A Rock Through The Window  

Posted by Brock Booher

I saw someone get threatened last week. It wasn’t pretty. When I cam to their defense, I was also targeted. It all happened on Facebook.

A Facebook friend of mine had vented his feelings on a particular political issue and drew the ire of one of his friends. His friend called his post “hateful” and “factually incorrect”, threatening to defriend him. When I came to the defense of my friend and to the defense of healthy debate, I was told, “I don’t know you and I don’t want to.” Ouch!

Years ago I fought against a particular proposition that had been placed on the ballot. It did not seem like good policy to me, and I spoke out against it. In the end, I was in the minority, and the proposition passed. In my angst over the loss, I wrote a clever letter to the editor expressing my disappointment in the outcome of the vote. To my surprise, they published it. A few weeks later a letter arrived. It was in a business-size envelope and had been addressed by hand. It carried no return address.

When I opened the envelope, I found a hateful and ridiculing form letter. It basically called me an imbecile and a jackass for my position. It made no argument to counter mine. It carried no facts to support another position. It did not appeal to any higher logic, or sense of justice. It was simply a venom-filled, one-way correspondence meant to make me feel small and stupid. It was anonymous. It might as well have been a rock thrown through my front window with some sort of threatening message because it displayed the same level of vitriol and cowardice.

At first the letter stung, kind of like a slap across the face, but as I pondered the letter, the slap lost its sting and I felt pride instead of pain. I had lost the vote, but in the battle of wits with faceless smear-letter writer, I had won the fight. I kept the letter as a reminder that at least once in my life, I had bested a mudslinging coward.

A few years ago, a friend of mine was elected to the local school board. She diligently went about her duties, and soon found herself in the middle of several controversial issues. I openly disagreed with her on one of the issues, and argued against her position. During that open disagreement, she visited our home on several occasions in a different capacity. Neither of us raised the issue of our disagreement. She never called me names or tried to belittle me personally for my difference of opinion. I followed her lead. In the end we never came to an agreement on the issue, and she proceeded with the course of action that I had openly disagreed with. She voted her conscience, and I lost. To this day, she commands my utmost respect because she courageously stood her ground and disagreed without being disagreeable. It was a lesson I will never forget.

It is seldom that we humans agree on anything. Disagreement is more likely the norm in our daily life. We all believe that we are right on certain issues, and it is impossible for all of us to be right. It behooves us all to learn to disagree agreeably, and not let our differences of opinion degenerate into cowardly personal attacks, or petty name-calling. We should counter arguments with facts and logic. Give our opinion politely and without rancor. Engage in civil debate. For heaven sakes, don’t threaten others with defriending because you disagree with their position. You might need that friend someday to help you repair a window.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 3, 2010 at Tuesday, August 03, 2010 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

6 comments

Jared H.  

Very well said!!

August 3, 2010 at 9:23 AM

Yup,

The vaunted anonymnity makes butt-heads of us all. The anonymnity of the internet, a veil that need be only an electron thick, being a prime example. People in that ether often say things they'd neither the courage nor stupidity to say in person. I'm afraid I've done it myself.

I've known people who sit in each others living rooms in real life to have internet conversations that would start a fistfight if said on a front lawn, and that under only the barest veil of a nickname. As the form and constitution of a mob grants anonymnity to it's anger and violence, so personal anonymnity and it's internet revision do the same to their constituencies.

Still it must be said that it has it's place. The gentlemen dumping bales of tea into Boston Harbor WERE dressed as indians and saying "Me know you" to each other.

Conversely, Benjamin Franklin said "...Else surely we shall all hang seperately." because the founders mutually pledged their sacred honor to a cause that stripped them of Anonymnity. The distance between them and their enemies had to be, as often on the internet, an encouraging factor.

Our friends may be a comfort to us, but as you seem to note, it's those who we allow to be our enemies who're most willing to do the carving you experienced. It brings out our most succinct definition and hurts.

Michaelangelo said, "I just carve away everything that isn't the figure." Was he the enemy of the stone or the friend of the figure?

Perhaps the best response to a threat to defriend or "ne'erfriend" is a warmly expressed "As you wish." Perhaps our truest enemies are our best friends, though perhaps not their own.

As you seem to note, and as your entirely anonymous friend proved (and I'm guessing your friends defriend), we don't need to be an enemy to benefit from those we gather by being our best selves with the most courage we have to offer.


BTW (hold hand over post heading for full anonymous effect)...



...YOU STUPIDY STUPID HEAD YOU'RE JUST A BIG FLYING DUMMYFACE...


(Just so you don't get too uppity :) ).

Good post,

Steve

“Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.”
~Thomas Paine

August 3, 2010 at 1:18 PM

Thanks! Well said!

August 3, 2010 at 2:00 PM

A beautifully written and well-stated argument, Brock. I couldn't agree more! --Melinda Freas Bates

August 3, 2010 at 3:32 PM
Laura Layden  

Brock...as a former coach's wife I can't tell you how many times in many different parts of this country people have written letters... anonymous letters and put them in the mailbox through school mail and our personal mail with newspaper clippings, nasty e-mails on Holbrook Facebook blogs and they were all made to make my husband and sometimes even our family feel terrible about some sporting event outcome. It is hurtful and it does sting like a slap in the face but the cowardly part is what always comes to my mind as well. When we left Beaver Dam, KY I had two small children and the phone rang (before caller id) and the fellow said, "I am so glad you are moving...your husband is the worst $&!@ coach we have ever had. I slammed the phone down but first I said, "Well we are happy to be moving too." When in reality that wasn't even telling the truth. I admire your friend who was able to agree to disagree without being disagreeable!!!! Enjoy your blog. Laura Layden, AZ

August 3, 2010 at 9:25 PM

I enjoyed this post. It's the reason I got rid of anon posting options on my blog- I found that most that had something disparaging to say refused to put their names behind it.

If you truely believe what you are saying, then you shouldn't be afraid to stand behind it.

I love the exchange of ideas and differences of opinion. It's too bad the majority of adults are too immature to disagree with out making it a personal attack.

August 4, 2010 at 6:45 PM

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