Not A Political Blog by Devon Miller-Duggan: A look at public discourse and being excellent to each other

Not a Political Blog

I am absolutely easy when it comes to being a political hothead. I revert with light-speed to a knee-jerking, contempt-spewing, Facebook-howling, self-righteous twit frighteningly easy. It’s not a huge deal, in some ways. Most of my FB friends are happy fellow-travelers, so I’m mostly preaching to the choir, and while it’s a dubious use of energy and time, it’s mostly harmless fun to be trading snarky or rah-rah stuff on the network. But not always. I have friends and family whose politics are kind of different than mine–folks I love and respect deeply, even though they’re wrong and/or deluded and/or (aargh. It could happen.) right. But the point is that they mostly deserve better than the spatter-shot broadcast of my political yelling.

For the record, I would like to say that even though it doesn’t look like it, I don’t actually “share” every nifty bit of bumper-sticker rhetoric that comes my way. I actually manage something that’s almost recognizable as restraint much of the time. A lot of the time, for me, anyway.

And there are whole categories of stuff my friends post that is Not My Cup of Tea–mostly inspirational and patriotic and age-related humor–that either doesn’t bother me, or that I like, but am not prone to re-post even though it makes me chuckle or nod or cry. Which is okay, just like it’s okay when folks don’t share the stuff I post.

The thing that bothers me most about my own behavior and about lots of others’ is the lack of civility. It’s corrosive on so many levels it’s hard to list them all. It’s damaging and unproductive and unattractive. It’s also the inevitable product of the free-for-all of a constitutional democracy, though certainly not the best product, and the ugliness of it is a bit out of hand these days. Still, it is sometimes just important to be able to vent–FB’s good for that, as long as folks don’t mistake venting for discourse, which mistake is increasingly common, sad to say.

So it was a lovely thing to see a couple of non-confrontational things crop up in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. The first was funny: a
poster of an intently focused Sean-Bean-as-Eddard-Stark (still haven’t quite figured out the connection, but was amused anyway) with “BRACE YOURSELVES.EVERYONE ON FACEBOOK IS ABOUT TO BECOME A CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLAR.” across the bottom. Would that it were true. But it does acknowledge that this is maybe the first time in a long time when folks actually seem to be paying actual attention rather than simply reacting. Well, some of them, some of the time. I’ll take it.

And then there was my friend Deborah’s posting. I don’t actually know what her politics are, which is a little unusual, but kind of nice for the moment. What I do know is that she’s smart and thoughtful and that we share a religious commitment. Here’s what she said: “I know my FB friends will have a variety of opinions on today’s ruling. I’m not against a hearty discussion but can we all agree to be excellent to each other? There’s too much heartbreak among my friends for me to tolerate anything else.” Friends who responded, I’m happy to say, either talked about other things entirely (the Colorado fires) or had fun tracking the origins of “be excellent to each other” (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure). They respected her request. Good for them. Good for her. Good for us all.

I’m not making a mushy plea for us all to be nice to each other. There are folks out there I am not prepared to ever be nice to, barring conversion experiences on their parts. And there are folks out there none of us should be “nice” to (kind to, polite to, decent to, but not “nice”–people who spew and spread hatred…of any sort). I’m not sure “nice” would do it any longer–we’ve been so inundated with acid that “nice” wouldn’t make much of a ripple. “Excellent” is probably just exactly what’s needed. In many senses of the word. We could use some serious “excellence” in many, many spheres.

It’s tempting to end this with a chirpy suggestion that we start a political party. We could wallow in irony and call it The Third Rail Party, and its platform could focus on Making Things Work Well, and Being Excellent to Each Other. And how giddily charming would it be for a social revolution to start with a Keanu Reeves line? Fortunately or un-, I’m too cynical to do that. And one of the reasons that I enjoy blogging is that it doesn’t always demand a neat conclusion. So file this one under “just noticing” and we’ll leave it at that.

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