Sunday, January 10, 2010

Coexist XXVIII - Respect for Opposing Opinions

I am constantly receiving forwarded emails - you probably do also. Some of them puzzle me and sometimes even upset me because I do not understand the spirit in which they are sent. Many of these emails have a political opinion attached to them and I suppose the sender either assumes that I agree with them, is trying to convince me of their superior understanding of the sad state of this country, or it is just their way of bitching. I find many of them insulting and lacking respect for opposing viewpoints. One recently depicted all those Americans that would identify themselves as liberals as lazy, good-for-nothing, parasites on society. (It actually compared them to a lazy dog that lays around the house all day, takes handouts, and does nothing to support himself or deserve his comfortable life.) When I made a brief response to this I was basically told that I don't know what I believe.

My viewpoints have changed drastically over the past 10-15 years and I contend that this change has taken place as my own life has changed, and as I have observed life in my own particular situations at home and at the workplace. In these years I have been exposed to a more extreme diversity of experiences and people than all the years before that. Because I understand that about myself, I also can understand that someone else may have a completely different set of beliefs and opinions than I do based on their own unique life. And I respect their opinions. Those opinions do not anger me. I'm sure they are justified.

There are some conservative views that I may agree with, but when I receive emails with a conservative bent they, almost without fail, are full of name-calling, hatred for those who do not agree and a doomsday mindset about our country. When I see certain conservative talking heads on certain television networks (which I attempt to listen to so that I can hear both sides) I always hear those commentators using their platform to attack other people. They use venomous, hateful and often sarcastic language to make their point(and I change the channel.

One of the things we all treasure about America is freedom of speech, and yes, these folks are using their freedom of speech to attack the president and the opposing political party - but to what end? To me, any fool can get in front of a camera and spout vitriol. How is that helping America? I believe our president should be respected whether he's George Bush or Barack Obama. Snarky emails and rhetoric only serves to divide our nation further. If you think that America is in such a mess - then make it better. Blame and division will certainly not make it better. If you desire the patriotism we had after September 11 then why are you sending emails that portray our country as doomed? I don't get it.

If your political beliefs include Christian morals then why do you vilify those who do not agree with you? Jesus loved the outcast tax collector - He didn't go around preaching about what an awful person he was. In fact, I don't understand at all how Christian principals are being upheld when a politcal party excludes certain Americans from their own pursuit of happiness and rights as equal citizens of this country. WWJD? Anyone with a miniscule knowledge of the bible can use a piece of scripture to prove a point one way or another. The new covenant of love and forgiveness that Jesus brought is what matters.

Personally I don't think America is in any worse shape than it's ever been. We have been through wars, depressions, recessions,energy crises and low morale before. We have crime and poverty and children not graduating from high school just as we always have. And we need to continue to fight these fights. These are all part of an imperfect country in an imperfect world. We all want our individual circumstances to improve for ourselves and our children, but espousing hatred, demonizing our public officials and taking sides will not make it happen.

I wrote this quickly, but I was inspired by an outstanding essay from Newsweek by Theodore B. Olsen. PLEASE read his article HERE.


Daniel Bell said...

Great post, Diane. Bravo. I could not agree more.

I have a few friends who call themselve conservatvies. The are all genuinely nice people with well considered opinions: rational Republicans. They feel much the same way you do. They are apalled at the state of "conservative media" and the rabble rousing teabag types. Those folks are a minority. Always have been. But they are louder now than ever.

Tune them out. I do.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Great post. I dislike the judgment and sarcasm too.

Sadly, I also see some of it from liberals.

I wish our society could learn to dialogue.

Melissa said...

Dear Diane,

My name is Melissa, and I am a friend of Dan Bell, through whom I found your blog. I check back frequently because I find your posts interesting, incisive and spiritually uplifting. I couldn't agree more with your most recent post.

The older I get, the more I realize the absolute necessity of not only tolerance, but also love and respect for humanity. To paraphrase a monologue from Tony Kushner's "Angels In America: Millenium Approaches", it must be MORE than tolerance we practice, because just below tolerance lies judgment and, potentially, hatred. When difficulties arise, the former may quickly fade, leaving only the latter, to all our detriment.

As Dan said, bravo.

Diane Vogel Ferri said...

Thanks Melissa! and Dan and Ruth too. I appreciate it!

jessy said...

I've been getting the same e-mails and am now at the point where I delete before reading. If they presented a different point of view in a way that makes you think and questions your beliefs than that's one thing. But yuo absolutely said it, they're full of hatret and name-calling which really just make it sound uneducated and low-class. I've been trying to find a way to politely ask those e-mails to stop but I'm yet to find the right words with causing a rift.

Janie said...

I, too, have been deluged with these unwanted e-mails. I have asked to be excluded from receiving them, but that request has been ignored. It's not that I don't want to hear what's being said - it's that they seem to always be so nasty ALL of the time against anything that "may" take a different path than they believe, and I don't need or want to hear nasty comments - political or otherwise. I welcome viewpoints that I oppose on a daily basis, as well as those that I agree with, as long as it's in a respectful tone. In fact, that's how I learn and grow and form my OWN opinions, which is part of growing up...finding out what I believe in and what I respectfully disagree with. But I refuse to engage someone who has a one-sided agenda to constantly put down what I may believe in, even though they know nothing about me or my belief system. I can't stop these e-mails from coming into my inbox, apparently, but I don't have to read them. There's a "delete" button on my computer.