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How To Be More Informed and Less Inflamed

by John on 12/31/2014

The answer is simple. Be like this guy.

This is Nike Dawg. He is our family dog. He loves everyone no matter who they are. He is always happy to see you even if you’ve only been away for short while or you forget to fill his water bowl. The only dogs Nike Dawg doesn’t like: ones that bark and bark and bark. Otherwise, he is pretty tolerant.

Think about that when you are on social media.

I wrote this on my Facebook page this week.

Just a reminder to everyone posting here. I love the passion many of you have in these posts on critical issues. I also love hearing the differing opinions and how many of you question or probe others ideas and stands. That is fine. But I only ask that you don’t make any personal attacks on someone based on what they believe or who you think they are. Be mindful that others have had different experiences. I want my sites to be a place where we discuss, debate, and argue — but where we also find solutions and consideration for others ideas.

I had seen a number of impassioned – and disturbing — remarks on my social media pages in response to the murders of two New York City police officers and the previous anti-police protests over the deaths of two black men in New York and Missouri.

I try my best to post various articles that cover a broad range of feelings, bias, and research.

I never like to unfriend anyone. The only way I will unfriend you is if you post naked pictures … of me.

So I have not deleted anyone from my pages. First, I realize these deaths are frightening for everyone. Second, we are going through lots of economic, social, and technological upheaval that hurts our jobs, our families, and our relationships.

That’s what my social media pages are all about. And I received some great responses to that post. Many of you feel – to paraphrase Katie Daly, no relation, but one of the best news producers I ever worked with – we want to walk away from a debate or intellectual exercise feeling good – not defeated.

Most of you feel that way.

In fact, I know that two people who have fought vehemently on my social media pages in the past have actually found common ground on certain issues and seem to accept and even enjoy each other now.

And at times, I have asked people privately to tone it down as far as attacking someone else personally.

Still, I don’t want to be the thought police. And I don’t want to stop impassioned responses to today’s issues.

Here is what I am looking for – or what I was really trying to articulate in that post.

Don’t stop offering your opinions wholeheartedly. This is what social media is all about. Let it fly. But social media also gives us too much of a platform that either hurts others or makes us look differently than we really are.

So, here are some suggestions:

  • Acknowledge that someone else has an opposing opinion that is legitimate or credible
  • If you believe an opinion is not credible or doesn’t make sense, then don’t say anything; let the – to steal from Adam Smith – invisible hand of common sense touch all of us quietly
  • If you need to attack, attack from an intellectual basis with some facts or personal experiences.

There is a difference between being inflamed and being impassioned. (These are my definitions.) Being impassioned embraces an issue wholeheartedly – seeing all sides — and then taking a stand. Being inflamed is just taking a stand that is sympathetic or advantageous to you and only you.

The big difference for me is someone who is inflamed completely ignores the experiences of someone else.

Take the stories that have grabbed so many emotions: the two murdered NYPD officers and the killings of two citizens by police officer. Many people conjured up feelings of being oppressed by police or local authorities that could have happened in their childhood or early adulthood. Others felt that some people just take advantage of a situation because they have not succeeded.

I’m not saying either one is right or wrong. But these are legitimate experiences that deserve to at least to be listen to — and not necessarily scorned.

I am fortunate in that I have felt both of these feelings. I have been poor and wealthy. I had a GOP Dad and a Democratic Mom. I have had TV popularity and been pushed aside as a no one in my industry because of my age or ethnicity. I have been described in my work as a journalist as a Socialist and a Fascist. Lucky for me, my views are all over the place that attacking me is like trying to hit a moving target. Being a moderate (not sure if that is really what I am) can also lead to someone being wishy-washy. Hopefully I am not.

And like me, I know all of you value and treasure your personal experiences. It colors how we look at life and also how we live life. That is good.

However we need to sometimes get outside of our experiences and see other experiences — from other folks. That’s why I encourage people to travel overseas and meet the common folk of a different culture; it’s an eye opener for most of us.

Whether traveling or just being more open to listening to others ideas, a couple of things happen.

  • We realize we have a lot more in common with people we didn’t think we would.
  • We also find out that our ideas are not always right – or might not be right for the time.

Looking back, the liberal ideas of the 1960s sounded great — until the 1970s. The right-wing neo-con beliefs made sense after 2001 while also helping to bring down our economy sooner in 2007.

The same is true about religion. I, for one, never denigrate anybody’s faith. If that person uses faith to harm someone then it is the person not necessarily the religion that needs criticism. But how do you debate someone’s faith. Someone on Twitter posted the 9 most common things people witness in near-death experiences. I have, fortunately, never had a near death experience so who am I to refute what they have lived or witnessed. Instead, I want to enjoy their experience or at least learn from it.

A good book to read to better understand yourself and those who disagree with you is The Righteous Mind. To the left is the greatest book cover in recent years and down here is an excerpt from my review:

Haidt studies moral psychology and he uses scientific research to explain why our political views are so divergent in American society.  He admits to being a liberal.  But he shows great sympathy and empathy for conservatives.  In short, he becomes one with his findings.

Give me your thoughts. In the meantime, Nike Dawg is barking. I forgot his treats.


 

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