The Other Side and Digital Divisiveness


I took a break from the Internet after Newtown. The immediate divisiveness blew me away and crushed me. In the pain which came out of it, one group of people wanted to ban guns entirely and another wanted to put guns in everyone’s hands. Neither one of these is going to be possible in the United States. Rounding up 300,000,000+ guns is a far bigger task than invading a foreign country. It’s World War III and the American Civil War rolled up in one. On the flip side, not everybody feels safer with a firearm, some people just don’t want one, and there’s the real data which points to having a gun actually upping the danger to the owner. There’s very little real debate here due to absolutism and there are so many other dimensions to the issue that the wording of a single awkwardly-worded sentence in the US Constitution seems like a silly point if you stop to think about it.

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I posted this 3-1/2 years ago. Knowing that the fear of a black man and a white cop led to a death at a traffic stop, that “Not a f–ing thing!” joke does’ seem either realistic nor funny.

Here’s the lead image from the blog I wrote while taking that digital timeout. It’s somewhat ironic that the image which pissed me off so badly a couple years ago is so relevant today. From what we know as fact now as I write this, the joke about the old white lady with multiple handguns not being afraid of a damn thing was completely turned on its head. A young black man in MN was stopped for a minor traffic violation. He was reputed to have a firearm permit and was still shot multiple times by an officer when he reached for his wallet. There was another black man shot by police in Louisiana within a day of this occurrence. The ensuing maelstrom (I always wanted to use that word) led to protests and helped push a black combat veteran to kill several police in Dallas. Those same police had been talking with the protestors and taking selfies with them right before the bullets started flying.

Now objectively, we know that police and #BlackLivesMatter protesters had mutual respect even as national tempers flared. There’s no debate about it. There are stories of the police protecting the protestors even as they were gunned down. Somehow, the next day brought utterly divisive stories saying that the Black Lives Matter movement is racist. Or that police across the nation are corrupt killers. That blacks don’t value their own lives based on violence in Chicago. It goes around and around and it’s so tempting to dig our heels in to defend our side while calling the other guys despicable because of their views.

You may be saying that the facts are different as we know them now. That will continue to happen, regardless of your outlook. The truth is that your snap judgement at the time and whom you decided to defend or attack was likely heavily slanted even based on what you knew then. When you searched for that news piece or op-ed which proved your point, you were unabashedly biased and generalizing. You’ll note that I haven’t called you a patriot, gun owner, minority, black, Latino, Asian, Democrat, Republican, Christian, Muslim, Jew, gay, straight, or however you choose to self-identify. And I damn sure haven’t called you a tea bagger or a libtard. You’re probably mentally defensive and you’re probably that way because you feel like I’m challenging your perspective. As John Cena so eloquently said, your image of an average American is almost certainly yourself and that image is more than likely wrong.

So what should we take from that? That our perspective may be well-founded but isn’t universal and maybe not even a majority. The first thing is that if you’re passionate about your country and what it stands for then you cannot presume to know what’s best for it solely based on your own ideals. This isn’t a tug-of-war with two teams on either end of a rope. That’s because second point is that we all overlap. There are black cops, Muslims who’ve moved here generations ago who are American by birth and perspective, Mexicans who work hard here and respect the law, Christians with open hearts and caring souls, and so on. We all overlap to some degree and we all live with one another. We all struggle with real and perceived societal ills. If you’re only willing to pull that rope in your own direction, then you’re pulling against your countrymen.

I see so many posts with headlines like, “XYZ just did ABC which utterly destroyed QRS!!!”. I’m going to give you a hint here, those are biased and designed to beat up your fellow Americans while making you feel vindicated. They’re so often filled with at least as many half-truths as what you’re trying to disprove. As the last week has shown, our society is complex. It’s interconnected, interwoven, and inter-dependent. That story of protesters and police giving each other hugs and taking selfies before the killings means something. The Black Lives Matter crowd wasn’t going after the cops with rocks and they weren’t being mown down by jackboots in riot gear. If your position is that all blacks are thugs and the tall cops are killers then… You. Are. Wrong. If you’re looking for content to prove your point then… You. Are. Wrong. That vindication you feel is both hollow and bitter because you’re proving nothing to anyone. You utterly destroy yourself in others’ eyes.

There is injustice in the world. Killing police is wrong. Killing criminals who aren’t threats is wrong. They’re not mutually exclusive and it’s not possible to make a compelling case that they are. We’re at a juncture in our society. It’s tangible and hangs over us like Damocles’ Sword. We’ve got so much responsibility and so many rights while those same rights give us the ability to hate and tear ourselves apart. Those posts you make and arguments you make show your biases and who you are deep down. I don’t actually think that there are a majority of us who expect our wills and outlooks to be what everyone should adopt. I don’t think that there’s anyone who truly thinks that we’re going to live in a world where you close your eyes and everyone looks the same (watch that John Cena video). So what’s that leave us with?

Will you be someone who will take the effort to look at things with another angle and realize we’re all interrelated? Are you the kind of person who thinks that your will is what should be law of the land, others be damned? I’m guessing you’re not and that you struggle with this daily as much as most of us. Keep up that struggle because the more headway you make, the greater this country becomes. If you’re not, then you’re one of those people who wants to watch the world burn. You’re not going to define us and you’re not going to win. The rest of us are too tightly bound and have too much to gain by turning our backs on you.

For more on this, have a look at this blog post titled “The ‘Other Side’ Is Not Dumb” and my own posts on Digital DivisivenessDigital Divisiveness.

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Why get in an argument when you can have an actually have a discussion. What’s worth the time and what’s not?
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