Disclaimer: This one gets a little serious, but stick with me. I’ll return to regularly scheduled nonsense next week.
The past couple of days were tough here in America. In fact, the past couple of months were pretty rough. Between the seemingly neverending stream of tragedies, the controversial presidential race, and the everyday issues constantly flying across our screens, we are feeling pretty bleak and a little upset.
There’s nothing wrong with that. We as human beings have been blessed (and cursed) with feelings. It is our responsibility to empathize with people and their situations (unless you’re a sociopath, which is fine too). It’s a beautiful thing that we can become so emotionally connected to something happening around us that is not even happening to us.
However, we also have been blessed with these sophisticated minds that have created things like…the internet….and social media.
In the wake of a tragedy, we all scurry to our computers or iPhones to tell the world how this makes us feel. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this. Facebook exists so we can talk about ourselves and it’s our first amendment, blah, blah, blah, to do so as we please. So by all means, post about how saddened you are by the violence, offer your condolences, and state your wishes that we would find a better way to coexist as humans.
But, it never ends there. It turns into gunfire in every comments section for every video or status. Each and every person with a computer, the ability to use a keyboard (even if it’s just their pointer fingers), and the brains to set up a Facebook account, suddenly believes that they hold the position to state what is wrong and what is right.
Here’s my unpopular opinion. A majority of us share our opinion, and our opinion is most often wrong.
Now, it isn’t wrong because it’s uneducated or because you felt the need to sprinkle in some….creative language. Often times, we can back our ideas with research and calling people names for having a different opinion that you, while pointless and in need of a change, also does not make your opinion unintelligent.
No, you’re wrong because there is no way to speak informatively on a controversial issue unless you have experienced it first-hand.
For example, if you are a white dude who works at an accounting firm and I asked you “What do you think of NASA’s design plans and procedures for their new rocket?,” you would most likely say, “I have no idea. I’m not a rocket scientist.”
So what would make you think that you should have an opinion on what it’s like to be black, or a woman, or under the poverty line, or Muslim, or a police officer, or the President of the United States?
Yet, here we are on the interwebs, telling the people who live those lives every day that their thoughts and experiences are wrong because that’s how we feel. That would be like me getting punched in the face, and you (as someone who has never been punched in the face) saying, “Oh, I don’t feel like that would even be painful.” How would you know?
Instead of condemning the words of those who have actually experienced something we could never imagine, we should be contemplating and spreading their opinions. Next time face-to-fist contact comes up in your conversation, you could say instead, “Well I have a friend who got punched in the face and she said it hurt.”
This isn’t to say that you can’t take a side. It is natural to have a core belief system that you follow and to see a right and wrong party in your eyes. I just mean to say that maybe you shouldn’t feel the need to use your third-party opinion to debate or invalidate the opinions of others. Especially on the internet.
I promise that commenting on a stranger’s status about the gun control debate with, “Hey dick breath, you are such an idiot,” is not going to make them think critically about their opinions or change their minds.
We need to admit that we are clueless and raise up the voices who have lived through every moment of these struggles and know first-hand what’s working and what seriously needs fixing. Quiet down and listen to both sides. Yes, both sides. The guilty party may seem obvious at first, but it is rarely that simple. Listen to stories from those that are neck-deep in the controversy before deciding who you align with (or *gasp* finding that both sides might hold some fault because humans are flawed and we all kind of suck).
I have no idea what struggle the names and organizations below the headlines the past couple of months have gone through. It’s not my place to speak on their behalf. I can only say that I think empathy, compassion, and respect should be practiced by all humans toward all other humans. Both for their lives and their ideas.