Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why can't arguments be more fun?

I had to unfriend a person on Facebook for the first time recently. She was fairly conservative, and tended to post things of that nature. Me being... well... me, I would sometimes dispute some premises, facts, or conclusions, resulting in an argument. From my perspective, it's all in good fun. Unfortunately, it eventually became apparent that she did not share this view (yeah, it took me a while to realize how bad it was, even with my girlfriend getting annoyed with me, between it being the internet and that I can be somewhat oblivious to these things).

Let me make it clear: I didn't unfriend her because of any animosity on my part, nor that I tired of attempts to convince her of my position. She seems like a genuinely decent person, nor is conversion to my side the point (it was apparent early on that was unlikely, anyway). No, the problem was that I was unnecessarily upsetting her, a fellow follower of Christ. I have a hard time keeping my opinions to myself when I see something I disagree with, so it was best just to take away that temptation.

I have continued to receive emails listing replies to some posts I commented on, despite no longer having the ability to see the actual page. I had to raise an eyebrow when one person felt I was a "libtard and provocateur" that should "fall off a cliff." Really? The post I had replied to in that case had some historical inaccuracies I pointed out (keep in mind I consider history important), and for that I should die? Was pointing out that some facts were wrong really that bad?

Truthfully, I don't really understand why differing opinions upset people. I know it's common, and I try to be understanding of their feelings, but it doesn't really make sense to me. Provided there's no ad hominem, bigotry, or just rudeness involved, why would it be upsetting that someone's beliefs are different, even wrong? They are ideas, not people, and I believe people should be the priority.

There's the part of me that wants to blame all this animosity between the liberal and conservative sides over the last decade or so on pundits like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, but honestly it's been going on a long time. If you look at the history books, politics has always produced bitter feuds. In the early days of the USA, the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr is a good example.

Something in human nature just creates a lot of fear, anger, and hate over opposing beliefs. My best guess is that many people consider their beliefs vital to their person, and having those challenged, even by someone who simply says they disagree, threatens their worldview, prompting an angry response, rather than thoughtful debate.

Perhaps there's a remnant of tribalism behind the animosity as well. By disputing their tribe's view of the world, I'm marking myself as a member of a rival tribe, and therefore to be hated. In that case, the ideas aren't even that important. They are only identifiers. What really matters is that I have been identified as one of "them." It would explain why, in multiple cases, statements I've made that were inconsistent with views stereotypical of the opposing tribe I was accused of belonging to were either ignored or discounted (sometimes I was accused of outright lying). From a tribal view, there are few gray areas when it comes to affiliation, people are considered either one of "us," or one of "them."

In this particular situation, it's not that big of a deal. It is a little unfortunate that I have gotten this kind of thing from both ends of the political spectrum, but I'll walk away from this with a little head-scratching and a shrug, as I've done in the past.

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I'm a Christian and political moderate (I tend to be more liberal on core issues and more conservative on the hot-button ones). I have a B.A. in Biblical and Religious Studies and Philosophy.