Had I known it would sour a relationship that I treasured, I would never have sent that comment.
But let me back up and give you some quick background…
My wife Peggy and I have known “Jenny” (not her real name) since she was nine years old. For seven years, she and her two sisters were a regular part of our family.
We first met them when their mom was recently divorced and needed help with child care. So Peggy and I picked the girls up after school several days a week and kept them until their mom got home from work.
Over time, we became really fond of those girls. They spent weekends with us about once a month, and several times joined us on short camping vacations at Indiana State Parks. We joked that they were our “part-time daughters.”
We went to their school plays, made birthday cakes for them, and just generally enjoyed the blessings of having some new youngsters in our lives after our two children had sprouted their wings and left our nest empty.
As the girls grew and graduated high school, they predictably moved on with their adult lives, and we lost touch with them, except for an occasional Christmas card from their mom.
So I was pleased to discover Jenny on Facebook a few years back, and I sent her a friend request.
She accepted it, and I would occasionally comment on one of her posts, but I deliberately kept my comments brief and infrequent. She was a young adult living an independent life, and I didn’t want to intrude into her space unwanted.
A few months ago, she posted her support for the $15 minimum wage. I commented, politely, and gave a few reasons why I opposed it. Then she replied to that comment with some more reasons why she supported it.
I thought we were having a civil discussion about an economics issue. There was no name-calling or hostile rhetoric. So I responded a second time with some further points in support of my view about the minimum wage.
Within 60 seconds, Jenny unfriended me and BLOCKED me from her Facebook page!
A wonderful young woman I’ve known since she was in 4th grade – a girl we considered our “part-time daughter” – un-friended me because I had the nerve to disagree with her about the $15 minimum wage!
This little incident is one example of the huge problem we have in America today: We don’t respect each other enough to allow for any disagreement.
People are always flying off the handle on Facebook and Twitter. It is common practice to insult and denigrate any poor soul who would dare to disagree with any opinion you might have about any subject.
We could make a list a mile long of the tidy little slurs we like to hurl towards anyone who dares to disagree with us.
No wonder our political climate is so caustic and destructive! We’re all so inflated with our own opinionated gas that we never stop to consider someone else may have a reasonable objection to our position.
We have forgotten how to politely disagree. As former WIBC radio host Greg Garrison used to say, “It’s a mighty thin sheet of paper that only has one side.”
I’ve known my buddy Dennis for over 50 years. We’ve gone through a lot of life together, and I hope I never lose his friendship.
Dennis is a life-long Democrat. He can’t understand why I’m a Republican. He thinks the government should be taking care of everybody. I think the government should get out of our way.
But because we genuinely like and respect each other, we simply agree to disagree. Our personal relationship means more than our political differences.
Why can’t more Americans give each other the benefit of the doubt?
Why can’t we be civil? Why can’t we state our opinions, back them up with logical arguments, debate issues on the merits, and refrain from demonizing our opponents?
Why is it so easy to become spiteful and angry?
The answer, of course, is we all share a common flaw: our sinful arrogant human nature. Since our opinions must be right, anyone who differs with us must be (fill in the blank with abusive insult here.)
There is no excuse for us to behave like this. Our egos are tearing this country apart.
I admit I have strong feelings about many subjects. Obviously I believe my opinions are correct, otherwise I would change them.
But that doesn’t mean I have to hate you. I can simply think you are wrong, or misinformed, or illogical…but I can still respect you as a human being, and we can still get along.
We have a lot of issues to hash out in America these days. There’s loads of tension in the political air.
But if we can dial back the rhetoric and stop shouting long enough to listen to each other, we might find some common ground. We might discover some new solutions to our problems.
You are absolutely entitled to think I’m wrong. You can believe I have bad ideas. You can wonder how I ever came to such faulty conclusions.
But you don’t have to get mad at me. I’m really not that bad a guy.
Can’t we disagree without being disagreeable?
So Jenny, I’m sorry I upset you with that minimum wage discussion. I still love you like a part-time daughter. I hope we can be friends again soon.
Our relationship is more important to me than arguing about politics.