musings

Losing friends over “dumb memes”…

Although I might lose friends for writing this post, I’m not one of the people who lost friends yesterday over patriotic or unpatriotic Facebook postings. For once, I stayed well out of controversial territory yesterday. Although my initial impressions of Leipzig were kind of lukewarm, the city quickly grew on me. I cried twice yesterday, both times because I was overwhelmed by music and sights that moved my senses.

The first time I cried was largely due to simply being overwhelmed by the beauty of Bach being played expertly by live buskers outside of the church where he served as the Thomaskantor for 27 years. One thing I absolutely love about living in Europe is the number of talented musicians who share their passions with people on the street. Quite often, their music moves me to tears. Bill and I joke that we become “verklempt” over things of beauty. I’ve seen him melt into tears over art exhibits or, more commonly, beautiful cathedrals. Give us a cathedral where someone is playing music or a choir is singing well, and we’ll both end up crying for different reasons.

The second time I cried was for somewhat sadder reasons. We were enjoying the Leipziger Weinfest, which fortunately happens to be going on all this weekend. A duo was playing music. I happened to notice a beautiful young family. Mom was pregnant and clearly would be delivering a baby very soon. Dad was taking care of their toddler aged son, who was obviously enchanted by the music. I watched them dancing together, father and son, as mom stood by, looking on adoringly. I realized that I’m 47 years old and I won’t ever have what that family has. I thought I had mostly come to terms with that, and have even realized it might be for the best. It still makes me sad sometimes to realize that a significant life experience that most people take for granted won’t be part of my history. In fact, when I die, the mold will be broken. Some people are grateful for that.

Add in the fact that we were drinking wine and Bill’s younger daughter will be having her daughter any day now… and, in fact, I would not be surprised if she’s already given birth. Bill Skyped with her on July 3rd. She was scheduled to be induced on the 9th, but she was already having contractions. If she had her baby yesterday, and it’s possible that she did, the baby will share birthdays with her Aunt Brigid, Bill’s older daughter who still doesn’t speak to him. Maybe the baby will hang on until the 7th and be Bill’s best birthday present, as he turns 55.

Then I read about Joy Anna Forsyth’s pregnancy loss in the 20th week. Her baby girl had no heartbeat, and she was forced to deliver little Annabell Elise stillborn. While I don’t necessarily admire the Duggar family’s focus on birthing as many babies as humanly possible and trying to deny reproductive rights to women who aren’t like them, I do have empathy for Joy. I’m sure this loss was absolutely devastating for her, as it would be for most parents. So… I guess that might be why I was so emotional last night.

Once we’d decided to retire for the evening, we came back to our hotel room. I went on Facebook, and soon found two heated arguments among my friends. One friend is very conservative. Lately, she’s been more political than ever, posting memes that promote conservative ideals and getting into arguments with her more liberal contacts. Now… it’s certainly her right to post whatever she wants on Facebook. I generally don’t comment on her political posts because I mostly understand her viewpoints. There was a time when I even shared her views somewhat. I also realize that I don’t like it when I post something on Facebook and someone starts a nasty argument about it on my page. I don’t mind discussions, but I don’t enjoy arguments, especially when they devolve into personal attacks, sarcasm, and insults.

My conservative friend is, for the most part, very respectful in her discussions. Although I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of her views– at least not since I went more liberal– I do very much respect her ability to be civilized when she disagrees with others. I can easily see why she seems to think liberals are “ganging up” on people with conservative views, since she’s recently been involved in some rather contentious arguments with people who are “aggressively liberal” and insistent about pushing their views on her page. My friend has a lot of conservative friends who have her back, so the comments can get wild. Unfortunately, one of her former friends, who is also one of my friends, got nasty and personal as he commented on the meme she shared, pictured below…

My friend posted this, and a former mutual friend of ours took her to task for not respecting Colin Kaepernick’s reasons, and rights, to peaceful protest. While I don’t disagree with the more liberal view of this, I do think his comments to her were unnecessarily offensive.

For the record, while there was a time when I didn’t see what all the hoopla was over racism in the United States, my views have changed a lot. I think it’s because I left the country and stopped spending so much time around like minded people. I started opening my eyes to what happens to people of color on a regular basis. I’m not sure if things have gotten much worse recently, or I’m just a lot more aware. But while I will never know what it means to be black in America, I do think I have a lot more empathy for non-whites than I once had. Maybe it’s because I pay a lot more attention to the news than I used to. Or maybe it’s because I studied social work and spent time working with people in minority groups. I don’t want to say I’m “woke”, because I don’t really like that term. It’s more like I can’t unring the bell. I don’t see things as black and white as much as I used to. That being said… I don’t think liberals do the cause any favors when they become self-righteous, insulting, or shaming toward people who don’t share their views. It takes time for people to change and, by and large, they have to want to do it for it to be a genuine change. Trying to force someone to be tolerant is not very tolerant behavior.

Well, I left that thread without responding to it… and promptly fell into another rabbit hole. A liberal friend– someone much more liberal than I am– posted this meme.

True… but…

My liberal friend has a friend I don’t know who took exception to this meme. She posted this comment.

Thankfully things have changed….its important to remember where we came from, equally important to realize what HAS changed and stop hammering the past to death. It is not 1787 anymore.

I really didn’t find this comment offensive at all. However, other people did, and they quickly let her know. Eight comments, at least half of which were accusatory and shaming, were lobbed at this lady. At least one comment made an assumption about what this poster thinks and what kind of person she is, even though she’s evidently a complete stranger to them. Most of the other comments were outraged and rather sanctimonious in nature. I couldn’t help but imagine the poster folding her arms and walking away from the conversation. I doubt the confrontation did much good, if the intention was to “educate” and/or change hearts and minds. I wasn’t even involved in the conversation and I found it offensive, even if I don’t disagree with the posters who agreed with the meme.

I’m reminded of a discussion I was part of about 20 years ago, when I used to attend Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. One of the regular attendees was a young woman who was learning how to do massages. She brought with her some type of clay that she used to practice her massage techniques. During the meeting, she introduced the concept of being “gentle” with applying pressure toward any approach to change. She showed us how pressing the clay forcefully with her fingers met with immediate resistance. But when she pressed into the clay gently, the clay gradually yielded and she was able to make indentations that changed its form significantly. It’s the same with muscles. Brutally pressing into muscles results in pain, resistance, and sometimes even damage. Gentle pressure yields better results, as the muscles gradually yield to the therapeutic pressure and the massage therapist can effect health promoting change.

I think the same could be said for some discussions we have with other people, particularly on social media. No one likes to be lectured to, aggressively attacked, shamed, or insulted. That is not what makes people open their minds or change their opinions. Respectful communication, empathy, listening, and being willing and able to consider other people’s views without closing one’s mind is how real conversations can happen… and sometimes maybe even real, positive change can be effected.

I think memes can be good conversation starters. Sometimes, they are thought provoking. However, memes don’t sum up real life. I think it’s a shame when a meme leads to people losing friendships. If the goal is to educate, open minds, or change perspectives, it’s best to try to be respectful and empathetic. And if you want to be respected yourself, then you should yourself act respectable.

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