I don’t normally write about politics directly, primarily because long ago I realized we’re mostly convinced our politics are proper. Two friends discussing whether one’s Catholic service is better than the others Episcopal service will always be friendlier than two friends with opposing political views. As I think of it, political argument between American friends, as opposed to religious argument, is much more fraught with landmines.
The other day I posted a link to Facebook related to events in Ukraine. I did this to provide vital information for my American friends on current events in the Crimea. Considering it was written by a westerner, the article came quite close to properly explaining the extremely intricate problems between Russia and Ukraine, and I thought my friends would be interested. Yet the first comment to the link was this: “Don’t worry, he’s got this.”
The comment, written by a conservative friend, obviously referred (derogatorily) to President Obama. And all I could think was: why would someone inject American political argument, seemingly thoughtlessly, into a subject that demands us to learn, rather quickly, how the issues in Ukraine came to fruition? So the comment was non sequitur, a fairly unfeeling jab thrown at our president. It had nothing to do with the situation in Ukraine. It seemed loosely callous.
This is why I’m not a fan of meaningful debate via Social Media. Communication requires words and body language, but Facebook only contains one of those elements. Online, you edit your argument, you make it tricky, clever. But we forget: without the face-to-face, the body language, something strange occurs where we think we can get away with any comment we want, especially the non sequitur. In five words, my friend indicated to others that she has little regard for Ukraine other than to indicate her belief that our president’s inept. It’s what’s between her words that matters most, the parenthetical.
I know this person isn’t callous or mean-spirited. I know she’s bright, and that she knows a lot about the former-Soviet Union. But without the face-to-face she inadvertently injected something into a dialogue that doesn’t belong, something I doubt she’d ever do in a roomful of Americans discussing the Ukrainian situation in a meaningful way.
While I’m at it, there’s also that peculiar sort who seems to think one can get away with any comment if it’s followed by an emoticon. They’ll write: “At least the president recognizes he’s a socialist, huh?” Then they produce a winky face. The resultant message is masked, couched in the wink. Actually, it becomes hyper-vile, an incorrect mixture of winky face and meanness. It’s schizophrenic, confusing.
Listen, if you want to be bitchy, be bitchy. Just don’t be a bitch about it. While we’re all scoring our imaginary political points, Ukraine, a country most of us know nothing about, is burning, as are numerous other countries.
I’d like to suggest we stick our politics in a bottom drawer for a minute to discuss the issues. You know, like big kids. I’d really like to. But reality gets in the way: we Americans draw our conclusions up front, with little understanding – or much regard – for the complexities that surround them. You can’t imagine how complex the Ukraine problem is, but contributing to the conversation with political pricks is contributing nothing at all.
But don’t worry. Because we’re able to whittle it down to five words these days, well under the maximum 140-character limit related to tweets. And really, how sad is that?