Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer

Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer
They sent me here just to watch...

Monday, August 13, 2012

I won't lower the bar

In the whirlwind of social media that pervades today’s world, I wish to speak a word of civility.  I speak on behalf of kindness, understanding, respect, and humor.  I speak on behalf of returning the humanity to humanity.

It seems that everyone has their own personal rules for social media.  I made my contribution to this construct.  That’s fine, but when everyone has their own set of rules, they can’t apply to anyone but one’s self, so we shouldn’t be too offended when someone else violates rules that can only apply to our self.

Enough generalities, let’s get down to the rat killing.  Yes, you may repost that metaphor with the rabbit ears, 8 track players, and other aspects of generations gone by.  See who “likes” and reposts because they know where this quote became famous.

I will not lower the bar when it comes to social media.
What does that mean?

Some folks say that you shouldn’t talk politics on Facebook.  Others seem to put religion off limits. These are not new ideas.  Guidelines for military officers at social events since Caesar crossed the Rubicon have always been never talk about religion, politics, or women.  What’s that leave?  Sports and work—isn’t that what we talk about all the time anyway.

People were all over the Chick-Fil-A stir.  How did this become a life or death cause?  Can we not have different opinions without having to protest or rally to someone’s support?  When did we lose our civility?

Can we not disagree without having to hate each other?  Since when did American politics have to draw battle lines?  Since when can we no longer laugh at ourselves?  Have we lost the taste for the common good?

A couple years ago, someone had posted a comment about the founding fathers and the foundation of our nation.  There were many posts, but they all had one thing in common—they were shallow, sophomoric thoughts.  Despite its potential, Facebook is currently not the place to delve into in-depth discussion.  The discussions usually follow a simplified format of “you’re right and we are all going to hell if people don’t agree,” or “you are an idiot and had better repent of this line of thinking.”

I enjoy a good discussion about the wonderful creation of our founding fathers and the challenges of maintaining liberty today.  In fact, I have written substantially on the subject, but I broke one of the cardinal rules of social networking:  I posted a link to something I wrote.  I was chastised by the thread’s originator.  I wasn’t playing by the rules of shallow and offensive phrases.  I removed my post.

One day a vulgar post appeared on my feed about how worthless some people in our community were because of something they had done or failed to do.  Many jumped on the condemnation bandwagon.  I made a post asking all to consider addressing the problem without hatefully condemning the people in question.  I was asked to take my insensitive thoughts elsewhere.  I did.  If the option is to proceed only to the exclusion of civility, I will go elsewhere.

But I won’t lower the bar.
I won’t aim for less.
I won’t let capricious rules that diminish us restrict what I will do within the confines of social networks.  

What does that mean?

If it’s funny, then it’s just funny.  We need to laugh.  Political figures can be respected and a source of comic relief at the same time.  I sometimes wonder if God doesn’t get a daily laugh at our expense saying, “So you want to give self government a try do you?”

If you believe in something, then don’t hold it back, but put forth your position without acrimony or viciousness.  If you disagree with someone, reply with honesty and civility.  A put down never elevates its author.

It seems strange to me that in a land of liberty, the best we can come up with is:  Don’t talk politics at the family reunion.  In this Grand Experiment, we are asked to stay away from religious topics when the very first amendment in our Bill of Rights guarantees religious freedom.  Do we have so much freedom that we can’t stand it and must muzzle our thoughts?  In a country that values the freedom of assembly and the press, the best we can come up with for social media is don’t talk about anything important.

Those all seem like safe approaches, but perhaps they are disingenuous.  Can’t we talk about real things?  Can’t we discuss important matters with civility?

I turn off most of the talking heads shows on television these days.  Every point must be countered not only in counter-point but in retribution, name-calling, and increased volume as well. 

I miss the days when two or more people could disagree and everyone thought they could learn something from each other in the process.  I think we asked more questions and listened more then.  At least that’s the way I want to remember it.  Perhaps that’s just the halo effect putting a little luster on my memories, but whether it was fact or not, it could be going forward.

Our social media could be the best learning venue going if we could just learn to treat each other with respect, listen, and realize that we may not have all the answers.

We won’t get any smarter by anchoring ourselves to defensive positions ready to repel all who disagree.  We won’t enjoy the fullness of life unless we can learn to laugh and be laughed at.  We won’t be people of courage if we keep to ourselves in a social venue.

What’s that mean in real actions?

For me, I will post something if it is truly funny.  All politicians are fair game because we put them where they are.  When we laugh at them, we laugh at ourselves.

I may have a position that is different than yours.  It’s my position. If I post it, feel free to disagree with me.  I might learn something.  I might respond.  We might both learn something if we proceed with integrity and mutual respect.

I will talk politics on a social network.  I wouldn’t be a very good citizen of the republic if I shied away from the most ubiquitous sounding board in all of history. 

I will talk religion on a social network, not to proselytize, but to inspire and challenge and hopefully to engage in meaningful discussion about matters of importance.

John Milton once wrote, “Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”

Can we not have good, open, vibrant discussion without having to hate each other?

I for one am not ready to lower the bar and just stop talking about some things. The social media available is a wonderful way to engage the greater community, but the value of this engagement is directly proportional to the integrity, civility, and mutual respect that we invest in it.

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