A while back I wrote about the dilemma I faced when I first realized my Facebook “friends” consisted of numerous constituencies, and my concern that speaking frankly to one may unwittingly offend or alienate some from another. I also mentioned that, despite this initial fear, I quickly resolved it in favor of just being myself and not worrying too much about it.
Lately I’ve noticed another phenomena that’s been slowly creeping into my activity on Facebook. While it’s related to my interest in economics and politics, it does seem to be driven considerably by the Occupy movement (I use only Occupy advisedly, as there exist not merely an Occupy Wall Street group – which started this whole thing – but also other groups, most evident on Facebook as Occupy Together, Occupy Marines, etc.)
As part of my decision to just “let it all hang loose” and be myself, I have increasingly shared articles, pictures, etc. from some of the political sites I either frequent or that like-minded friends have shared with me. As it happens, I generally characterize my political leaning as so far to the left I’m almost a Libertarian (mind you, emphatically not one). I have also responded to some posts from people with whom I don’t exactly agree, telling them politely of my problems with their positions. Most of these conversations have been quite pleasant; spirited debates over policy and principle. Several times someone has actually commented on how they were pleased with the civility of the thread and its participants.
Is Useful Political Discourse Possible?
So, what I’m beginning to wonder is if this is, indeed, a new phenomena that may turn out to be useful and healthy for political discourse. If you have a fair amount of friends there’s a substantial chance they will represent numerous viewpoints and positions on the important issues facing us. Might not we be able to understand each other better and, consequently, move away from the precipice of irreconcilable differences we seem to be teetering on lately?
I have to admit there is a bit of a dark side to this as well. Two things have happened to me that I find a bit chilling. The first was a friendly “suggestion” I received that I might want to tone it down a bit when discussing the Occupy movement and the politics and economics behind it. The impact this might have on my standing in the business community was the implication, and its seriousness did not go unnoticed by me. The second is related, but needs a bit of background.
Maybe We Can’t All “Just Get Along”
I live in a relatively insular city – Simi Valley, CA – home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The City leaders are, for the most part, far more conservative than I am (who isn’t?) and I have become Facebook friends with a lot of them, including the Mayor, members of the local Chamber of Commerce, and at least one City Council member. Being a strong proponent of the right of free speech, I have spoken my mind rather openly; at least on Facebook. I don’t get into too many political discussions when doing business and I am a big supporter of local small business and wish to actively contribute to making our local economy strong and vibrant.
Last night I realized the City Council member had “unfriended” me, presumably due to a conversation I had with a couple of his friends. As I recall, it was one that received a post of praise for its tenor and the level of intellect involved. I do recall, though, I was very adamant in pointing out what I saw as fallacious arguments based on incomplete or incorrect knowledge. Frankly, I’d like to hear of anyone having a really fruitful discussion about the merits of Dialectical Materialism with a rabid anti-Communist. In my experience, the philosophy behind Marxism is little known here in these enlightened United States, and it’s very hard to receive any respect from someone who is certain of the correctness of their knowledge and the evilness of yours.
A Profound Dilemma
So I’m also wondering . . . despite my essentially being out of the job market and, therefore, not having to worry about alienating a potential employer, do I now have to censor myself politically lest I “upset” a city leader and risk throwing a roadblock in my meager, but important, efforts at making Simi Valley a better place to live? I don’t ask that people agree with me; merely that they respect my position and – especially – my desire to do what’s right for the community as I see it . . . just as I respect their beliefs and integrity. I really don’t care for revisiting this whole dilemma around what’s appropriate when it involves the core issues of our lives and livelihoods.
As well, I’m very disappointed this person decided to unfriend me. I believe we have more in common than we differ on. I also wanted to keep up with what he was doing as a Councilperson, as he uses Facebook to post from various events he is involved with. It seems I’ve been cut off from a useful, viable channel to the goings on of one of my city’s leaders and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. How do you feel about this?
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