This may seem a strange title, but in light of recent experiences, I want to begin with this question:
“Is it possible for people with strong convictions who stand at opposite poles to enter into conversation and remain civil?”
I recently was engaged in a Facebook discussion, in which I am sure I was the lone voice among viewers. One participant (whose Party affiliation/ideology I will not divulge) began a tirade after a very innocuous post I made. You can always find these types of conversations: one person says things in a few, concise sentences; the next goes on for several paragraphs. Most disturbing was that within his dissertation were carefully chosen words, appearing to be designed to cut to the core of anyone on the other side.
I have to admit, my immediate nature (Italian, translation: PASSIONATE!) was to respond point for point to his rhetoric with a few choice words of my own. After all, it is mammalian instinct to attack when put on a defensive. But my husband and I have tried to institute a practice over the years. When (not if) this type of nastiness comes our way, we may first either talk to each other (Preaching to the Choir), or write our first-instinct-knee-jerk-reaction on paper. Then, when reason and calm have returned, we find ways to address the person without further negativity. And so it was in this case.
My response to the person was very late in the evening, as we’d entertained that night. Prophetically, I predicted that there would likely be an early-morning nasty response. Sure enough, waiting in my inbox by the time I awoke at 6am, was yet another hostility-laden…. well, spew, for lack of a better descriptive. It was as if he pulled all his arrows from a waiting quiver, relishing that the moment had finally come when he could loose his rage upon an unsuspecting target.
What to do? Again, I gathered my faculties and wrote a very brief response, asking that in publicly viewed discourse we rise to a higher level of conversation. I await my next poison-penned response.
“Why are you surprised?” asked my husband. And that is a good question, but in my mind it is not the best question. I think mine, with which I began this post, is much better. In all the years mankind has existed, from the beginning of our existence to the Age of Enlightenment to even today, could it be we have yet to develop the ability to engage in discussion without engaging in an attack?
What happened to the use of logic and purity in discourse? What happened to civility? Especially in a public forum, shouldn’t our conversation be calm rather than peppered? I certainly understand Cronyism, where when among the like-minded, we are able to speak uninhibited. But in an arena like Facebook, where conversations are public and people can be hurt and become collateral damage, ought we not be more cautious in our words?