the role of "GlennBeck defender" based on a recent political comic caricaturing his Restoring Honor 828 rally. (BTW, I don't know the source of the comic as it was shared via a wall post on FB.. but I've attached it to the right for reference.)

I have a long history of stirring folks up on FB because I enjoy the discourse, the debate and I continue to strive and struggle for middle ground even in the most extreme positions. Ultimately I want to learn and influence in a fair approach, embracing discourse and opinions openly.

The starting comment was what got me all worked up.
"And to my "friends" who like and regurgitate Glenn Beck's Goebbels-like propaganda, I am putting you on notice. I will not be silent. I will not respect the boundaries of polite society and avoid calling you out. If I see it, or hear it, I will put you in your place and I will not be nice about it. And I call upon everyone else to do the same. We, as Americans - as civilized human beings - cannot let this become acceptable discourse." - Dave
Our debate ranged for several hours and in the end, I was quite literally exhausted.  I began to have trouble maintaining perspective as I was tempted again and again to be drawn into a point for point debate over other peoples' actions for which I simply wasn't qualified to judge nor equipped to present. I further refused to be drawn into a debate over the appropriateness/correctness of my own opinions and character. Finally, I had to withdraw... I didn't feel I could effectively engage further in the text/FB forum without engaging in attacks on the character, opinions, and freedom of my friends. It might have been different if we were face to face, but we weren't so I tried to observe "boundaries of polite society" sometimes successfully, maybe not so successfully at other times.  I can't say I was right, nor will I concede that my friends were right, but I think the discussion was important.

A few themes came out of the experience that I wanted to capture here for future thought and discussion. 
  • It is not enough to be right, me or them. The relationships matter more than any ideological discussion.
  • I still don't have an effective model for focusing on a future path in discussions about emotional issues. My attempt at a middle ground approach left me open to attack on all sides. I am judged for being wrong, and then judged for not holding to a binary position. That is the way of things for now I guess. 
  • Threats of "public humiliation" are not effective even in the media. The public, even the informed public has become desensitized to the methods of engagement currently being used so effectively.
  • "The messenger is sometimes more important than the message."- Laurie
  • "GB & Palin are not in a good position to preach harmony, when they are making tons of cash off of dissonance." - Laurie
  • Unity requires compromise.. "Tolerance, inclusion and freedom is at the root of all that we are as Americans." ALL of US.. 
  • We must attempt to grant sincerity and license to all.. especially those with which we disagree so vehemently.  To find a path forward without continued conflict, we must learn from one another and strive for something greater than ourselves.
  • I was inspired by the passion of my friends, even the ones with which I maintain serious ideological differences. 
  • Personal attacks, based on judgements of intention and motivation are a very dangerous. Only a man knows his intentions, just as only an artist can truly judge and define his art.
  • When methods don't match message, something is inherently wrong.
  • Ideas which make sense in microcosm or "on the surface" often break down under deeper scrutiny. The discipline to apply the scrutiny and discern is sorely lacking in our society today. We tend to source our discernment to media personalities and the news. 
  • "I encourage you to look at what you read/watch/listen to and pay careful attention not only to the political message but the social message. It's all fine to want smaller government and fewer taxes but when that must also go hand-in-hand with hatred and fear mongering then something is off balance." - Kira
  • The debate over the intention of the Restoring Honor should encourage a national discussion on the tactical applications of social justice principles. We must continue to solve problems both individually and collectively and not just talk about them. 
  • Bringing people together of all races and ideologies to change the world is a big task. It may be too big for man. My Christian heritage and faith show me that the way to unity is through Jesus Christ, but this is a non-starter in the political spectrum as I reject the premise of a theocracy.
  • The founders were definitely on to something big when they set up separate arms of power, with checks and balances, yet embracing freedom principles.
  • We live in the greatest country in the world, and our freedoms and opportunities are amazing.. 
"We, as Americans - as civilized human beings" - cannot allow ideological difference to divide and diminish us. We must rise above our differences and find methods of acceptable discourse which embody civility, virtue, respect, tolerance, and freedom. It is not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. That is my dream.


Valerie Bernhardt said…
Thanks for this, Jeff. I struggle with the same things you do. I have been studying the teachings of Ekhart Tolle lately, and have found quite a bit that I like. For him, it comes down to ego getting in the way of the 'real being' in each of us. Therefore, my ego has to be right, and yours has to be wrong, and conflict begins. If our true 'being-ness' can emerge and quiet the ego, we can lead much more peace-filled lives. So then the traffic jam I'm stuck in is not about me, my spouse's bad mood is not about me, the long line at the restaurant is not about me, and life gets a whole lot easier to deal with. I've tried it, and it really works. He also talks about how a lot of core teachings of many religions have been misinterpreted, misused and changed over the centuries into a lot of the narrow, non-inclusive rhetoric we have today. I have also found a lot of peace and happiness in my own Nichiren Buddhist practice. Nichiren Daishonin taught that EVERYONE has the enlightened Buddha nature (God, if you will) inside them, and when we actually honor that, differences diminish, and happiness spreads from one person to another. Anyway, there's my $.02.
carolinabiker said…
Back in the past, the idea was to take the best of each sides ideas and create a greater whole. Was it perfect? No, not really for either side, but was a change from the "my way or the highway" mentality of what passes for current politics. Seems to be that doing nothing (or wild complaints over what is done) passes for "politics" in the current era. To me politics is more "sport debate" (my team vs yours) than a way to solve problems in America 2010. Plus both sides tend to give a rather distorted view of their history and beliefs...but a simple look shows that "what the party stands for" and "what the party did" (on both sides) is often very different.
I enjoy facebook, but engage in no political debates on it anymore. It is a lousy forum for that; tends to get wild and a bit too personal.
Alan Thompson said…
I can appreciate the sentiment of "can't we all just get along?", and finding unity, but when we have dearly held principles that are in conflict with someone else's dearly held principles, and one of those will prevail in some public policy or practice, unity is impossible. The best we can hope for is mutual respect. For instance, if I am convinced that at 20 weeks, there is a baby alive in that womb, and the other person thinks it is worthless tissue that can be discarded, what is the compromise position? How do I calm down and get along when I am convinced a child is being murdered?

On the other side of this discussion, there are very few of our issues that are those kinds of "life or death, good or evil" issues. Sometimes we have to say to ourselves, "This is going to be a disaster, but I guess people will have to see for themselves and then we can fix it." (I have to tell myself that all the time in church decisions.)

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