Have you read the news lately? Have you been on Facebook and Twitter? Have you recently participated in a Thanksgiving holiday?
If so, congratulations for being involved with, or at least bearing witness to, lots of conflict and controversy. Some current event seems to incite some willing participant to state or share or post some provocative comment, one with a parenthetically implied “In your face!” within its message.
I often wonder what the intention is when all the bravado is distilled out of these stated positions. Is it to brazenly declare one’s ethical or political position? Is it to serve as a polarized beacon intended to illuminate the pathway to our opinion for those who share our world view? Is it to stomp on the ant mound of those who disagree so we can watch them all scurry to the top in an attempt to rebuild their logic that was razed by the foot of an astutely delivered statement?
Personally, I believe it’s all about the conflict. These current events slap our psyches around, leaving us unsafe and insecure. They storm into our comfortable lair of complacency like a drunken angry stepfather at 3am, lifting us out of the cozy bed of our belief system, pummelling us with the idea that our society continues to be a frightening and dangerous place.
The next day we stomp into the schoolyard of our preferred social media outlet or family gathering, looking for that weak kid with the opposing ideology, snatching from him his right to see the world from his perspective, playing keepaway with our ideological allies, doing whatever we can to thrust onto him the mantle of victim that fell upon us when we were reminded that we live in a scary society.
When I watch these verbal badminton matches play out along the entrails of the comments in a Facebook status based on a display of political JPG wisdom, I don’t see a think tank. I don’t see an attempt at finding a common solution. I see a game of choosing up sides where each commenter hopes their hand reaches the top of the bat and can proclaim the title of the Giver of the Last Word.
Somehow we’ve developed some sort of social pathology that has us equating being safe with being right. As long as people hold an opposing viewpoint to our own we are at risk of becoming personally invalidated. It is often said that the truth always lies in the middle. This infers that as long as there are opposing viewpoints neither can wholly lay claim to what is right. In order for anyone to find the safest place to reside, the DMZ that exists between any two sides of conflict, we have to not only acknowledge that there are aspects of our ideologies that can in no way be valid for many others. We need to painfully and deliberately tear ourselves away from a perspective that has been carefully constructed over a lifetime, if only for a moment, to cognize the validity of the perspective that is furthest away from our own. Only then will we truly feel safe, as compassion has no sharp edges.