Yesterday I was drawn into one of the most bizarre online events I’ve been involved with since I discovered the joys and the horrors of the Internet.
I will not be writing about that today, however, because the experience is perfect for my next book, I Tried to Find Myself but Couldn’t (But It’s Not My Fault!).
More on that book soon, when Divorce by Design: How to Split Without Losing Your Mind, Your Money and Your Kids is finished.
My dip into the Crazy Pool was precipitated by a joke I made about walking talking punchline Donald Trump which one woman took issue with in a major way. Her reaction was not just abnormal and completely wacko, it was disturbing. The ensuing swim of misery reminded me of this piece I wrote in 2013 about Internet trolls.
Do read on, because the commentary is relatable to anyone in your life who is purposefully horrid, hateful, illogical, and humorless.
Discussing Disgusting Discourse
A few months ago, I finally caved in and admitted I needed glasses.
After many years of priding myself on the fact that I was the only DesCamp family member without them, it was time. Although getting glasses removed one gloating point to lord over my siblings, I still have the non-DesCamp nose to brag about, so there’s that.
As I discussed the various vision issues I’d been having with the doctor, he did a series of tests in which he simply increased the light around what I was reading and as a result my vision was greatly improved. I didn’t need corrective lenses for the office, just better lighting. My vision problem is more of a distance thing so I wear my glasses for driving and at concerts, sporting events and to peer longingly at my successful future as a writer.
The doctor said something that day which struck me:
Sometimes our vision problems aren’t really vision problems at all. They are lighting problems best solved by increasing light around you rather than wearing corrective lenses.
Don’t worry, I intend to connect this to a larger thought later. Bear with me.
Which brings me to this:
Why is it so difficult to engage in a civil conversation with anyone anymore?
I wrote an op-ed for the Oregonian, our alleged local newspaper, that was both very well and very poorly received. You can read it here if you would like to continue avoiding work this morning:
Rather than re-hash in too much detail the debacle of my op-ed experience, I’ll say this:
I wrote a very painful and personal essay that was purposefully misconstrued and twisted beyond any recognition of its original content by online commenters.
I was labeled a murderer who was threatening to kill cyclists. Many squawked that I had no right to comment on the safety habits of Portland cyclists – I was told again and again that since I had been involved in a fatal accident, I had no right to speak about anything.
But Wait! There’s More!
Not satisfied with that level of vitriol, some of these folks began threatening me, my family and trying to dig up dirt on me on the Internet. Sorry folks, there isn’t any. I do air plenty of my own dirty laundry here, so you should have ample material without using the Magic Google Machine.
I actually considered purchasing a gun based on the bizarre and personal nature of the comments – and I HATE guns.
Finally, the Oregonlive.com editors got so tired of having to delete the threatening and defamatory comments that they shut it down. Here, here, Bike Cabal! You so polluted the conversation that you brought it to a halt.
But of course, bringing the conversation to a halt was your point. Well played, cycle trolls. Well played.
I don’t think it is an unfair generalization to say that most of the die-hard cycling advocates in Portland lean towards the very liberal end of the political spectrum, so I find it quite hypocritical that those who usually fight for free speech the loudest are so tenacious and vicious when it comes to eliminating the voices of those with a differing viewpoint.
As we all witnessed the latest government shutdown I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to what I experienced from my op-ed adventure.
Yes, it’s all about meeeeee!
In Washington DC we have radicals on both sides of the aisle. These groups of people are so married to their party line that they refuse to talk to each other and solve pressing problems affecting all Americans. This political bullshit is also known as “partisanship.”
The fiery rhetoric of the past few months has now given way to an icy silence between the parties, with no immediate end in sight and millions of people affected by the government shutdown.
I’m certainly no expert on government funding and the budgetary process – I find it difficult to even find my checkbook every month, much less use it to pay bills.
But I do think that our representatives are being paid to do a job, and they better damn well get in there, do it, and fund the government before we start defaulting on our credit obligations and become an international laughingstock.
Now back to my story about getting glasses. I bet you thought I was going to just leave that dangling and unresolved, didn’t you?
I think much of our problem communicating with others is based more upon bad lighting than true vision problems.
In other words, sometimes those who disagree purposefully darken the intellectual lighting around the conversation to the point where you can’t even see the real issue anymore. Instead, all that is visible are differences and petty disagreements. Allowing the debate to devolve to this point makes finding compromise impossible which is the goal for some of these folks.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, we are impacted too.
Whether we are screaming at each other or refusing to engage in debate, the result is the same: nothing gets done, nobody wins and nobody learns a damn thing.
Robert Frost said it best:
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
I have been known to be a bit acerbic in my writings about various issues. This is especially true when it comes to the inequity of the “family law” courts, the issue of alimony, and the dirty tactics engaged by certain divorce lawyers to humiliate and eviscerate the other side for sport.
(By the way, good morning to my favorite lurker! How’s that “friends of Robin DesCamp” conflict database coming along?)
After considering the matter further, I have decided that perhaps this isn’t the best way to get my message across. Maybe I should be nicer, and focus on logic and facts to win the day. I’m really going to try from now on, I promise.
Oh hell, who are we kidding?