“Facebook unfriending: a large part of surviving election season (though I’ve mostly been unfamilying people).”
After a couple comments, I explained myself: I would never unfriend someone just because we had a different viewpoint on the economy, or government services, or who should be president, but when it comes to blatant homophobia, or statements like “real Americans are Christian Americans,” my line is drawn. I had expected a bit of push back, but mostly my friends agreed — Facebook makes others’ views front and center and sometimes you just don’t like what you see.
When the push back came, it was in response to someone else’s comment. A commenter complained that a family member had sent them a racist photo and then responded with anger when the commenter asked him not to send shit like that anymore. This led to an argument from someone else close to the situation. Usually I would stay out of this: I had no stake in that situation and though I side with the person calling out racism, it’s not my fight. But we all have our triggers. The rebuttal ended, “I don’t see why we can’t just agree to disagree.”
Think the McFlurry is better than a Wendy’s Frosty? Agree to disagree. Think USC is better than Oregon? You’re wrong, but hey… agree to disagree. However, is this the rule we want to apply to all our interactions — is everything people say, and believe, on the day to day really something we ought to be shrugging off?
The world would be a much, much worse place if people were to tolerate (ie. Agree to disagree) bigotry. It takes more strength and conviction to speak out when wrongs need to be righted than to just let it go. When it comes to the racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and other forms of bigotry being bandied about, to agree to disagree is to complacently accept that what is being said, or propagated, or believed is okay.
So often people hide behind the curtain of opinion, as if by accepting that not everyone agrees with them, they shouldn’t be held accountable for others’ reactions. Opinions are nothing but a reflection of our morals — from your thoughts on whether men should be opening doors for women, to how you think the social services of your state should be structured, we base our opinions on faith, experience, and our viewpoint of the world. Opinions are the filters people give us that color how we view them. Sometimes those colors get murky, ugly. Should we simply shrink away? Is it better to pretend our view of that person hasn’t changed? Do you just quietly delegate them to the sidelines of your life and hope their murk doesn’t infect you, your children, your community?
I like to hope I could speak up for what is right, but too often I do exactly what my status threatened: I unfriend them from Facebook. I stop associating with them. I’ve ended my relationship with distant aunts and cousins because of homophobic statuses. I thought of it as a decisive statement of silent protest. But they don’t know why I ended our friendship; they don’t know the effect their bigotry has had on the way the world views them. The way family views them.
I know it is better to speak up. It is better to be the one who went down in flames for standing for what was right, than to be the person who silently survived because it was easy. But my fingers freeze. I am not a fighter; I don’t know how to fuel an endless argument. I get exhausted and I don’t know how to push through. I get depressed that they are so intent to cling to opinions of hate. I get lost.
Do I have the right to try to change people? The answer I’m supposed to give is no — we’re pretty much taught from birth that we have no right to challenge beliefs; that faith is unquestionable; that feelings are paramount. I’m not one to disrespect those things; but I don’t know how to keep saying nothing. I don’t have to speak for the victims of prejudice, but I don’t have to accept prejudice either. Even if it’s a fight that can’t be won; an argument too exhausting; or a person I would rather just disassociate from… even then, at least I can say I said something. And that has to feel better than when I say nothing at all.
Megan is not sure she knows how to say any of this right! But you gotta say something.