Today I made the mistake of reading the comments on a Breitbart article.
I knew before I clicked on it that what I saw was going to make me angry. I knew that I would encounter ignorance, racism, and hatred. I clicked it anyways.
What do you do when you see your fellow citizens calling for the murder of your neighbors, in the name of God and country? How are you supposed to respond to blind stupidity expressed in the name of patriotism?
I responded by posting about it on Facebook, obviously.
I knew before I posted that it wasn’t going to make a damn difference. I don’t flatter myself by supposing that the same folks sharing their opinions in the comments of a horrific Breitbart article are going to pop over to my blog to re-educate themselves, or that even if they did, my smug liberalism would actually change their opinions. Even if I haven’t run off all the conservatives years ago with my various heresies and plenteous cuss words and unwavering support for the gay agenda, my well-reasoned dissection of the hypocrisy of Breitbart readers will only cement the idealogical walls that separate us. (After all, the more your wrong beliefs are challenged by facts, the more convinced you become of the rightness of your wrong beliefs. [source])
No, the only thing I’ll accomplish is spreading my anger like a virus among others who already agree with me.
Today I saw a new Heineken ad, about building bridges and drinking beer with people who you’d probably hate on Facebook.
In the four-minute video, we see a social experiment: two strangers are led into a room and spend a few minutes getting to know each other. Then, they learn that the person they just met holds political opinions that are — well, to put it simply — WRONG!
That’s when they’re given a choice: walk away, or sit and talk it out over beers.
Watch: Heineken | Worlds Apart
It’s easy to hate people for their fucked up political views these days. God knows I do.
If I know that you’re a Trump supporter, it’s hard for me to not blame you for all the shit he says and does, shit that violates everything I believe about human decency, moral integrity, and common sense.
It’s not right, but it’s where we’re at these days.
I’m trying to argue about politics less and less. Hell yes I believe in standing up against evil, speaking out against injustice, rage rage against the dying of the light and all that. But I’m trying to learn to say my piece and let it be. The endless back-and-forth only brings out the worst in me: hatred and ugly, stagnant anger.
There’s one exception to this though, and that’s my brother.
I’ll argue politics with him any time, for hours.
If he were anyone else, I don’t think I could have a conversation with him. But I like him. A lot. Like me, he has a penchant for trying to start trouble; only, he’s WRONG about everything:
Black Lives Matter? Not today!
Milo Yolounapolis? Shared!
Liberal snowflakes? Triggered!
Hillary? Lock her up!
Donald Trump? Make America Great Again!
He calls me up sometimes, and we hash it all out on the phone: I say my talking points, he says his. I cite statistics from the liberal media, he cites counter-statistics from alt-right blogs. And when one of us has to go to work or do dad stuff, I say “I love you”, he says “Love you too”, and we hang up till next time.
If it was anybody else, I’d throw my phone through the wall.
Not him though. He’s my brother.
When I get off the phone with him, I think about what’s behind all our political arguments.
I have a hunch that somewhere deep inside us, it has to do with wanting to be loved. Wanting to belong. Wanting to be free.
We’re afraid that there’s not room enough for all of us in the world, so we start drawing lines and building walls to stake our a place we can call our own. Then we build those walls higher and higher, and we never run out of bricks because there are a lot of rich and powerful people telling us to hate each other, to be divided to be afraid. It’s the only way the know how to sell shit to us.
And we can’t say it doesn’t matter, because it does: there’s injustice in the world and evil in the world and ignorance in the world and some things are just WRONG and I’m not ok with that and I’m not going to be quiet about that.
But I have a hunch that the world won’t be changed as much by my smug Facebook posts as it will by conversations with people I love.
It’s not about the beer, of course.
If I drink alone in the kitchen whilst hate-reading Breitbart and rage-posting on Facebook, I don’t expect I’ll ever see much change. Even if I’m drinking Heineken.
But if an open beer becomes an invitation to sit down and look another human in the eye, to see a PERSON instead of just a shit-stack of WRONG IDEAS, maybe there’s a bit of hope for our species.
Let’s drink to that, yeah?
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