You Don’t Have to Be An Angry, Resentful Person Just Because Everyone Else Is

I don’t think this entry needs a trigger warning in the traditional sense, but perhaps a “take offense” warning is necessary. I’m not attacking or critiquing any specific individual with this entry, although if you take offense, maybe you should stop for a second and figure out why.

One of the biggest parts of my recovery journey is the conscious attempt to be a better human being. I actively work on skills like empathy, inclusiveness and compassion. While I still certainly have a long way to go before I’m the person I’d like to become, I feel that while my life is swinging in one direction, the attitude of the population in general is swinging the other way.

It could be the 24-hour news cycle, more social media than we know what to do with or some other factor, but people seem to have no problem putting their lack of compassion and empathy on full display. Instead, those traits have been replaced with resentment and anger.

I’m not going to get into politics, religion, science, patriotism, parenting or any of the other areas that seem to set people off. I’m far less interested in the specifics of peoples’ opinions than I am in the way that many people present those opinions these days.

I think there are reasons that people become addicts, but there are only excuses why they don’t seek help, especially after learning why they have the problem. I also believe there are reasons that people turn into who they are with the belief system that they have, but only excuses why that belief system allows them to present themselves as boorish oafs.

I’ve been trying to figure out the cause of what feels like this massive pendulum swing in the attitudes of our society. I know it can’t just be the fact that I’m actively trying to become a better person. I’ve come up with a few theories:

The world is moving too fast. While older generations always make the argument their experience and wisdom trumps youth and inexperience, our older generations have seen exponentially more change than those before them. I think this is also filtering down into middle-aged generations. Technology moves at such speed that it seems like only 17-year-olds can keep up with it because the rest of us don’t have the extra time to learn. With all of the new media we have, getting glimpses into the past is easier than ever. I’m sure because of television and the Internet, I understand the culture of 1955 far more than the people of 1955 understood the culture of 1895. I believe this causes a bit of romanticism of the past, forgetting the negative and remembering only positive. The feeling you’re being left behind doesn’t feel good.

People are smarter than you. This has always been the case, but with the Internet and 500 TV channels, we’re constantly exposed to people who are more intelligent, deeper thinkers and understand things many of us could never grasp. I think we also are aware that most smart people recognize their intelligence and far too many of us make the leap that they therefore believe they are better than us when that has never been established. There is deep resentment in this world toward people who act like they are better than someone else, but we seem to be at a point where we invent the idea that others believe they are better without them doing anything to suggest it.

There’s more diversity than ever. I’m sure there have been studies done and I’ve just never had enough incentive to look them up, but I’d like to know when it comes to fear of people who are different how much is nurture and how much is nature. Somewhere, there is somebody out there who has 100% the opposite views as you when it comes to politics, culture, entertainment, etc. They are the bizzaro, anti-you. And guess what? They’re not a crazy psychopath either. It’s not just diverse ideas, it’s also basic demographics. Communities are not as homogenous as they once were. Different languages are being spoken, even in small towns and people who don’t look like previous generations now live there. This is scary to many people.

The recognition you were wrong. I think at one time or another we’ve all recognized we were incorrect about something and instead of correcting course, we doubled-down, despite being wrong. I believe this also extends to those around you who you discover were wrong. Many people directly get their beliefs from their parents and others they knew when they were young, but how many of those beliefs ever get questioned? Something isn’t OK just because mommy or daddy acted like it was. Your friends may all think one way, but that doesn’t mean it’s the correct thing. When recognition that those around you made poor decisions, it’s often hard to stand up to them and blaze your own path.

Simply because you can’t relate to someone does not make them a bad person. Moreover, simply because you can’t relate to them does not mean that you have to present an argument why they are not a good person.

A changing world does not mean it is changing for the worse. Yes, new things – including attitudes and societal norms – take adjusting, but that does not mean they are bad. Despite what people who eschew change believe, most change is designed to make the world a better, inclusive place. Yes, it takes getting used to new ideas, concepts and technology. Changing who you are does not mean you are any less or more of a person before and after that change.

I think most people today are of a mindset of looking for what makes them different than the next guy, and whatever that difference is, it becomes the weakness of the other person, ripe for attack. This is also true with thoughts. The general rules seem to be that if two people think differently, one must be wrong, and it’s always the other guy. In most cases, neither – or both – are wrong.

We live in a world full of angry, sad, resentful, non-compassionate, close-minded people. Standing behind the fact you have the God-given or governmental-given right to be that way doesn’t make it OK. Feeling emboldened by like-minded people to share your negativity doesn’t make it OK.

There is someone, probably more than just one, who is reading this feeling attacked. I’ve shared no actual specific opinions here. I’ve isolated no specific group or type of person. If you’re feeling attacked, I hope you’ll take a few minutes and figure out why.

 

Is There Anything Wrong With Following Blogs of People You Disagree With?

I’ve been adding a lot of blog sites to my Reader list recently and I have noticed a trend that many of them actually stand in contrast to my core beliefs, or are so out there philosophically that I’m drawn to what these people have to say.

I first came in journalism in the mid-1990s. While Rush Limbaugh had figured out it was a good business ploy to play to the right claiming that the media was bias, we really didn’t have sides in the media at that point. Today, I have a bit of a different opinion about how things have changed, but that’s not the point of this.

In trying to not take sides, I was always taught to cover both sides of an issue, without making any value judgments in what I was presenting.

Sometimes that wasn’t simple. I heard the Grand Wizard of the almost-defunct Maine chapter of the Ku Klux Klan lived a couple of towns over, so I basically knocked on his door and asked to interview him. Despite the fact he was well spoken and treated me with kindness and dare I say, warmth, I still found his core beliefs repugnant. Nonetheless, I reported what I saw and what he said, talked to a couple of anti-hate groups, wrote down what they said and was done with it.

Up until that point, I couldn’t tell you what the modern KKK stood for, or against. I just knew it as the southern cross burning and lynching group of 50 years earlier. Was it wrong that I learned this information and shared it?

I loved being a reporter. I met famous people, got to experience things for free people spend a lot of money on, have seen historical, dangerous, exciting and tragic events unfold in front of me and genuinely felt a duty to be the eyes and ears of the community – the entire community.

More than two decades later, I still like to get both sides of the story and learn people’s takes on what is happening in the world. I find people, especially those who disagree with me, fascinating. I think that I should be able to hear what the KKK guy has to say without it making me racist or pro-KKK. Allowing someone to share a differing opinion does not, by default, mean you share that opinion.

But it seems like today, we live in a culture where you have to agree 100% with whatever ideological camp you’ve assigned yourself to and if not, you’re a traitor to some indefinable cause.

Here’s a thought for you: Somewhere out there, you will find somebody who has the completely opposite world viewpoint as you. How you feel about Donald Trump, education funding, military exercises, sexual culture, religion/spirituality, abortion, the death penalty, etc., there is somebody out there who opposes you on each of those things.

Are they completely crazy? If they’re half crazy, doesn’t that make you the other half? Are they not crazy at all and just wrong? What makes them wrong? What makes you right? Can you intellectually, and not emotionally or ignorantly, defend your positions?

Many liberal people were freaking out this week when openly gay liberal talk show host Ellen Degeneres was sitting with former President George W. Bush at a Cowboys football game. Why? Because Bush has beliefs that don’t completely line up with Ellen’s. Many people feel that their beliefs are in lockstep with Ellen’s and for her to sit with a Republican that hasn’t prioritized an LGBTQ agenda makes her a traitor.

I loved her response: ““I’m friends with George Bush,” DeGeneres said. “In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s OK.”

Michelle Obama seems very close with George Bush and has said he’s a warm, wonderful man, despite their political differences. I’ve read accounts from CIA agents who say that he was their favorite leader to work for because he was the most decent, respectful President.

George Bush probably made the most mistakes as president since Jimmy Carter – who by all accounts is another amazing human being – yet is that any reason to shun him? These days, many say it’s the very reason you should shun him.

In real life, I don’t know anybody who blogs on WordPress, despite sometimes knowing a lot about them. I don’t know if I’d enjoy their company or become genuine friends regardless of our similar or different beliefs.

It’s easy to read the blogs of people who have beliefs I agree with and would be even easier to stay away from people who I think have fundamentally flawed viewpoints.

I follow blogs from many people who live in Africa or South America. They seem like wonderful people, although most of their views on marriage and sexuality differ than mine. I follow blogs from a few who do not believe the way the mental health community handles medication is correct, despite the fact I know my bipolar medication has saved my life. I disagree with them vehemently, but still read one blog from somebody who thinks all addiction is nonsense. I read blogs from Scientologists, anti-vaxers and conspiracy theorists. Despite not being religious, I read blogs from people who constantly refer to their religions or religious texts of different varieties.

I would not want to get in a talking head opinion/fact debate with them, and don’t usually leave dissenting messages. Those are the things that turn me away from traditional news these days. Let’s talk, not argue.

The only thing I don’t think I could read is a blog that advocated violence against children or animals or anything containing actual hate speech; real hate speech…not disagree-with-me speech. People confuse the two these days.

We’re living in a world where “cancel culture” is all the rage these days. If your tribe finds something that somebody else did offensive, you attempt to boycott them into oblivion. This allows us to skip due process and punish who we decide are offenders of our opinions directly. Why deal with the courts when you can just render a verdict on Twitter?

I think it’s fine to have opinions and I think it’s natural to find yourself drawn to others with the same opinions. I just think you’re missing out on a lot of perspective, and potentially some genuinely good people, if you allow your opinions to rule out learning about those who are different than you.