There are three things you’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table: politics, religion, and sex (or money, depending on which three things your family subscribed). I extend the dinner table to my personal forums: my blog, my Facebook account and my Twitter feed. While my hesitancy is partly due to the belief that you really don’t care and that I won’t eloquently express myself, the other part is that I recognize not everyone is on the same philosophical page as I am. It’s disheartening, really, but I accept that you all apparently have “free will” to think different (albeit at times “wrong”) thoughts. This self-discipline is what passes as “manners” and keeps me from devolving into a rage ball of, “Heretics! Treacherous lying dissenters! Imbeciles! BURN THEM ALL!” at Christmas. It turns out that if you don’t sit quietly when a forbidden topic does appear that you will not get the choicest piece of pie and you might find yourself sitting at the kid’s table. Since I prefer the adult table, I save my views for the long rant on the drive home. Woe to the person who finds themselves in that car if a controversial subject arose that I was forced to bite my tongue over. I was taught to keep things civil by listening quietly while stabbing my food pointedly; it’s how I was raised.
Some background on me: my degree was in Political Science with a focus on foreign policy and political philosophy. Needless to say, I am somewhat passionate about the subject of government and political ideology. I am not an independent. I am not a moderate. I have very firm and deeply held beliefs based on my education, my experience and my environment. And with Presidential elections a mere two months away, I’m a bit amped up. What holds me back are the rules my mother put in place when I was a little girl.
That being said, I choose not to express my views on this blog or on FB unless it’s to “Like” a post or make the occasional comment. I see these forums as an extension of my dinner table. I also try to be keenly aware that my readers and FB “friends” represent a diverse group of people who hold many different religious and political beliefs. On the rare occasion when I choose to say something, I try to keep that diverse group of people in mind and keep my words free of vitriol and free of insults. Basically, if I feel like posting something insulting, I know it’s time to walk away. I may at times disagree with my friends, but I do respect them and what they believe. (Unless they believe in something harmful like eating babies – please, try not to eat babies – see, I recently learned it’s not actually a religious practice, it’s something called cannibalism, you can look it up. It’s apparently a universal taboo. It also may lead to halitosis and no one likes a person with bad baby breath).
This is all a long-winded way of saying that in this political season where people are riled up and forgetting their table manners, I’ve had to dump a few “friends” from FB who forgot they were in a public forum and decided to attack my beliefs. See, I personally think it’s possible to take an intelligent stance on a difficult issue without attacking your audience. Of course, I also believe in unicorns.
But let’s say you do feel inspired to post that post and you want to be taken seriously. Here is my practical guide to political postings based on some missteps I’ve seen on FaceBook:
- Your statement should be about the ideas, not the people who hold them. You may not care for a particular ideology, but don’t state that the people who do are knuckle-dragging drooling imbeciles who are best suited for licking walls. These are your “friends” and in theory you “friended” them because you felt like you had something in common. Unless you feel like that commonality is knuckle-dragging-wall-licking, then don’t say it.
- “LOL” – it’s not a punctuation mark. For example: “Senator McCain argued that torture didn’t lead the United States to Osama bin Laden LOL.” That makes me immediately want to respond, “WTF?”, because I’m seriously trying to discern whether you did in fact laugh out loud at that and why. A posting tennis match will ensue where we’ll devolve into l33t speaking brain mush like “yeah, he totally PWNED the hearing like he roxxored those Vietcong n00bs at that Hilton place. AMIRITE?”“McCain FTW!” A Chuck Norris joke will feel the need to wander in and the entire ridiculous exchange will be followed by a volley of baffling “Likes”. Ultimately, it ends up being distracting and wholly inappropriate if your goal is to be taken seriously.
- Unless you’re Steve Carell, your statement should never end with “that’s what SHE said”. I saw this one in reference to a gross misquote from one of the candidates wives. That’s when my eyes got lodged in the back of my head. My vision has suffered ever since.
I’m not saying don’t make statements about your beliefs, but be mindful of your audience if you don’t want to lose them. I know I tune out once the insults start. You can make a strong, controversial statement without being insulting or sounding like a dolt (a euphemism, because I’m being a grown-up today). Think of it this way – the more educated you sound on a given topic, the more likely people will listen and the higher the chance that someone might be swayed by your argument. Think of yourself as a political evangelist. Go on you, sway those masses.
This rant brought to you care of FB. Now that it’s off my chest, I won’t be forced to drive to a small town in Texas to thump someone unceremoniously on their idiotic forehead. (She doesn’t read this blog, so it’s ok if I’m insulting. Also, she does in fact drag her knuckles. I’ve seen it.)