Maybe We Could Just Be Respectful. Wouldn't That Be Nice?

About a month ago, some friends of mine and I went out to dinner.

The discussion turned to popular song lyrics and one of my friends said that she hated a certain song that I happen to like.  She said she thought the lyrics were ridiculous and made no sense.  I looked up the lyrics on my phone, read them, and gave my interpretation of the meaning.  She still hated the song.  I liked it even more.  We were not going to agree.

So, then, I told her she should get her head out of her ass and actually listen to the lyrics and THINK for once in her life.  I told her that she was an idiot and that her daughter would also grow up to be an idiot because her mom is such an idiot.  I told her that they both need lots of psychological help.

Oh, wait.  No I didn't.

But those are all sentiments that were spewed at a friend of mine recently when she had the audacity to blog about her son not liking one scene of the movie Frozen.

What the....?!  Why?!  Who?!  Who behaves that way?!

Apparently, lots of people.  And this is what is troubling me.  It blows my mind, actually.

It would be a freaky Stepford family-type world if we all agreed on everything.  And so BORING!

It was dinner conversation.  I like the song.  She doesn't like the song.  We laughed.  She interprets it one way.  I interpret it another way.  Cést la vie.

Why in the world would I care whether or not she likes the song?  I mean, she's one of my very best friends in the world, she's smart as a whip, I value her opinion and she is articulate when she gives it.  But we don't always agree - about songs or parenting or food or art or lifestyle.  We are quite different in many ways.  That's what makes our conversations interesting and lively.  Hearing her perspective and thinking about it adds value to my life.  Sometime she changes my perspective.  Sometimes we just agree to disagree.  What's wrong with that?  But I learn something about myself and my own thoughts and my own opinions by listening to or reading hers.

I am confused by this new culture of reading people's blogs or Facebook statuses or whatever happens to float by on the internet- which are not only totally opinion-based but are generally written when the author is still feeling the heat of the situation - and responding with vitriol.  No one is attacking you by having opinions that differ from yours.  It is one-sided dinner banter.  I don't know a single blogger who doesn't long for an interesting, respectful conversation to arise from their blog.  I just can't understand why things become so wildly heated.  Why would anyone ever give a stranger that much power - even if she had a negative opinion about your favorite song or a different parenting style - and why in the world do we take our differences so personally?

As a blogger who supports and reads other bloggers who are, occasionally, viciously attacked, I worry about the seething rage I find all over the internet.

I wonder why we are losing all perspective and manners and propriety.  It seems as if we are losing our ability to be tolerant of even the slightest differences amongst us.  In a world where advances in technology make us more and more globally connected with each passing year, we need to become MORE tolerant and inclusive, not less.  What IS that?  When strangers' opinions find their ways to our desktops, why do we suddenly lose our abilities to be rational and appropriate?

It is totally OK with me if we don't like the same music or movies or plays.  I am perfectly fine with your parenting choices and you have no reason not to be perfectly fine with mine.  If they differ, if my lifestyle is different than yours and I give you a peek inside, consider it a gift.  It's like you're travelling and experiencing new things.  You don't have to love it when you find yourself in Japan and the people of Date City, Hokkaido put a raw baby squid on your plate and tell you to pop it into your mouth, eyeballs and all, because it's a delicacy.*  It's OK to laugh and hesitate and take long swallows of your gigantic beer before eating that bad boy, but it's NOT OK to tell them they should get their heads out of their asses and bring you a hot dog.  Right?

My biggest fear in all of this is that we become desensitized.  We forget how to give our opinions respectfully.  We forget that respect and disagreement are not mutually exclusive.  And we lose the ability to conduct ourselves in a way that allows us to have pleasant lives.  I am seeing it seep into other aspects of our lives.  I am reading it in wildly inappropriate emails and hearing it spoken to my face and I find it fairly appalling.  My mama raised me better than that.

And if we no longer have the ability to conduct ourselves reasonably, how can we teach our children to do so?

We should expect better - from ourselves and from everyone with whom we come in contact - either virtually or in person.

Life is short, ya'll.  Make it a good one.


*That totally happened to me.  And I ate that sucker in one bite.  And it wasn't too bad, actually.
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