I got into a fight with a stranger yesterday. It was an online battle, something I’ve been vigilant about avoiding in this new world order ushered in with Trump’s election.
But I let my guard down and commented on a post where a man was ranting about F’ng ALIENS taking over America and in the same breath describing himself as a patriot. I will spare you his direct quotes.
It’s not unusual for me to scroll through Facebook and read through ugly and fear provoking messages, many of which beg for my response. But I usually hear “Danger, Danger, Will Robertson,” in my ear as I read them, so I typically abort any effort to enter into toxic exchanges. It’s not a good use of my energy.
But on this day, I didn’t. I ignored sound Buddhist advice about walking away from spectacles. Instead, I wrote back, “Part of the issue today is our inability to see the “other” as a brother. Even your language and reference to F’ng ILLEGALS indicates not your patriotism but your bend toward the dehumanization of the other. Expand your heart, expand your mind, expand your capacity to see beyond you own neighborhood because what you describe is not patriotism.”
The blow back on my comment was swift like a dirty bomb and delivered with the same destructive intent. I would quote it all but it was nonsensical and filled with poor grammar. “I don’t need a lecture on charity from a socialist,” he said. “You smug socialists are bankrupting the country.” And then he ranted on about Venezuela and patriotism and other things.
I felt my fingers itch and a rush of righteous anger flare through my veins. I typed up a snappy reply that was designed to set him straight and maybe even call him out for his poor grammar. If I couldn’t embarrass him for his views, I could certainly point out his grammar, I thought, as I typed my response.
And something, let’s call grace, or sanity, fell upon me and landed like a little love bomb near my heart. It said clearly, “Stop it.” It was an inconvenient message because I was readying to drop my own bomb and it was not going to be delivered with love. But I listened to the “voice” tell me I was contributing to the discourse, the madness, the angry energy floating like invisible nuclear particles in the atmosphere.
Here I was feeling anger and disrespect for a stranger and I was ready to share that with the entire world or at least my few hundred Facebook friends.
With a little sigh, I deleted my message and went back to my morning. I drove to work thinking about my bravery. I controlled my anger, my righteous, my impulse to best another, when in the end, it was not going to enlighten either one of us.
Better to spend my time sharing beauty and inspiration, working to right wrongs with money and support. Better that I add my voice to a choir of others who want to make a positive change in our world and not enter into useless debates that turn into ego battles and nothing more. America is a beautiful place, and even though the message of hate is being sung by some at this moment in history, I don’t have to sing in that choir.
Better that I sing a song of hope and clean up my own house, keep control of my own temper, and not project it onto strangers.
If I want a better world, it starts with me, not some stranger in another city who feels threatened by the changing times. If I can somehow find compassion for him, how he expresses, I am doing my part to straighten the ship we’re on so we don’t all sink to our lowest self. Because we’re all on the same ship, like it or not.
Stranger, thank you for reminding me that I don’t want to separate myself from the “other,” even you.
Because what is in the one is in the whole. If I separate from you, it is easier the next time to separate from someone else I disagree with and then recreate the cloud of anger we are living under today.
And if that makes me non-patriotic or a socialist in your book, that’s okay. I call it being human.