An Open Letter Worth Reading

Posted: January 25, 2010 in Peace

My friend, Sandi, wrote an open letter to her Facebook friends a few days back that I think is spectacular. I asked her permission to borrow it and adopt it as my own, so as you read it, please think of it as from me instead of her. I have to say, however, that much of my reason for posting it is my curiosity in seeing how others react to what she said so eloquently in her letter. Please feel free to add your thoughts by commenting either on my blog or on Facebook when it magically transports there.

Here it is:

Dear Facebook Friends,

I am sorry that the need to write this note has arisen, but this has been bothering me too much to stay silent.

From time to time, I see people using FB status updates as a club with which to bash others who hold different political views. In the past few weeks and especially the past few days, it has gotten to the point that I’m about ready to stop using Facebook altogether because something that used to be enjoyable has become stressful. In short: I don’t need to be told on a social networking site that you think I’m a shitty person because I vote differently than you do.

I feel just as strongly about my public policy preferences as anyone out there, but I feel equally strongly that the polarization and incivility between those on the left and right has gotten completely out of control. The balkanization of our country into little enclaves where everyone thinks just like everyone else and never encounters an opposing view and where people have trouble being nice to others who don’t share their politics is a grave threat to the health of our democracy.

I hate the snarkiness, the backbiting, the smugness, the ugly names, the cruelty, and the lack of compassion I have been seeing. I hate it because it’s immature and unbecoming. But more than that, I hate it because this type of talk has replaced rational discussion and debate and turned us into a nation of people who cannot talk to each other. Once we begin to conceive of people who hold different views as Other, how long until we start to see them as, and treat them as, something less than human?

There are a number of important issues we face as a nation about which reasonable minds can differ. But the hyperbole being offered up and swallowed whole by so many right now posits that those who disagree are necessarily trying to destroy America — and that therefore they must be The Enemy. I would like to offer an alternative view: All of us, with few exceptions, are trying to live the best lives we can and do right by our families, friends, and communities. In the course of forming our views about how government can best accomplish its ends, and what those ends should be, we will come to many different conclusions for many different reasons. Those conclusions are not the whole of our selves, and they do not constitute the entire body of information that speaks to our character.

So, I am a Democrat, and a progressive, but what those things mean to me is not necessarily what they mean to others, and they tell you very little about who I am and all that I believe. However, if you feel that these are unforgivable transgressions that put me outside the realm of what is acceptable — and, more to the point, if you intend to use Facebook as a medium to trumpet this belief — please feel free to end your association with me on this site. If you believe, as I do, that communication and civility between people of varying backgrounds and beliefs is vital to the health of both our nation and our souls, then, no matter how much our political views may differ, I am delighted to call you my Facebook friend and look forward to keeping up with you here.


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