The other day I was scanning my Facebook Timeline and noticed a link that had been shared or liked by someone I knew. The originator of the post was unknown to me. It basically said something along the lines of, “Unlike you stupid f*ckers who disagree with me, I’m going to vote for (Candidate X) because I’m not a pile of burning tires.”
Not being familiar with the phrase “pile of burning tires,” I followed the link. There I was met with a volley of extremely nasty invective, saying that anyone who disagreed with the writer was a moron, an idiot, and going to ruin the country and probably the world, because reasons.
I didn’t make it past the first sentence, because, quite frankly the writer was calling me names. Because I disagreed with them. Even though they hadn’t actually begun to make their point. Or even knew what I thought.
Now I want to make an important point here: I’m not sure I do disagree with them, not entirely. I’m still in two minds, or possibly in two and a half minds as to how I will vote going forward, and how I shall position myself politically after that. So, if there had been a persuasive argument from the writer, I could possibly have been convinced. But I never got to see why they thought the way they did, because the first thing, well before they started making any kind of reasoned argument they insulted me.
So, in the spirit of Facebook I posted back, “Thank you for insulting me and denigrating my carefully reasoned point of view. It saves me having to read what you wrote.” Within seconds an answer popped up. “You are exactly the kind of asshole who should read this.”
How was that going to make me more likely to read it?
I’m sure you have seen something similar on social media. Someone so convinced of their political beliefs that they act like a dick.
Which leaves me asking this question: did they actually want to convince anyone of their ideas, or did they just want to be a dick on Facebook? Because here is something that seems painfully obvious to me: If you do want to convince someone of anything, you won’t do it by acting dickish! You can either convince someone, or you can be a dick. Not both.
But now there’s another question: Why would you not want to convince someone of your ideas if you think they are important? (And I suppose we can say politics are pretty important. Maybe especially right now.) Well, the fact is, sometimes people are more interested in being right than convincing others. And this seems especially to be the case where politics are involved. And because the first writer wanted to prove how right they were, they started by insulting everyone who might disagree with them. Because, really, the argument they want to have isn’t about the politics. It’s about them. Not, “You disagree with my politics,” But “You disagree with ME, so you’re an asshole!”
Do you see the difference here? Their opinions are right, because they hold them. Not, they are right because they hold certain opinions.
Now this is kind of funny, because the very word politics comes from the Greek polis, meaning “the city.” In ancient Greece, where democracy comes from, the city was the state and the state was the people. So politics is about the people. As a whole. Not you. Not me. Us. The Greeks also had a word for a person who ruled without consulting the polis. Where disagreeing about politics was disagreeing with that one man who was in charge. The kind of person who would say, “You are disagreeing with me,” rather than “You are disagreeing with my opinions.”
The word they used was Tyrant.
So don’t be a dick (or a tyrant) about politics. It isn’t about you. It’s about us. It’s about finding reasons to agree, not grounds for a slanging match on Facebook. Because shouting at people and calling them names isn’t going to convince them you are right.
It’s going to convince them you are a dick.
When I was ten, I was definitely a Pogo supporter. I still think he had a lot of good ideas.