I couldn’t sleep last night. In my mind, I was writing. Ever do that? You have a thought, an idea, a rambling, or a rant that just won’t get out of your head? Won’t let you sleep? Sometimes I lay in bed at night giving words to those thoughts. Usually I compose beautiful essays that perfectly capture what I am trying to say (ha!). Those essays don’t usually make it to paper. They are thoughts that don’t need to be shared. They are personal musings. How can I be a better mom to Madi, a better friend, a better daughter, a better sister, a better personal in general? But not this one. I feel compelled to share this one. You can love it, hate it, think it is pointless or stupid. I don’t care. But please read it. Unfortunately, I think it might upset some people since it is on a topic that seems to be so polarizing for people lately. But I don’t think that there should be anything particularly upsetting or controversial about a call to be nice to each other…which is what this all boils down to.
Basically, I have some thoughts about the recent school shootings in Connecticut. Well, really it is about our responses to these shootings. If you want to know how I feel about the shootings themselves, The Onion pretty much covered it. I generally avoid much strong language in my writing, or speech in general, because a) I want Madi to read this stuff one day and know my heart and b) I just don’t feel like it adds much to anything. But in this case, it pretty much captures my feelings exactly.
This is also not about mental illness, Asperger’s, parenting, etc. There have been some beautifully done articles on that as well. My personal favorite is this one:
This is not about gun control. Although on the surface, you might think it is. It isn’t. It really isn’t.
This is about what I see as an alarming trend on social media, Facebook in particular as that is the only social media sight that I use. I admit it. I am a Facebook junkie. As someone who has lived all over the country and has friends all over the country, I love to see pictures of my friend’s kids that I haven’t yet had the chance to meet or who I don’t see nearly often enough, to see what my friends and family are up to, etc. However, I am increasingly alarmed by the polarizing effect Facebook posts seem to have lately.
First, it was the election. I get it. People have different views. People feel very strongly about those views. Liberals and conservatives will bash each other from now until the end of time. At the time, I hated that people seemed to have forgotten how to have a rational, intelligent conversation about issues (and let’s be honest, our politicians suck at this as well). I frequently saw personal attacks on the character, morals, and intelligence of people with opposing viewpoints. But this current tragedy has made me a lot more concerned.
The day of the Connecticut shooting and maybe the day or two after, I saw a lot of posts indicating the devastation felt by so many. A lot of people were stating that they were snuggling their babies extra close that night. That they were praying for the families of the victims, tales of the heroic acts of teachers.
However, it was not long before calls for love and prayers turned to arguments for or against gun control (mind you, as I write this, it has been only 2 weeks since the shooting). And it wasn’t long before those either for or against fun control were bashing the other side and calling them stupid. While I have my own opinions on gun control, they are totally irrelevant to the topic at hand (Remember…this is NOT about gun control).
(Side Note: In general I feel like social media provides us with some sort of false anonymity. There have been a lot of times that I have seen a post and thought, “holy crap. I know that person and I really don’t think they would talk to someone like that in person.” Remember what your Mama used to say about if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all…your Mama was smart)
(Side note #2: Please don’t think that if you have or have not posted anything about politics, gun control, or other polarizing issues that this post is about you. This post is a GENERAL observation of what I have seen on my own Facebook feed, from conversation with others about what they have seen, etc. Now…back to the subject at hand…)
My point is this…how quickly we forget the devastation, the tragedy, the faces of those little children. How quickly do we toss aside empathy for the loss those families now doubt feel every moment of every day in order of winning an argument. How quickly do we turn to dirty name calls and personal insults directed towards people of opposite viewpoints? Remember when just days ago we were calling for love, prayers, and empathy? Love. Prayers. Empathy. I wonder what these “debates” (and I use that word loosely because I don’t think there has been a lot of rational debating going on) would look like if we spoke our minds and expressed our opinions through a filter or love, prayers, and empathy (Yet another side note: I have my own opinions on religion, prayer, etc but once again, they are NOT the subject of this post).
I don’t think that our focus as a country needs to be on winning an argument or being “right” or “better” or “smarter” than our “friends” (again….I use this word loosely). Do we need to figure out a way to prevent these sort of things from happening again? Absolutely. Is a conversation about gun control or lack thereof relevant to that conversation? Yes. Are we going to solve the problem on Facebook? Doubtful. Are we going to solve anything by digging our feet in, posting argumentative and polarizing status updates? I am quite certain that we won’t. Do you have the right to dig your feet in and post argumentative and polarizing status updates? Absolutely. Just don’t trick yourself in to thinking that you are changing anyone’s mind. The only thing you are doing is causing people that don’t agree with you to dig their feet in a little farther.
I call you to an attitude of love, prayer, and empathy. The tough conversations need to be had. Face to face. In a rational way. We are going to disagree. That’s not a bad thing. That’s what makes relationships interesting. I am pretty sure that I have zero friends that agree with me on everything. But my friends don’t call me stupid or question my character when I disagree with them.
Quiet honestly, I think that if I was a parent of one of these little babies that lost their lives, I would be horrified at how quickly we have turned our focus from collective grief to personal attacks. My baby is still alive, sleeping peacefully in the other room, and I am horrified.
Am I idealistic and naive for thinking that we as collective individuals could turn towards a more civilized communication with each other? For thinking that a horrific event such as a school shooting could have lasting effects on the way we treat each other? Probably. I am ok with that. But I hope that as the New Year approaches, somehow, we could all find a little more love, a few more prayers, and a little more empathy to filter our words and actions. I said it once and I will say it again….your Mama was smart…if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.