Showing up for a Fight

I blogged about gun control a few days ago.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when the comment section turned into a battle ground. No one to blame but myself, really.

People who wouldn’t normally read my blog found it because of the topic. One of them wrote on his own blog that he searches the web for “gun control” posts so he can go and share the strength of his arguments. And he showed up and started commenting on my post. And then he brought friends. (I’m not going to link to his post, but there is a link down a ways in the comment stream of my gun control post if you want to find it).

And they wanted to debate me. They claimed they really wanted to know my solutions.

But that wasn’t the point of my post.

And I wasn’t going to engage.

I deleted the comments from the jerks who suggested violence. I deleted the comments that kept saying the same things. And it is my blog. That’s how it works. You can say what you want to say on your own blog, but you can’t threaten or glorify violence on mine.

And they called me a coward. And they accused me of being all about “feelings” and not about “facts”. And they said I was censoring them because I didn’t have any facts on my side and no argument to make.

And on the other guy’s blog, one of his friends commented that the solution involved a bag of lime. Isn’t that what you need when you hide a body? I’m just not engaging with people like that.

I tried to be polite. I thanked them for sharing their thoughts. I kept trying to help them see my point. And then I walked away. I did not comment on his post.

I am reminded of how hard it is not to show up for every war I’m invited to wage.

Here’s why I’m not engaging with these particular people.

I don’t know them. They don’t know me.

No matter how great the interweb may be, it is not ideally suited for building relationships. If someone I know and love disagrees with me about gun control (or abortion, or whatever other difficult topic) we can engage because we know each other’s story, we know why the issue means what it does to the other person, and we can respect our differences as we share why we see the issue as we do.

And there are times I can engage with people I don’t know.

But these commenters and I have no relationship. And despite their language of “I really want to know what you think”, I’m not sure they do. Which leads to…

Having your own agenda already etched in stone does not lead to an open exchange of ideas.

There are people with whom I would like to discuss my ideas about gun control solutions, because it is a complicated issue. Background checks? Reduction of types of ammo available for sale? Prohibition of kinds of guns? What to do with the guns already out in the world? Lots of issues. But someone whose blog claims the “ammo box” as one of the ways he uses his voice (after the ballot box and the soap box) is not one of the people with whom I want to engage.

I am certain he wanted me to “share my solution” so he could immediately shoot it down (metaphor used intentionally) with one of his solutions. I just don’t see the value in that. Are hearts and minds changed by the person who yells the loudest or the most?

I’m not really interested in changing other people’s views.

If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine.

Yes, I might still think you are wrong. But I’m okay if you think I am wrong too.

And this next one is the hardest for me…

I don’t have to correct people’s misperceptions.

Some of the things said about my post and things said about me in the comments on his blog (and even a few of them on mine) were so wrong. So wrong as to be laughable. And if you know me at all, you will see the incongruity and shake your head. If you don’t know me, I just don’t have time to correct it all. Every time I walked away from one of those comments without engaging the error, I reminded myself I had better ways to spend my time than to care about how someone I don’t know perceives me or my beliefs.

So, why do I write about controversial topics if I don’t want to fight about them with strangers and if I don’t feel particularly called to change people’s minds?

This may be the question.

I do still hope (trust, believe) I have something to add to the conversation. And I certainly have things to learn. I’m thankful for the readers who do challenge my posts and who do it in ways that add to the conversation without raising the volume.

A friend made this comment on Facebook about this topic.

You are braver than I am. I don’t do conflict well at all. It eats me up inside. I don’t even like to debate people I know and care for and who I believe care for me. It’s not that I’m not capable, I consider myself a fairly intelligent person who spends probably too much time trying to stay aware of the issues in the world. But any benefit I might gain from feeling like I put in my two cents is completely outweighed by the sleepless nights that will follow. So, no, I do not engage…ever.

Her comment helped clarify something for me in all of this. She’s plenty brave, no matter what she says. She is a great advocate for children and does all kinds of other awesome things.

But she’s right that I’m not afraid of conflict and so I can use my voice to wade into waters where others fear to tread.

Maybe that’s why I blog. I have a voice and I’m not afraid to use it.

This quote from Pete Seeger has been showing up on Facebook. (Rest in Peace, Mr. Seeger. The world already misses your voice….)

seeger

And I agree with it. To a point.

But when the people who disagree with me come to the conversation with a completely different set of ground rules, how far does my responsibility go to continue the conversation?

I’d rather have these conversations over a meal, perhaps with a beverage or two. I suspect many of the things people write in comments they would not say to my face. And I trust I’d be able to hear nuance and tone in ways the blogosphere does not allow.

So I’ll continue to blog. And I’ll hope to have the real conversations about the issues in person, with people I know and love. I’m hoping to continue the conversation while not increasing the volume. Thanks for being a part of the conversation.

Love to hear your thoughts about how you navigate this.

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15 thoughts on “Showing up for a Fight

  1. I have exactly this problem but over something extremely trivial (in comparison to gun control). For awhile I allowed people to say what they wanted — till someone called me a psychopath. Then I had a rule against ad hominem — which increased the number of ad hominem comments I was getting. Then I had a phase where I wasn’t watching all that much because of my mother’s illness, and I noticed a dynamic developing where people felt free to condescend to those not present, and a tiny group of people took over my comments section. So I instituted a comments policy. And, wow, all of those people said they could live with it, and none of them could. So now I am taking abuse for not letting people come to my blog and hurl insults at me.

    It’s been a growing process, but I can live with that. Someone who comes with the premise of attacking me is not someone who comes for a discussion. I think it’s easy to attack me for precisely the reason you specify — these are people who don’t know me, and so why should they develop any empathy for my position? Unfortunately, the more empathy I showed, the worse the problem got. I had to draw a line. That had consequences for me but I can live with them. And I don’t see it as a barrier to growth. I still observe plenty of new things and learn new stuff and change my views on things based on stuff people say to me. I’m just choosing to learn from people who have the wisdom and understanding to communicate the way I’d like to communicate, instead of keeping everything 100% open in the name of some vague notion of freedom. In essence, a lot of people would like to use their freedom of speech to limit yours. If someone threatens you with a bag of lime — that means they feel threatened. Their problem, not yours.

  2. I’m with you… sometimes, it’s SOOOOOO easy to engage.

    But most of the time, I may reply back a little bit, once or twice… but if it seems to be going no where fast and it seems to be sliding in the direction of personal attack… well, at that point I do one of two things

    1) Thank them… and stop replying
    2) Just stop replying.

    It’s been a hard lesson to learn, for me, but if I’m not the last person to post on a thread, this doesn’t mean that THEY won (or that I won), just that the conversation is over. Simply that… the conversation is over… and it’s over because it’s not a conversation (a “coming together of words”) but simply people speaking AT each other… and that is never helpful.

    I’ve already rambled on too long… but yeah… you did the right thing.

    • Thanks for your comment. You are one of the voices I thought of in a good way–don’t know you in real life (as they say) but have appreciated your comments on my blog.
      It is so damn hard to let them have the last word, but you are exactly right. The last word is not always the right word.

  3. I needed this.

    I couldn’t help myself in a meeting the other night when I overheard two people joking about “waiting to see what lies the President was going to tell next during his speech.” I reminded them that the stock market was trading at the highest rate ever. Did I mention that it was an endowment meeting and our endowment has benefitted greatly from that growth?

  4. I get comments in my email before they are posted. I have no hesitation in trashing their comments if they are violent or use unreliable information in their rebuttal. The point of our blogs is not debate necessarily but to raise issues so that others can think about and include it in the way that they relate to certain topics. It also allows us to respond to topics with the gifts that God has given us as preachers and people of God. It is my experience that when that kind of debate breaks out on our blogs, it is no longer debate–it is war. In my life time I have watched our society move to the place where we can no longer debate–too many throw the kitchen sink. I am no longer willing to enter into that kind of discussion. It does too much damage. I have to walk away from it. If you do not post comments that are violent, they will not continue to attack.

  5. Marci, I am always amazed at your words and am grateful for your honesty. I am like your other friend who does not do conflict well and though I feel passionate about certain issues, do not engage. Your words give me sense to do some engaging and get out of my comfort zone a bit. You are a blessing and I am thankful for your presence in the world.

  6. Ms. Glass,

    Color me confused – I thought words meant something. You said “We’re lacking a narrative that would allow us to change our culture.” and “Who are we? Who do we want to be? How are we willing to make changes to get there?”

    Well, seeing how I’m part of the American Citizenry, I thought the conversation was open to everyone. Apparently the idea seems to have been for you to express your thoughts on the ‘narrative’ and for us gun types to not say anything in reply. How is that discussing the issue?

    . And they accused me of being all about “feelings” and not about “facts”.
    That was said because YOU repeatedly said you wanted to not talk about facts but the narrative, about feelings. Well, we tried that and got very little in the way of response. How can we figure out who we are as a nation if there is no discussion. If there is no give and take regarding the issues.

    I don’t moderate my blog. You are free to comment over there, rebut any of my readers, etc. I handle the give and take in a very open, very free wheeling fashion. I’ve called out others for threats and chided them. The first comment on my post was not directed at you in particular but in general at those who seek to deprive of what few rights we still have left.

    I am reminded of how hard it is not to show up for every war I’m invited to wage.

    In this case, didn’t you start the ball rolling on this conversation? Or were your words just rhetorical?

    But someone whose blog claims the “ammo box” as one of the ways he uses his voice (after the ballot box and the soap box) is not one of the people with whom I want to engage.

    Please be accurate. You claim you don’t want to demonize gun owners but that is slipping perilously close. I’ll quote from my own “about” page.

    The title of the Blog came from quote by the famous author UNKNOW

    We have four boxes with which to defend our freedom: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.

    Since I don’t talk much about court cases, I decided to shorten it to 3 Boxes.
    Please understand that the Soap Box, the Ballot box are to be used long before the Ammo Box
    I hope my blog reflects that.
    Most of the “ammo box” posts come from my wanting to document my journey into learning and using firearms.

    Most of the ‘ammo box’ posts come from my wanting to document my journey into learning using firearms. — Hardly ‘one of the ways he uses his voice”.

    It is about liberty — yes people do have to understand that is one of the remedies people will turn to in order to protect liberty. If we are truly to understand who we are, where we came from — that fact has to be discussed. Luckily we are still long away from resorting to it.

    And I’ll hope to have the real conversations about the issues in person, with people I know and love.

    Do you worry about creating an echo chamber? Of only discussing the issues with people who already agree with you? That is why I seek out conversations like this. To challenge my perceptions, to learn how others feel (and view data), to see if I’m so far outside of the main stream or not. I could easily stay on my blog and not encounter people who challenge my beliefs….I choose to engage so I can learn.

    The process of synthesis (a combination of two or more entities that together form something new) comes from Thesis and Antithesis — the narrative deserves both aspects, don’t you think?

  7. @3boxesofbs, if you believe Marci “only discuss[es] the issues with people who already agree” with her, you’re profoundly misinformed. Her in-person outreach to people with whom she disagrees profoundly is thoughtful, extensive, and admirable. Her refusal to engage more fully with you does not mean she fails to understand the value of full engagement in civic discourse.

    • Leslie Madsen-Brooks,

      Do question marks mean something else to you then they do to most people? I’m asking questions based on her words.

      And I’ll hope to have the real conversations about the issues in person, with people I know and love.

      I’m basing my comments on her words — on this post and the previous — instead of responding to comments she ‘blessed us’ and that was it. She didn’t seem to want to engage — not with me, not even when I responded to her request not to discuss data, not to many of the other comments.

      She posted on a blog — than then claims that a blog isn’t a place to get to know people. I disagree with that. I’m established wonderful friendships and relations with people I have never met in person.

      I find it ironic that she uses a media that has national and international reach but doesn’t seem to want to engage in a dialog (one she seemingly asked for) with those not in her personal circle. This are not my words but hers…and yours.

      How do we form that narrative as a nation if not here and thousands of other places?
      How do inform our representatives of the policy we wish them to adopt if we don’t hash it out in situations like this?
      We may never agree but we can become better informed, about feelings and data. We can get to know each other, not just philosophical opponents but as neighbors and people — distance means less today than ever.

  8. Trolls gonna troll. I don’t publish comments if I think the person is just trying to be a nuisance. Or sell me “V1agra”…

    Dialogue is one thing. Diatribes are another.

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