It genuinely seems that in today’s political climate, no topic is safe to discuss without some kind of heated response. This is not something only I have noticed. I have friends and family who agree, and I have had more than one scenario at work where a conversation was changed before it could become something uncomfortable. By most definitions of the word, this is an epidemic.
Also, to be clear on the phrase “heated response” that I used earlier, I am not referring to a situation in which someone passionately disagrees with you. I will discuss this in greater detail in a moment, but passionate disagreement is healthy. What I am referring to when I use the “heated response” terminology, is an immediate and overwhelming digression into insulting the other people’s perspective and often even attacking their character for their opinion. This is absolutely NOT healthy, and I am pretty confident that I can call it childish.
But so what, right? Honestly, who cares if these childish people break their keyboards on internet comments out of hatred, or lose their voice from screaming obscenities they would punish their kids for saying? It is not hurting us, is it?
Well, not yet…
I want to talk about the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida this last week. Well, not talk about the event itself, but about what has erupted in conversations all over the internet and the country since the tragedy took place. All of a sudden, we heard very familiar battle-cry: Gun control! Memes regarding the divisive issue started (re)surfacing everywhere. In fact, let’s take a look at a couple:
Now I did not create either of these. In fact, I have never created a meme and don’t think I even know how to (and at this point I am too afraid to ask). But someone did. Someone who believes very passionately about this issue. But passion is not the problem here. See, human beings lost their lives this week. And you…or anyone for that matter…have the right to be passionate about that. But the problem, as so eloquently stated by Brene Brown in one of her most recent publishings, is the “bullsh*t”.
Neither of these memes adequately expresses a meaningful perspective on such a difficult topic like a school shooting. In order for honest dialogue to happen, which by the way, is a necessary precursor to change, there MUST be an exchange of purposeful thought and perspective. Instead, what is expressed here is fear-mongering. On the left, we have an implied message of, “Support gun control, and you are the equivalent of a Nazi.” And on the right, “You are a hypocrite if you value a fetus but support death row or the right to own guns.”
There is a reason this bothers you. It’s because it does not accurately represent how you feel! Earlier this week I posted a blog on “balance.” One of the points I made was about how in the real world, we spend most of our time in the “gray”, or in the space between extremes. But the statements made in these memes only represent the extremes or “Black-and-White” thinking:
“Support gun control and the next thing that will happen is someone will come into YOUR kid’s school. Then our country will be taken over, and we will not be able to defend ourselves. Is that what you want?!”
“Reject gun control and you are literally handing children over to murderers. Their blood will be on your hands. Is that what you want?!”
This ruins the opportunity for a dialogue. It becomes impossible to share your perspective, or even come to the best possible solution because it paints a picture of a black-and-white world. One where you either choose good or bad, right or wrong. This begins to polarize you, but who does that serve best? Not you. Not even the person who asked the question. It serves no one. It divides us, and leads to nothing.
Earlier I mentioned that people’s angry outbursts don’t hurt us yet. While we might be able to abide by the old adage of “sticks and stones…” for now, what ends up happening is these nasty conflicts end up getting confused for passion. This, however, sets up a scary precedent excusing the inexcusable by simply labeling ourselves as passionate. This is not passion.
Passion leads us to:
While polarization leads us:
- Us vs. Them
- The need to be right
Obviously, I do not know what side of the argument you are on, nor do I believe that it really matters. What I genuinely believe is that until we can all learn to be passionate without being polarizing, we will feel stuck. So what does that look like? I have laid out a couple of steps for us to start taking together:
- Share your perspective fully. Do you think Martin Luther King Jr. would have moved the hearts and minds of an entire generation if his, “I Have A Dream” speech was just a meme that said, “Do you even love people if you like segregation?” Dig deep and speak from passion.
- Listen as much as you speak. The truth is, you will quickly find that you know less than you think. I find this to be true every single day.
- Find the gray. This does not mean compromise on what you REALLY believe is necessary. What it means is to see that there are NOT only two options. Be open to creativity.
- Love the person you are conversing with. Much like the first point, hatred has never led to positive culture movements. This is a hard step because you have to value the person over being right. But we are all capable of this, it’s called empathy.
As a final note, I want to make sure that if you have not sensed it by now, I am not advocating for compromising on the things you believe are truly important. That is why this post is not about any one argument out there, but about the way we choose to engage with the argument and with each other as humans. So whatever is important to you, pursue that! But I am willing to bet that you will find more success… more impact when you do it from a place of love and balance.
What do you think? This is a hard topic, so please leave your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to have this conversation with you!