Wednesday, April 4, 2012
I Was Wrong
I can’t remember the last time someone convinced me to change my mind about something. But if they did, I can assure you they weren’t angry when they did it.
One of the best decisions I made in recent years was to stop participating in angry things. I quit watching my beloved Keith Olbermann, stopped watching cable news during elections years, and I definitely quit listening to non-sports talk radio. I realized that if radio waves could be embodied in a symbol, it would be a symbol of a huge index finger. On one channel, it points at liberals, the other conservatives. On one channel it points at Muslims, on another at Christians. Hanging from that finger is a giant sign that screams “YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.”
I can remember the early years of the internet, when the most complicated social media could get was the school email forum. I’m sure if I had wanted to, I could have found calm, civil discussion. But that’s not what I was looking for. I wanted to preach. I wanted to ruffle feathers. I wanted to reach into your dorm room, slap you in the face, and tell you that you were wrong about something. If you had talked to me during high school, you would have been too liberal. During college, you would have been too conservative. In either case, I knew what the truth was, because I was smarter than you, and it was my duty to inform you of your intellectual failings.
It seems we are drawn to teams, or more realistically, to tribes. No matter the issue, my tribe is always the best tribe. Your tribe is heretically mocking my tribe. And your tribe must be stopped. It didn’t take much to send me to war. As far as back as elementary school I can remember standing on Sandy Boulevard in Portland, holding a sign reading “Abortion Kills Children” while passers-by waved coat hangers out their car windows. “Life Chain” we called it. I’m not sure we saved any lives, but we definitely ruined a few peoples’ days. In middle school, a student was abducted from school and dragged across the street to an “adult motel” before she escaped out a bathroom window. That night, there I was on the news, talking about how we didn’t need “sex near the schools.” I can remember believing that those who supported abortion were aware that fetuses were people, knew it was wrong to kill them, and intentionally allowed it to happen because they knew God was against it. Their tribe was evil, and had to be stopped.
20 years later, things aren’t all that different. Want to see the worst of humanity? Check out the comments section following a news article. So many wars are being valiantly fought there. Libtards vs. Republicraps. God-hating atheists vs. woman-hating Christians. Racists vs. reverse racists vs. sideways racists, as Chris Rock would say. But nobody seems to be changing their mind.
“Truth” is a complicated word. Many see it as the modernists see it - as its own separate entity, outside the scope of perception, on an island, unchanged by anything. Others see it as the post-moderns see it - something that only exists because we are here to perceive it, and if we all die, it does too. Whatever it is, or whatever we think the truth is, we don’t seem to change our minds about it very often. I think we should.
Probability alone suggests that a good percentage of the things we hold true are not actually true. There are simply too many people thinking too many different things for anyone to be right about everything. And I wonder why it’s so hard to be humble about that concept. My opinions/beliefs are wrong. When I was standing on the streets as a child, shaming women who had chosen abortion, I was wrong. When I was in college, telling my fellow students that their Christian schools were evil because they separated the Christians from the non-Christians that needed to hear their message, I was wrong. And today, as evolved as I’d like to thing I am, many of the things I hold to be true are wrong. History will show this to be true.
As I start this process of looking death in the face, and trying figure out how I can best traverse my human life, one of the things I must always remember is that on many things, I will be wrong. If I can’t accept and embrace that idea, I won’t be able to learn. And if I’m going to truly come to terms with my mortality, and determine what I’m going to do about it, I have to be willing to learn.
If there’s anything that angry radio has taught me, it’s that there really is an index finger. It’s my own, and it points at the sign around my neck that reads “I am the problem.”