Looking for an Excuse to Ignore

It feels to me these days like more and more people are looking for excuses. For reasons they can simply ignore people who disagree with them instead of actually engage them in a real dialogue. Some of this comes down to labels. “Trump supporter.” “Social Justice Warrior.” Slap a label on a person who you don’t see eye to eye with, and suddenly you’re not dismissing an individual, you’re simply ignoring a person who’s obviously wrong.

This thought started when I got a political ad in the mail yesterday. A candidate was bragging about how he was the “Only Trump Supporter” among other Republican candidates running for Senate. I looked at the ad and couldn’t help but give it a mental eye roll. “How to guarantee I’ll not vote for you,” I thought to myself as I threw it away. “Trump supporter” was enough for me to dismiss the person without a second thought. On the other hand, clearly there is a non-insignificant portion of the state for which being an avid supporter of the President is an asset, not a liability.

Then you’ve got the case of Roseanne. She Tweeted a racist joke and had her hit TV show subsequently canceled hours later. In response, some people are very pleased. Finally! A consequence for saying awful things. Some people are quite upset. Comedians make fun of Trump all the time, they say, and yet there are no repercussions to them. They see this as liberals being hypocritical, wanting to silence speech that offends them but not caring when their speech offends others.

In still other situations, you have some people looking at society today and seeing continued discrimination toward minorities, women, and LGBT issues. Meanwhile, you have white men clamoring that *they* are actually the ones being discriminated against.

Honestly, the list continues from there, but that’s enough for now. In each case, both sides are polarized to the point that they can’t even see the other side’s point of view to engage with it. In each instance, both sides feel the matter is cut and dried. That there’s no room for any view other than the one they hold.

What’s caused us to get to this point?

Some of it is due to the 24 hour news cycle. News stations are on all day, and they need to fill that time with something, and so having it be a constant argument between differing sides is one way to do that. At the same time, they’ve also discovered they get better ratings by pandering solely to one side or the other, presenting a view of the world that at best downplays the other side and at worst ignores it or demonizes it completely.

Some of it is due to anonymity online. It’s much easier to label and ignore people you don’t have to talk to and interact with on a daily basis. It’s even easier when you have no idea who those people are to begin with. Just look at the way I judge people when I’m driving my car compared to the way I judge them in person. (Spoiler: I’m not a very charitable driver . . . )

But it’s one thing to identify a problem. What can we do to solve it?

I tend to think the solution isn’t to be found online. The anonymity and toxic comments from both sides make real discussion almost impossible. Facebook tends to enable real debate to an extent, but I’ve found too often it turns into me playing referee between friends of mine who don’t know each other and so feel a sense of that entitled anonymity kick in.

So for me, I believe the real solution is to be found in the real world. Once you get outside and meet actual people, it becomes harder to dismiss their ideas. I’m not saying we have to get out there and agree with one another. But understanding where the opposite side of the argument is coming from is important. Listening is the first step: being willing to let the other side say what they’re thinking, without attacking them and pointing out all the reasons they’re wrong. The next step is to look for common ground. Find the areas of the the debate where you’re on the same side, and then build outward from there.

I have friends who are Trump supporters. I have friends who are “Social Justice Warriors.” (Sorry. That’s still one of the lamest labels I’ve heard people come up with, and I cringe when it’s used. A topic for another time.) Neither side has a monopoly on being right or on being good. Charges of hypocrisy could easily stick on both sides. But the longer each side tries to just ignore the other, the worse this problem will get. I include myself in that call for toning things down. Playing to an audience might win us views and clicks in the short term, but at a very real cost to civil discourse.


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1 thought on “Looking for an Excuse to Ignore”

  1. Karla Burkhart

    You are spot on! I am shocked less and less by the vitriol I see around me. People I once thought rational are now rabid. I long for the days when we could discuss ideas without having our morals attacked.

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