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 at my successful future as a writer, which is way, way off in the distance.
They’re cute, right? The cigarette totally adds to my new look, which screams “Edgy Portland Blogging Hipster with Yurman.” I have a very specific blogging identity.
The doctor said something that day which strikes me as very relevant to the subject of this blog: 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 today’s Sunday Rant: Why is it so difficult to engage in a civil conversation with anyone anymore?
Rather than re-hash in too much detail the debacle of my op-ed experience, I’ll say this: I wrote a very painful, 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.
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, though I do air plenty of my own dirty laundry here, so have at me. 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.
Oh wait, I think that 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 very hypocritical that those who usually fight for free speech the loudest are the most effective and vicious when it comes to eliminating the voices of those who (they imagine, in this case) oppose them.
As we all witnessed the government shutdown this week, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to what I experienced from my op-ed adventure. Yes, here we go again, it’s all about me.
What I see in Washington are opposing groups of people who refuse to talk to each other and solve their mutual problems, simply because of political persuasion. We have radicals on both sides of the aisle, and I’m not interested in starting a political debate this morning. I have a golf course to be humiliated on in a couple hours, and the dog needs a walk.
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. Isn’t it enough we have subjected the rest of the world to this guy?
So back to my story about getting glasses. I bet you thought I was going to just leave that dangling and unresolved, didn’t you? My point is, 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, only your differences and petty disagreements. Allowing the debate to devolve to this point makes finding compromise impossible, which may very well be the point 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:
I have been known to be a bit acerbic in my writings about various issues, especially when it comes to the inequity of the “family law” courts, the issue of alimony and the dirty tactics engaged by certain lawyers (hello, my favorite Lurker!) to humiliate and eviscerate the other side for sport. 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? I’m just as bad as the rest of them. Happy Sunday, everyone. Go forth and do your best not to hurt anyone for at least 24 hours, and I will do the same.