Okay so you all know that there are times when a subject has been sort of half formed in my brain for awhile and then the stars line up and I.MUST.GET.IT.OUT. Today is one of those days.
On my Facebook feed over the past two days I have had the normal variety of this is what I/my kid/my pet did and isn't it funny/sad/disgusting status updates. But along with those I have had an abundance of preachy posts. There have been preachy posts about politics ('tis the season). Preachy posts about eating meat. And preachy posts about religion. And for the most part I have refrained from commenting on them as I usually do. Because I don't care who you pray to or what you eat. I do care who you vote for because it can end up affecting me, but I also know that me pointing out how very very wrong you are isn't likely to make a difference.
So for the most part I don't post when I see something I don't agree with. Or I limit it down to only pointing out when something is actually factually wrong (though I know it doesn't matter and they will ignore it or decide my source is too biased for them to pay attention to) or when I am feeling feisty. For instance, today....well I posted on a link a vegan friend of mine, Chris, posted. Because though her facts were accurate they were misleading. And I hadn't poked at her in a long time about her posts so I went ahead and did it. And I ended up asking her a question I had been meaning to for awhile about her lifestyle choice, actually not just hers but all vegans. But then I left the conversation because I know that we can't discuss her choices for long without me getting offended.
See, I have a lot of vegetarian friends. I live in Portland after all and I think we probably have more and more variety than most places. So I've been friends with vegetarians, pescitarians, octo-lavo vegetarians, vegans and meatless Monday wannabes. And people who are doing it for a variety of reasons. Some who are vegangelical about it and some who are militant vegans. Now my friend who posted today is newly vegan. And as I say about any new conversion, there is no converted like the newly converted. So she is posting a lot about her new lifestyle choice and that includes the vast array of "isn't this awful!" films that are out there. It's part of the conversion process. And I've seen them all before over the years. Even prompted me to warn people what I would do if they sent me another one.
So why would I be the one to get offended if we kept up the discussion? If I've seen it all before, and I've had these discussion over and over again why would I end up mad about it? Good questions. And we will come back to them in a second.
Last year another friend of mine made a really thought provoking post about how much she didn't like the word tolerate, or being tolerant of people you disagreed with. I would link it to you but she made it as a status update and I am so not searching through a year or so of updates to find this one. But the reason why it stuck with me was because Kat made the point in her post that to tolerate something you must believe that you are right and they are wrong. That just by saying you are being tolerant of someone who doesn't believe as you do you are being condescending. You are implying that you have the moral high ground. Ever since I read that post I have been really conscious of the times I have used tolerant or tolerate. It always makes me think now. (Sometimes I hate having really brilliant friends who can write a status update that is deep and thought provoking like that. It means I have to work too hard to keep up!)
So taking that tolerant thought line and going in to the posts from my friends about their politics, religion and eating preferences. When you end up in a discussion with someone who you don't agree with where are you standing? Are you standing on the other side of an issue and making your point or are you on a soap box full of righteous indignation preaching down to the unenlightened? And do you even know where you are? I will tell you that on the issue of gay rights I am on a soap box. I know it. I am fully aware of it. Yes, what you believe on this issue colors my opinion of you. I understand what you are telling me about your religious beliefs and it makes no difference to me. I can know that we are never going to agree and accept that. And be tolerant of your belief. Your ignorant not as good as mine belief.
So one of the political posts from a friend came with the tag line, "Even someone on the left could understand this." Even someone on the left. Let that sink in for a second. The implication being that people on the left are somehow mentally deficient. It happened to be a post about economics so I watched it. And he was wrong. I don't get it. It was all about trickle down economics and how it's good sound policy. Nope, sorry, it's not. It's good sound theory. But when we've put it into practice what we discovered is that people don't act like the model. Instead of trickling down they find bigger buckets to store the wealth in, like say, bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. And when another friend of his who leans left pointed that out he was met with the condescending, "you just don't get it" head pat. Don't get it? We lived it. Twice. And now the candidate you wants us all to vote for would like to give it a go again. Third time's the charm? But you see the basic stance there? It's the "I know better." There is no room for debate there. It's strictly a place of feeling superior talking to those they find inferior. And you get it from both sides (see my stance on gay rights).
Religion. Oh gosh. Here is the basic standard bearer of all "tolerant" things right? What's the most famous line you hear when in a discussion with someone about gay rights? Hate the sin, not the sinner. Is there a more condescending stance to take? Oh, honey, I don't hate you I just hate what you do. And because I hate what you do I am going to deny you the rights I have. But I'm very tolerant of you. So when I see the religious posts spring up I just walk away. Though I am always very tempted to say something I know that no good will come of it. We don't believe what the other believes, or doesn't believe as the case may be. There is no middle ground except of tolerance. Though I don't tolerate your religious beliefs. I just don't believe them. I don't care about your beliefs until they infringe on other people's rights.
So back to why I knew that I would get insulted if I kept up the discussion on my friend Chris' post. Because I know what she believes. And to believe what she believes (that meat is murder) that means that she believes I am a murderer. Now, I don't believe this. I think there is a huge and vast difference between animals and people. I know that the meat on my table comes from an animal, I know it had to die for me to eat it. But I also don't equate that to murder. I can have that argument in a lot of different ways depending on the person I am having it with. But I don't want to have it with my friend Chris, because I like her. She's funny and smart and a good mother and has a huge heart and is passionate about her choice to become vegan. And I like all of those parts of her. So I didn't want to get farther along in the discussion where she has to take the stance where she will tolerate my meat eating. I know that she does. I know that all of my vegan friends do. But it's human nature for that to hurt your feelings. When you really know that someone thinks less of you. So I don't pursue that line of discussion.
And I also know that my religious friends are waiting for my conversion and my right wing friends are waiting for my lean to shift. And I know they are doing it because they feel like they are right and I am wrong. And not only wrong but profoundly wrong. And less than. I've actually had people tell me that they knew what I believed they were just waiting for me to figure it out. Oh my....
So as we are hitting the full force of political season and as we talk about what we believe in passionately something to keep in mind is where you are coming from. Are you really listening to the other side or are you just being tolerant?
Food. I don't care what you eat or what you don't. I'm an omnivore. I would be a cakevore but I'm trying to have more self control than that.
Religion. I'm agnostic. So both atheists and the religious get to be tolerant of me and I am accepting of both of you because I don't know which one of you is right. I just know that I don't know.
Politics. I lean left. Strongly. But I'm also pretty fiscally conservative. But in a left way. I think we should have the money to pay for new things which means we get rid of old things that aren't working and we look at our completely out of whack tax code and let those adjust as they need to. And as long as your politics don't veer off in to the crazy birther type areas then we can have discussions where I will listen to what you have to say and offer up my point of view. If they match great, if they don't, that's okay as well.
Gay rights. I will tolerate your point of view if you disagree with me.