this is an off-the-cuff post; inspired half by things I thought upon perusing twitter first thing in the morning, and half by the twitter purge I began in the evening.
See, I got myself really worked up this morning, and I sort of have been lately. So maybe I’ll start with the angst and move on to the alternative.
Lately, the two worlds I’ve been a part of – the conservative, evangelical world and the liberal, more progressive world (I’m not saying they’re mutually exclusive, nor am I trying to imply that to be conservative you must be un-progressive or vice versa) – have been butting heads with each other. Some of my twitter follows/followers have been tweeting at bloggers or writers or pastors that I have known and loved for a long time about various issues that I would say center around justice/injustice in the world: issues like gender inequality, gender roles, racial inequality, acceptance of the LGBTQ community, etc. And for me, it’s pretty exhausting.
It’s exhausting because I love each side of the conversation a lot, and I hate that, to be frank, calling it a “conversation” is pretty disingenuous.
A lot of times, it seems like people are just yelling at each other over social media, and it WEARS.ME.OUT.
It wears me out because I can’t have an actual conversation with these people sometimes. It wears me out because I, too, want to look at these deep issues facing our society – issues of the evolution of gender roles, of racism and class inequality, of humanism and sexuality and all of this stuff – I’m happy to have a conversation about them. I’m happy to talk because I’m happy to learn, and because I have no earthly idea.
I’ve realized lately that my perspective is really, really small compared to the rest of the world – I don’t know what it’s like to be a northerner, a westerner, a European, an African, an Asian, a black man, a Hispanic, a woman, an athiest, a member of the LGBTQ community; I have no idea what it’s like to see a police officer and fear for my life, to hide secrets from my parents or my church in fear that they’ll disown me, to feel discrimination in the workplace, etc.
And while I appreciate how limited my perspective is, it seems that people like me are dismissed quickly from the conversation. We aren’t given the room to learn, to converse, because we are in the majority, the favored class, and we are all swept aside in one massive generalization:
AMERICAN, STRAIGHT WHITE MALE.
“You can’t relate.”
“You don’t understand.”
“You’ll never know what it’s like.”
“You’re the problem.”
Now, let me be careful lest I sound like I’m using my privileged position to sound indeed unprivileged; that’s not what I’m trying to do.
I suppose that what I’m trying to do is ask for invitation to the conversations, the conversations that are too long, complex, and difficult to have over social media. The conversations that, quite frankly, you should have while eating with people, while having coffee, while doing life together, because we should have these conversations with people that we know. I’m not in a position to judge the people on my social media platforms, even if I’m inclined to, because I don’t know them. I don’t work with them, or go to church with them, or hang out with them; I’ve never heard the sound of their voice before – so how can I have a conversation about justice with them?
Isn’t there something to be said about knowing someone as an individual before you can judge their character based on their opinions? For instance – theres a really good chance that a lot of great business minds are total racists. There’s a really good chance that some of the loudest voices for injustice are lousy workers at their job. Surely we can’t simply group people together: “The conservatives are racist assholes who are nice to no one, hate every black person, they’re all rich, they all go to church, they’re shallow, afraid of conversation and they’re dogged in their beliefs. The liberals are noble humanists who read all the books and who are all eloquent in their speech, they’re entirely open-minded and fear no one, they have a plethora of conversations every day and they are nice to everyone, they are the middle-to-lower class who work hard for every penny and give everything they have to others.”
I fear that politics have skewed our ability to see other people as they truly are, and I worry that we can’t have a conversation because of it. I’m sure that a lot of people, because of the way that I act and how I interact with people, because of my financial status, age, etc. think I’m liberal, a registered democrat, etc. But – I’m a conservative raised in a conservative background, and I use those values to help me approach the issues of life. But being conservative does not equate to being closed-minded.
I also fear that social media (in conjunction with the last point) has marred our ability to have these conversations in an effective way – those people who are lionhearts behind a keyboard can defend their beliefs (whether progressive or not) and can exit the conversation whenever they want, and if they’re capable, can totally deflect all of the emotional backlash. You sort of have to on the internet – it’s one of the reasons I struggle with having a blog: I don’t have a thick skin. I wrote what most people would call an ignorant, homophobic piece a few years ago (about how people should respect Russia’s call for no LGBTQ propoganda at World Cup 2018) and got torn to shreds for it. I never wrote for that website again. But the lesson I learned from that is that in the blogosphere, while you can tackle any issue you want to any degree, you will have people who have no idea who you are, what you’re like, or what you’re really all about, judging you on one blog post. One tweet. One facebook post. One video. And you have to either deflect all of the flack entirely, or you have to spend ages cleaning up after yourself, clarifying what you said.
So maybe it’s important to start localizing these conversations. Social media is great, the blogosphere is great, but what progress are we making? Which of your neighbors, co-workers, friends have you talked to about these issues that matter the most? I haven’t had a conversation like this in person in a long time, I can tell you that. Isn’t that where we’ll actually make progress?