Friday, 22 February 2013

Civil Discourse

During this time of Shabbatical, I have been consciously attempting to disengage myself from what I view as a myriad of toxic online behaviour, mostly in the realm of politics. I can't say that I am always successful at this, but I am trying. I have stopped visiting sites that have as their sole purpose the smearing of one political belief or another. I refuse to engage with Facebook or Twitter "friends" in their constant barrages of ugly partisan posts, nor have I passed on or shared such content. (I will admit to keeping the pressure on in support of Women of the Wall, but I view that struggle as much a religious fight as it is political.) It is no secret that I have strong opinions on many (most?) subjects that fall into this category, and very often I have used this space to express my displeasure, incredulity, or even disgust on a myriad of issues. I have rarely shied away from a civil discourse on any subject, provided that all opinions were taken into account, and slurs, epithets, and stereotypical categorization were avoided. But lately, I have found myself placed in the potentially awkward position of actually  "unfriending" a few of my Facebook and Twitter associates because of the lack of decorum that they have displayed in the troublesome language used in their posts. Why awkward? Well, some of these people are quite close to me in the real world. So, it is to these few that I address the following.

Dear Friend,

I have recently noted that you are quite active in the social media world, and as we are virtually connected, your posts and interests have become regular fixtures in my news feeds. I am always interested in the many voices and sides to the debates of the day, but please allow me to offer you a bit of advice if you hope to engage me, and others like me who are not necessarily on your side of the political divide, into reading what you have posted. (Note: I am speaking to both liberals and conservatives here!)

  1. Using words like "hypocrite", "liar", "looney", "idiotic" or "doltish" in your pre-posting comment is likely to dissuade me from reading whatever it is you have put up. Insulting me before the fact is bad behaviour that is most likely to result in your post being flushed. 
  2. Using past bad liberal behaviour (and there has been a ton!) as an excuse for present bad conservative behaviour (and there has been a ton!) or vice-versa is a straw man's argument that does nothing to move along the discourse. Stay in the present or I will probably just delete what you have posted.
  3. Arrogance is never a good way to sway me to your side of the fence. If you have valid arguments, make them. But, please don't act and speak to me as if you are morally superior simply because we differ.
  4. Personal attacks on any of our leaders will get you absolutely nowhere with me. Calling our mayor out for his corpulence is extremely bad form, as are jokes about our premier and her sexuality. Language matters and it is time that we all took a great deal more care in how we use it.

Rabbi SaraLeya Schley teaches:

Jewish mysticism teaches us that we are all essential parts of the One Soul, each of us sent into our lives to fulfill our unique soul missions. Without each and every one of us, the Great Name, Sh’mei Raba, is incomplete. When we each speak our unique truths from a place of centeredness and integrity, our words are indeed the words of the Living God, infused with the quality of Divine inspiration. Dialogue then becomes a spiritual practice in which we see and acknowledge each other as sparks of the Divine. We consciously open our hearts wide enough to hold diverse opinions, even those which seem to be so opposite to our own that we cannot imagine resolution. In this sanctuary, mishkan, of our unified hearts, holding each other in love and respect, we create - with our sacred intention and deep listening - the possibility of shalom and reconciliation and we can birth radically new solutions, heretofore never even imagined.

Look, friend. I am not suggesting that you and I will ever see eye to eye on politics. Our individual opinions are simply too ingrained. I am however, suggesting that I could possibly understand you better and see some merit in some of your viewpoints if only you might present the articles without ugly editorializing. If you find this beyond your comfort zone, I understand. But please also understand that our online relationship will come to an end. 

Yours in friendship and Shabbat Shalom,


1 comment:

  1. Well said. I wholeheartedly agree. Sometimes I feel ashamed of the fact that I might agree with certain postings, simply because of the manner in which they are presented.