I was in a deep funk for most of yesterday… and I’m going to try and explain why in a long and maybe rambling post.
W had been up often the night before and wouldn’t nap, so it didn’t begin well, and then I spent much of the day wrestling with some difficult feelings.
I’ve been brooding about an experience recently where I felt like my feelings on something were… diminished. I’ll own the fact that I was perhaps not vocal or direct enough about how I felt, and I made assumptions based on my ideals of mutual respect. I was wrong.
I ended up in a situation that was wildly outside of my comfort zone, and it hurt. It felt… disrespectful. And I’m still struggling with that.
I was still carrying that yesterday, then added an extra layer of exhaustion on top. Then everything in the news just felt so bleak– people arguing about vaccines, Covid numbers rising again, the devastation of the earthquake in Haiti, our newly called federal election and the situation unfolding in Afghanistan is absolutely heartbreaking.
And then I saw the meme.
Someone I’m friends with on Facebook shared a photo that has been circulating on social media. It’s of the men falling from an airplane leaving the Kabul airport. So desperate to escape what happening in Afghanistan right now, three men clung to the exterior of a plane as it took off, hoping to escape. Each ultimately fell to their death. It’s horrific.
This photo was used by a pro-Trump platform. The goal of the meme was to express that people in other places in the world are so desperate to leave their countries they’d cling to to an aircraft to get out, so maybe Trump’s America isn’t so bad. And hey, if you don’t like it, “buy a ticket and get out”.
I was horrified. This was a literally a photo of someone’s last moment of life. An act of complete and utter desperation to avoid an unthinkable political situation unfolding around them. A photo that really should not have been published at all was used to make a pro-American political statement… instead of a call for compassion and action.
So that’s where yesterday’s post was born from. I was exhausted, in every sense of the word. My question at the end of the post was genuine: how did we get here?
I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about this, and I think I worked something out on my run this morning. I believe that people have always had varied and often strong opinions on just about everything for ages. This is not new.
What’s new to our generation is being confronted with strong opinions that we may disagree with (or be repelled by) all the time, perhaps by people we wouldn’t expect… and it’s done without context or understanding. The attitude is more “This is what I believe. Period” instead of, “This is WHY I believe what I do, but I’m open to hear other sides.” Memes in this spirit are shared on Facebook, or videos shared on Instagram. Most of it isn’t even content we’ve created ourselves, but we share it, occasionally with a brief introduction.
And it can happen all. day. long. It’s so easy to disseminate information with just a tap of your finger, and by sharing it in this impersonal manner, we don’t really have to worry about feelings or consequences.
We’ve shared our piece, and that’s that. Often it comes with the validation of finding like minded people on the internet who will help create an echo chamber for one line of thought.
In generations before us (before social media), in order to find out what someone believed or how they felt, you actually had to converse with them. It HAD to be personal. There was no other option. And the natural side effect of this was that it was not inherently one sided. In a conversation, you are limited to the people right there with you, and at least have the opportunity to speak and be heard. To debate.
…and also, to listen.
I feel like that’s the missing piece. We’ve forgotten how to listen.
Or maybe, it’s just easier not to, because having conversations about hard topics is exactly that. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. So, more and more we avoid it, particularly with people who don’t share our views. We share the memes and articles and videos but shy away from the hard part.
And then when we see someone we know posting things we deeply disagree with, it’s easier to shy away than actually have a civil conversation about it.
…because really, I wonder if many of us have forgotten *how* to engage respectfully. I know I’ve definitely shied away as I’ve been burned in the past– the comment sections seem like war zones on just about anything these days. It’s hard, and we intrinsically want to protect ourselves from hurt. I get that.
But fundamentally, I feel like something big is being lost with this culture shift. We now know more about the people in our circles than ever before, but even that knowledge comes with such a limited scope.
I can’t help but wonder, is knowing more doing more harm than good?
I don’t know.
The person who shared this meme yesterday is a good person. In fact, most of the people I’ve found myself disagreeing with online lately are good people. They are. I may vehemently disagree with some of their world views, but objectively, most are still good people. They were when I invited them into my friend circle, and I believe most still are. At the root of everything, I believe (or hope) they are trying to stand up for what they believe in and do what’s best for themselves and their families.
It just might look a lot different from what I’m doing. So what then is my responsibility? To call them out? To ignore it? To discuss it and try and understand? Or just to love them anyway?
I don’t know.
I’m tired, and I don’t have the answer.
So, I’m just going to sit on my deck and look at my beautiful trees.
…and the rest I’ll just think about tomorrow.