Nice.

Nice is my favorite four letter word.  I value nice.  My Mom taught all her children to be nice.  Whether we practice it is up for debate, but I try.  I wish there was more nice in the world.  Actually, there is a small, beautiful city named Nice in the south of France.  I've been there, but the hostel I was staying in wasn't so nice (semen stains on the cot, yo), which is why they probably pronounce it neece.

I want to take a few of your moments today to talk about nice and its relevance/absence in our modern world.  My guess is that lots of your Moms were like my Mom, working hard to teach their kids the lessons and importance of treating others as we would like to be treated.  With respect. With dignity.  Nicely.

Too often, I feel the absence of nice in our world today.  Our kids grow up with a paucity of the stuff.  They witness politicians on both sides of the aisle acting like brute buffoons.  They see and hear "news" commentators with a constant flow of vitriol shouting through the airwaves.  The bullies of our play yards have now moved into our kids inbox, smart phones, and facebook walls.  There is little respite from the absence of nice.

A few weeks ago I wrote what became a very polarizing and controversial post about the idea of a bald Barbie doll.  Full disclosure, I wasn't feeling too nice as I wrote it, which is no doubt apparent in the tone of my words and strength of my stance.  I try to be nice, but I don't always succeed.  I'll keep trying.

Somehow, the organizer of the bald Barbie "cause" found my post in under an hour.  We exchanged what I thought was respectful dialogue about her POV and my POV.  Only later did I learn that she had shared my post on the facebook wall of the "cause," labeling it as "negative."  Then the real fireworks began.  By the next evening, people were suggesting that anyone who did not want a bald Barbie should be shot.  Yikes.  Not nice.

Honestly, I'm sick of Barbie.

About a week later, I live facebooked the Golden Globes.  I've done this for a couple of years now, first on my own page, but starting last fall, on the MTM facebook page.  In September for the Emmys, I gained 400+ readers to the page over the course of the evening.  When I naively started the same thing with the Golden Globes, I got an earful from more than a few folks about how rude it was that I was blowing up their facebook feeds.

Totally my bad.  I didn't realize it in the moment, but when I went to my own wall and saw the sheer volume of MTM celebrity snark, yeah, I could totally see their point.  I apologized the next day and most of the readers who left me came back.  I strategized about the Oscars so my readers' feeds would not be all snark all the time.   When you make a mistake, own it, correct it, apologize, and move on.

Yesterday I shared a fellow blogger's post about his dislike of Jenny McCarthy and her responsibility for the vaccination rate dropping.  I was coming at it from the POV of being a mom who had a daughter who was severely immunocompromised.  For me, in my experience, unvaccinated children were a very real danger to my already deadly vulnerable girl.

Well, color me stupid, but the gates of hell opened up on my facebook wall. The original post garnered something like ten comments while my share had 150 and counting.  I've read every single comment.  Some are heartbreaking.  Some are angry.  Some are mean and nasty.  On both sides of the argument.  The hate and anger expressed when someone has a different POV, a different opinion born of different experiences honestly scares me.

I didn't like it and promised Mary Tyler Dad I would stop visiting the Barbie wall after shooting came into the equation.  And I don't like it when the fine folks who keep me company every day on facebook express similar strongly worded comments towards others that don't share their opinion.

One reader thought it was my responsibility to delete offensive posts to "retain credibility."  I don't really know what that means, but I also feel strongly that it's not my responsbility.  Hate and anger and ugly is part of us, for better or worse.  Me erasing it isn't going to make it go away.  Me erasing it simply makes me complicit in creating a polarized, damn-what-you-don't-like kind of world.

I don't want to live in that world.

I want to live in a world where it's okay to have different opinions and share those freely without fear of being shot or punched or called four letter names not nearly as nice as nice.   And strong opinions are always welcome.  I am a passionate gal.  There is nothing like a good, heated debate to get my juices flowing.

One of my favorite facebook friends is a boy I went to grade school with.  I haven't seen this guy since 1983 and truth be told, he was way more popular than I in the land mines of childhood.  When we friended one another a few years ago I was chagrined to see that our politics did not match.  And that we were both very vocal with our politics. But you know what?  We respect one another.  We challenge one another.  We, dare I say, learn from one another. Well, okay, maybe not that far, but we do tolerate and enjoy one another's POVs.  We both keep it clean.  And while we haven't swayed the other, I have learned from the guy.  I respect him.

Sometimes the ugliness on the MTM facebook wall gets me down. Something like bald Barbie or vaccines or circumcision comes along and I really step in it.  Some of the time, I know I am being provocative, like with Barbie.  Other times, I have no freaking idea that so many others think differently than myself and in a deeply passionate way.

So in the interest of nice, the respect and simplicity of a more genteel manner, Imma ask each of my facebook readers to keep it nice.  Respect one another.  Keep it clean.  Don't keep it bland, or sanitized, or muted, but do keep it honorable.

The irony that we as parents are the ones responsible for teaching our kids values, morals, and manners is thick when all of us folks are letting it fly on facebook.  That's just plain hypocritical.  We can do better.  So feel free to keep me company over on my facebook wall.  I will try to keep you entertained, and stimulated, and thinking, and feeling, and laughing.

You will not always agree with me.  I hope you don't, cause then I just start feeling like an odd Mother Theresa type (oops -- was that offensive?).  When you disagree with me, let me know.  Respectfully.  When I disagree with you, I will do the same,  Respectfully.  Nicely.  I promise that I will learn from you, and you from me.

Doesn't that sound nice?

 

 

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  • I'm really glad I opted to keep my opinion to myself yesterday on the vaccine debate.
    Sorry there are people out there who turn things ugly. Who needs 'em?!
    Something I tell my boys is, "You don't have to like everyone, but you do have to be nice to everyone."
    Kraft och omtanke, MTM.

  • In reply to kantal113:

    So wise! MTM.

  • I love this post. Perhaps I am off-base here, but as a mother, I am noticing a culture of "one-up manship" in America that often leads to the ugliness and intolerance that you are talking about. In India, we (especially the girls - sad but true) are taught to accommodate, which means many of us end up being "nice" all our lives. Too nice, sometimes, I might add - to the detriment of our physical and emotional well-being.

    And then there is this other extreme that leads to an aggressive, angry existence that is just as unhealthy: the one that makes my 3 year old son obsess about winning, regardless of the forum. It is the feeling that your opinion must "win" that makes many people want to obliterate other points of view.

    Here's to finding the right balance in discourse! Thanks for yet another thought-provoking and clever post.

  • In reply to jiyer:

    I think you hit the nail firmly on the head there with the "one-up manship" bit. It's sad. And it really does show in (I'll say North American because I'm Canadian) society. Nobody cares about each other anymore...only about who comes out on top.

  • In reply to jiyer:

    Thank you for reading and commenting. You are making me remember that my Mom taught her kids to be nice, but as she got older, she also instilled a bit of self-preservation in us, too. I think she learned there are consequences of nice coming at a cost to self. Balance, yes . . .

    MTM.

  • I think I love you MTM. This post is so right on the money. I don't know when having a difference in opinion started to give us the "right" to out yell each other - but I for one am sick of it!

    Out screaming someone whether in person or online does not show increased intelligence - rather it shows a lack of intellectual humility. I may not always agree with someone, but that doesn't mean I can't learn something from them. I don't always mean that my stance on something changes - but maybe the way I frame the discussion or initially present my view evolves. Good, repectful discussion often polishes our viewpoints and leads to new ideas and ways of looking at the world. Can't do that when someone is just shouting at you to "just die."

    I think this why bullying has become such a problem for our kids. As adults, we often bully others with our opinion (ie - "I'm right so you must be stupid.") Why should we be surprized when children cruely ostracize others for minor issues when adults (even ones that are running the government - both sides) are joing the same thing?

    There is no shame in having strong opinions. The shame comes when the respect for someone who disagrees with you vanishes. Nice does not = weak. Sometimes it takes a much stronger person to be nice.

    PS: I'm with Mary Tyler Dad on this - when the comments become to vitriolic don't subject yourself to them anymore.

  • In reply to mamacoops:

    So true, so true. It mystifies me, actually, turns me off, and depresses me. I hate the the threads on my wall turn ugly. I usually take a breather for a while, then get back up on that horse.

    Unfortunately, in January, there was a lot of nasty. Here is to a nicer February! Thank you for reading and commenting, mamacoops! MTM.

  • I must have missed that mess on your FB wall and now that I have read about it...I'm kinda glad :)

    I believe the Internet has bred a whole new type of "not nice", because people are able to hide behind computer screens and screen names and act as big bad ass as they want without having to worry about getting punched in the nose (as they would if they acted that way to the face of the person they are being not nice to).

    I hate it. The false bravado makes me wanna puke on my boots.

    But I love YOU MTM, and will follow you regardless of how many times you step in "it".

    And I'll be nice :)

  • In reply to MandaPanda:

    Thanks, MandaPanda! Now the dichotomy here is my rails on Gwynnie. But, I guarantee you, should I ever run into her at Barneys New York (right), I would no doubt run the other direction rather than share my thoughts.

    Yes, the internet releases our inhibitions. So glad you're still here! MTM.

  • Love this. The commenting battles and lack of discussions that retain respect has changed the way I interact online. I, more often than not, steer away from entering conversations, even when it's a topic important to me, simply because it bothers me how quickly the comments fall to angry blows.

    We don't have to agree on everything. If we did, how would we ever learn anything new?

  • In reply to momwriter:

    Exactly my point! And a dialogue/debate IS possible, it just requires restraint, understanding, empathy, and interest.

    Thanks for reading, momwriter. MTM.

  • I'm sorry you had to write a post about being nice. I saw the comments on vaccinating and though I didn't agree with some, I opted to log out of FB and play with my DD. I'm not always going to agree, like, or laugh at what you may have to say but I tune in because it might be different than what I think.
    I found a website called tonecheck.com because some people are just too fiesty!

  • My mom raised my sister and I with the credo that "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". I love a good, respectful debate, myself, especially if there is the chance for me to learn something new out of it.

    And I'm with you on the vaccinations - my daughter and I both have Aspergers and we've both been vaccinated and I would do it all again.

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    I'm shocked, frequently, by how hard it is for folks to maintain decorum and respect while engaging in debate. Sadly, the online world encourages folks to say things they would not say in the real world, and it is our job, I think, to keep trying to set the tone and reminding folks of how important it is to be able to have open dialogues without resorting to calumny and vituperation. Good on you MTM.
    Running from Hell with El.

  • VACCINATE!
    Oh, and I totally stayed in a hostel in Nice too. For a week, alone. Super great city, but OMG, the hostel was nasty.

  • Sigh. I SO wish you, Nikki, and I were neighbors. I just had this relevation not that long ago. Basically I was having a disagreement about Martin Luther King Jr. I felt helpless in changing this person's mind. I felt bad I couldn't change their opinion and I felt bad that I wanted to so badly. We are supposed to love wholeheartedly, flaws and all. Sigh.
    Then it dawned on me. Finally. WWJD? What would Jesus do? What did he do?? You know what he did?? He lead by example!! He wasn't going to get in a tizzy cuz someone didn't agree with him. (even if it is mean and wrong) He just kept doing what he did and was nice to people. He stated his piece, rather kindly I'm guessing, and without scorn. He seriously lead by example. Actually, all the greats did!
    So, I decided I am going to lead by example. I AM my kids role model. If I want them to be nice, by golly, I am going to be nice. To them. To strangers. To family. To friends. Gulp, even to my husband. (I'm working on that last one) And I've taken to being that way even when my kids aren't around. You know how contagious kindness and smiles and genuine warm fuzzy feelings are?? I deal with criminals and divorcees and attorneys all day long. Kindness is well received and often, given back.
    Peace on Sister! You are a rock star!

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