It Takes All Kinds of People to Make an American Stew
I’m a huge fan and user of social media, yet there are times when I get frustrated and just want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I am tempted to update my status with a “Farewell to you all, I am deactivating my account” message, but we all know I’m not going anywhere for long. Damn you, Zuckerberg, and your addictive website!
I visualize that the freedom to express myself online is like walking a tightrope 1,000 feet above a pit of starved alligators. All of life is a balancing act. I’m “friends” online with such a wide spectrum of people, many of whom I share very little in common. They definitely share little in common with each other and often act like bulls in china shops…
- People who are pro-choice or anti-abortion…
- Openly Gay friends and those who are disgusted by homosexuality…
- Models who are skinny and friends who wholeheartedly embrace fatty foods as a lifestyle choice…
- People I grew up attending Sunday School with and people who get drunk every night (sometimes they are the same people)…
- Those who post a daily Bible verse and those who post F bombs in every status update…
- Those who share every detail of their child’s upbringing and those who regard kids are little more than dogs that talk back…
- Liberals in California who mock meat-eaters and carnivore Conservatives in the Bible Belt who think it is their mission to save anyone who believes differently from a fiery doom in the afterlife…
- I’m even friends with people who hate my alma mater and openly applauded the asshole who poisoned the trees on my beloved campus…
How can I be “friends” with such contradictory types? How can I associate with people who seem to be against my own self-interests at times? Because that’s life.
Just call me Even Steven
It’s not always easy, but I generally get along with most people because I am tolerant of beliefs that may not mesh perfectly with my own. I’m not foolish enough to think I know everything or too obstinate to ever change my perspective. I’m probably the least judgmental guy you’ll ever meet and usually very hard to offend. (Pats himself on the back for being so awesome)
Besides, someone’s opinion on a particular issue is not necessarily their sole defining/redeeming characteristic. Life isn’t always black and white, although someone people are so righteous that, for them, it seems to be a world of stark contrasts.
I share a deep love of photography with many people who seem quite intelligent until they open their mouths to talk politics. I don’t fault them for clinging to their rightisms, although we may have a spirited conversation. When that talk ends, though, I can get back to chatting about f-stops and megapixels without considering them my mortal enemy.
I tend to vote Democrat, although I favor limited government and gun rights. Don’t define me based on which side some political party takes in convention platforms. I’m that guy in the middle, the one who doesn’t follow party line to the letter. When it comes to media and expressing oneself in social media, people don’t want to consider alternative perspectives. They just want to have their beliefs affirmed by some other moron who listened to the same talking points and regurgitates them in a useless rhetorical battle.
Too Much Harvey in ‘Em
Alabama and Auburn fans may be vicious rivals who focus on a ballgame 365 days a year, but my hatred for T-Town is tempered by other topics where we are on the same page. Rednecks like Harvey Updyke have “too much Bama” in them to confine their feelings to one compartment of the undersized noggin. The best thing I can do is try to behave in a way that makes the Auburn family look respectable rather than talking endlessly out of my ass about how I’m somehow a better human being than someone simply because my shirt is orange and theirs is red.
I’m generally a proponent of everyone having the freedom to say or do whatever they want as long as they do not harm themselves or others. Having bad taste, being ignorant of the facts or being closed-minded are unfortunate but not crimes. Ol Harvey was free to be his obnoxious self and do the Rammer Jammer cheer in my face — albeit at the risk of getting “accidentally” kicked in the nads — but he stepped over a line when he took criminal action to vandalize a rival’s campus.
When Friends Attack Friends
Sometimes my online friends go after one another. Like the thin model who posted about how disgusted she is with fat people making excuses why they can’t or won’t work out the way she does. Or the guy who attacked my gay friends who want to legally marry while claiming to be persecuted because the state won’t let him and his kin participate in a government-sanctioned prayer specifically to HIS deity over the loudspeaker during that generic moment of silence at ballgames.
Some folks convince themselves and others that they are being persecuted if they are asked to play nice and accommodate others. Odds are that skinny model or the dude who gets bent outta shape over gays have never bothered to consider what life must be like for those they condemn.
From time to time, I am attacked by someone who is overweight and feels I am reinforcing unrealistic beauty standards by posting photos of slender women they feel as if they can’t compete with. Yet I am not attaching a caption encouraging viewers to grab their pitchforks and force someone to get on a treadmill rather than sit on the couch eating ice cream. I’m merely sharing a photo of someone who makes their physical fitness a priority. I can’t help it if people find one look more aesthetically appealing than what is more typical of the average person in the real world. I’m no Brad Pitt or George Clooney, yet I’m not about to lash out at others because I don’t have movie star handsomeness and didn’t do sit-ups this morning.
I’m not judging. I’m merely sharing. And if someone is offended, that says more about their own self-esteem than anything I do. Either accept and love yourself and don’t care what anyone else thinks or stop throwing a pity party for yourself and make a change.
Practicing Sensitivity on Social Media
When posting anything that could be construed as the least bit provocative, I try to be sensitive to my friends or at least segregate my postings so only selective readerships view what I have to say. Facebook and Google+ both have ways of putting your friends into groups rather than taking the shotgun approach to status updates. But even this is done at the risk of appearing to be the kind of person who mocks someone behind their back, so the best approach is to avoid being cruel to begin with.
It’s like the room full of white guys who tell a racist or sexist joke. If bigotry falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, was it actually offensive? Nobody’s insulting my momma…
Sometimes I think something a little mean-spirited is funny, but it will undoubtedly get someone’s panties in a wad if they see it and feel their lifestyle choices are being criticized. I try to keep an open mind and not offend anyone. When I worked for my hometown newspaper, the KKK threatened to hang me from a tree in my yard, so I don’t think I am a bigot. Sometimes I do a self-check just to make sure I am not on wobbly ground.
I caught fire when I worked at the newspaper because I wrote a weekly opinion column. I said rushing to war in Iraq in 2003 was a bad idea in the weeks leading up to it while most everyone else was just pissed off looking for some Muslim to kill to get revenge for 9/11. Some accused me of being unpatriotic and not supporting the troops. I always support the brave American soldier — I just wanted President Bush Jr. to slow down and make a real solid case for why so many people needed to die, including our armed forces who would end up as casualties. Leaders incite the flames of nationalism to get frenzy whipped.
Here we are nearly a decade later and between 28,736-37,120 people are estimated dead while it is generally accepted that Bush administration manipulated intelligence to further a neocon agenda that hurt American credibility in the world.
American is the Land of Freedom. And Not Just YOURS.
It seems downright unAmerican that things have become so polarized with people taking sides and scoffing at compromise. Their way or the highway! Few people seem to agree on anything these days, yet the alternative to tolerance is becoming some hellish sort of Bosnia-Herzegovina where those who think differently from you are detained, raped, shot in the head, and thrown into mass graves like garbage. Or maybe YOU become the one mistreated and disposed of.
We’re all one big stew of different ethnicities, attitudes and orientations. It’s an uneasy mixture at times. People hate change and feel insecure. America is a pressure cooker where freedom of expression lets some steam escape. Unless we’re careful and keep a watchful eye, though, intolerance can build that pressure to dangerous levels until some charismatic figure exploits frustrations and convinces large groups that those who disagree with the majority are to blame and must be destroyed like pulling weeds from a garden.
The Christian friend who says the majority should always dictate that everyone should have to pray to Christ during a ballgame probably disagrees with the Saudi Arabians who prohibited Christian soldiers serving there from worshipping in public because that country is Islamic.
The Angst of Frenemies
Despite being outspoken at times, I don’t have an excessive number of enemies, thank God. I’m too nice of a guy for that. I don’t go around provoking anger if I can avoid doing so. This is a wicked world, though, and even Jesus Christ and Ghandi had people wanting to destroy them. I’m no Jesus or Ghandi, so you can bet I’m not above taking crap from people with agendas. Sometimes they’re perfectly fine with you until they no longer stand to gain from you financially or you no longer allow them to exploit your generous nature.
Yes, all of life is a balancing act. We all have to kiss someone’s ass sometime, but we also don’t have to take crap from anybody (unless they are family). If I am “too much Auburn” for someone or they can’t stand my politics or my photography of models offends their puritanical sensibilities, they know where the unfriend button is. They may not agree with everything I post, but even my fiercest critics have to admit that I’m rarely boring.
For those of you who want to stick around and see where our friendship takes us, take a moment and consider the one person in your life with whom you have the least in common. Then try to find something you share, if only the air you breathe and the planet upon which you stand. That’s the beginning of a foundation for mutual respect and tolerance.
This entry was posted on February 8, 2012 by sstiefel. It was filed under Opinion and was tagged with anger, attitudes, beliefs, conservatism, debate, Democrat, diversity, enemy, foe, friendship, gay marriage, harmony, homosexuality, intolerance, Iraq, liberalism, opinion, opponent, politics, religion, Republican, social media, togetherness, tolerance, vegan.