We need to talk, without being so mean

Despite being someone who was known for enjoying a nice verbal fight in my younger days, I’ve always tried to shy away from conversations about politics and religion. And the reason for my avoidance is the same in both occasions: people are mean. The two topics tend to be so divisive that before you know it, people are screaming and calling each other names. When pundits on TV do that, I cringe and turn it off. Real life conversations are harder to turn off, so I just try to avoid getting in them at all. Some people might say I’m scared and/or can’t defend my beliefs (we’ve been talking about apologetics at church this month, so making a defense is heavy on my mind right now). But, honestly, I know what I believe, both religiously and politically, and feel I could defend those beliefs should the need arise. However, in my humble opinion, it seems that often those who get so caught up in these “debates” aren’t interested in listening to the other side’s defense or arguments, but are more interested in belittling, demeaning, bullying the other into silence. Bullying has no place in an authentic debate; though I may be in the minority on that belief, I still stand by it.

So now I’m going to break my own rule and stick my nose into a conversation that deals with both of my forbidden topics. Arkansas Senator Jason Rapert recently introduced a bill dubbed The Heartbeat Bill. In a nutshell, the bill proposes to require a fetal heartbeat check before any requested abortion. If a heartbeat is detected, the abortion would not be allowed to proceed. Rapert stated that the bill maintained all the same previous exceptions to abortion bans (i.e., allowing abortions in the case of rape, incest, etc.). As you may imagine, this sparked a lot of discourse amongst the pro-life and pro-choice crowds.

Some of the discussions I’ve seen appear to be genuinely aimed at striking a balance between the two.

Others simply disgust me.

Case in point: last night on Twitter, Sen. Rapert found himself in the middle of a heated conversation with primarily one local Arkansas tweep (though a couple others joined in here and there). I spent much of the morning (more time than I should have probably) pulling that conversation together to include here. The snapshots are rather large, because the conversations went on for awhile (but I believe you can click through a couple of times to get it large enough to read).

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It kept going …

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What bothers me the most about this exchange is the number of times the constituent resorts to name calling and insults: e.g., “contentious, disrespectful jerk”; “juvenile, disrespectful, unresponsive”; “douchebag”; “obtuse”; “cruel and silly”; “clueless and inept”; “again with the stupid questions.” Some statements are even a little threatening: “my mission to prove you wrong”; “they’ll tell you not to mess with me.”

On the flipside, the only statement I see from Sen. Rapert that is potentially offensive is his initial response that another tweep’s “social media tantrums are tiring.” The remainder of his involvement in the conversation appears civil to me. At least, I don’t think he’s insulting anyone.

Now, I’m sure that anyone reading this will presume I’m a supporter of Rapert. I’ll tell you honestly that I didn’t even really know who he was until last night. I’ll also honestly tell you a few other things that may or may not matter to you:

I’m conservative. I respect the Constitution and believe in small government and individual rights. I think if I share what I work for with others less fortunate, it should be because it’s the right thing to do, not because somebody makes me. I believe in the right to protect myself and my family against those that would do harm. In short, I don’t like the government telling me what I can and cannot do. But I also believe that when there’s a baby inside me, it’s no longer just about me. If we value life, then we value all life, even when it’s still developing.

I also believe in free speech. So I believe that people have a right to disagree and to voice their competing opinions. But I don’t believe that gives anyone the right, carte blanche, to be mean or disrespectful to others.

This is the point when I’m tempted to spout “why can’t we all just get along” and break into the “Friends” theme song.

But in all seriousness, why does believing that a baby has a right to live make someone “clueless” or “hateful” or a “douchebag”? Why do those types of comments have any place in a conversation as important as this one?

They don’t have a place in these important conversations. And people who resort to name-calling and other insulting tactics to “make their points” are simply bullying others who do not agree with them. That, to me, is full of hate.

I don’t believe any of the people involved in the conversation above read this blog. But, in case they do, I’ll close with one final statement to them and anyone moved to comment: we need to talk … without being so mean to each other.

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