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….)
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.