By Michael Willard
I don’t consider social media in any of its many guises and disguises — except for the raving lunatic fringe — a war zone where venom tipped swords inflict largely bloodless wounds.
The antagonists — or protagonists for that matter — represent, as the writer Kurt Vonnegut once said about reviews of critics, a knight saddling up on a white steed in full armor with lance to attack a hot fudge sundae.
If all this falderal is taken seriously, it seems a monumental waste of time and brain power. In a poolroom in West Virginia, after a beer or five, it could easily lead to a shootout or, at the least fisticuffs.
But, let’s do our best to step back from the brink this political season. I know. It’s damn difficult, and there are those who would suggest I am a three-time loser at social comity. I plead differently, though usually to no avail.
In my view, honest dialogue and mental jousting — even if it doesn’t rise to a Socratic level of discourse — needs to be encouraged and even challenged in as good-natured a way as possible, absent a total ceasefire.
I believe promoting dialogue is a legitimate function of my favorite and oft-maligned communication, Facebook, which, contrary to some, is not the arsenic-laced Kool-aid to which I awake each day.
Fact is, I’m a hell of a lot more serene than that. Gosh almighty, I’m a spunky septuagenarian. I last became irate as a 9-year-old on an occasion I barely remember. Well, back then and the results of the 2016 election.
Facebook is, though, my community. Some on it are real friends (friends being an exaggerated classification on FB), many are good acquaintances, and others represent a collection I would hardly recognize upon opening my front door.
However, I honor them all, Democrats, Republicans, Socialists and a big rainbow of views in between and all-around, including religions, though I draw the line at the ultra-righteous hypocrites in the pulpits.
I genuinely enjoy the company of all of them in short bursts on Facebook, and also their bite-size gulps of wisdom, whether arm-chair experts or learned souls loaded with advanced degrees.
More than that, I am happy for their good fortunes, and I commiserate to near tears when one dies, or other calamities visit them. Fact is, we live their lives in real-time and surround-sound before flickering screens.
It’s also true I have occasionally blocked someone, almost always for racist insensitivity or when language veered from colorful to objectionable, particularly when dueling with another online friend.
When this has happened, the offense in my view was nuclear, and not a powderpuff infraction. I terminated them with extreme prejudice. They became shadowy people I hope never to cross paths with again.
Still, I tolerate them as long as possible, and by that particular time of reckoning, I would imagine we both race to beat the other in pushing the death penalty button.
A few people are confused that I can clink blades with my younger brother, Alan, through the week, and then enjoy a brisket on his Green Egg cooker on the weekend. The answer to that one is easy. I love the guy.
My political views pale in comparison to family and life-friend relationships. I will, of course, never alter my thinking without convincing evidence, and most are just as resolute in their more conservative thinking.
I understand that, really.
However, when it comes to Facebook and politics, I am merely sounding off, preaching perhaps to my community of already converted and long-convinced. I am not trying to change minds, merely reinforce.
My Facebook page, in essence, represents — right or wrong — only my view, and frankly any disagreement to it becomes irrelevant, particularly if accompanied by a silly meme. This is not a serious invitation to dialogue.
This is why I rarely comment on political commentary of others on their Facebook pages unless to echo and applaud like views. It is why I rarely respond to negative comments on my own page.
And, I have to tell you, each time I have given into that temptation, i feel I have been shorn of dignity, and have capitulated in joining a never-ending Twilight Zone of nonsense.