I would like to propose a challenge of sorts for those of you on social media … especially those who are politically or socially minded. This is not an effort to change views, but to help us consider how we might better communicate.
Here is the challenge:
- Set aside one day to go silent on social media during the week.
- This is not a day of silence in memorial of anything or anybody
- This is not a day to stay away from social media.
- Spend time on social media, but do not post anything except to explain your participation. You can share this page or write your own. (include the #silentday)
- Immerse yourself in opposing views
- Read only posts, tweets, blogs, articles of those you disagree with
- You may have to unblock or re-follow some people.
- Try to silence your own arguments.
- Try to consider why they may hold that view. Don’t give in to the easy answer. Assume that they are intelligent. Dispose of labels.
- Think about the emotions that these views evoke. Does it make you angry? Sad? Frustrated? Defensive? Consider why you might feel that way.
- Do you feel like you understand the other view better?
- Have your views been modified? How?
- What labels are used to represent your viewpoint?
- What labels are used by your side to describe the opposition’s viewpoint?
- Consider the tone of posts from both sides of the issue. Are they persuasive, argumentative, inflammatory, sarcastic, degrading, or belittling? Does the tone divide or reconcile?
- How could you use social media to build bridges for reconciliation?
- Continue to listen even after your #silentday
- Post any discoveries you have made (use #silentday)
- Begin to build bridges of reconciliation.
- Reach out to someone with whom you disagree and offer to listen without argument.
Why a #silentday?
Our world has become a place of noise
I have posted a page dedicated to silence. Silence, Please to stress how important silence and stillness is to our ability to foster peace. It includes a selection from Brian Zahnd’s recent book Water to Wine: Some of My Story This
Listening requires us to develop quiet and respectful relationships
We live in one side of a small duplex next to Lynn’s mother and brother. This works pretty well most of the time. Usually it is Lynn and I, (even when Josiah is home from college he is usually cloistered in his cave in the basement). Oh … and our two dogs and Mother’s two dogs. It works pretty well. It is a nice quiet routine and life is pretty peaceful (other than barking and whining dogs).
There was a time when all seven of the children were all at home. One might think that there could be no peace and quiet, but that was not the case. Yes, there were those times when chaos overwhelmed our small living room. (University of Kentucky basketball brings out our wild side) Somehow our children learned that peace could only be maintained in our household, if everyone respected each other. We learned to keep our voices down, wait our turn to speak, learned each others “buttons”, and tried to not take advantage of those buttons. We also learned that we needed times of quiet and found ways to find it. This is not to say that the family always got along, but we figured out that relationship requires sacrifice.
So how does it work, when all seven children, their spouses, their children, and their dogs all descend on the house at once? Is just like old times? NO IT IS NOT! Each nuclear family has its own routine, their own agendas, their own way of doing things. It requires great restraint to hold it together, to remember that relationship is more important than our individual agendas, and that we are much stronger when we stay together as a family. Be quiet and listen to each other because relationships matter
We are screaming and no one is listening
#blacklivesmatter has shined a light into the darkest recesses of our nations soul. We cannot continue to fool ourselves into believing that the consequences our nation’s original sin has been expunged. The greed that enslaved an entire race, displaced the native Peoples, manipulated the masses into accepting that human beings are naturally “branded” as beasts by the color of their skin, and deceived “even the Elect” into contributing to the lie … that same greed is still actively dividing the masses.
This past week, a friend of mine posted a meme from Huffington Post that said simply BLACK LIVES MATTER … 75 times and IT MUST BE SAID UNTIL IT’S HEARD. Trust me … everyone has heard it. Saying it more is not going to bring understanding to those who hear the words but do not hear the message they convey?
Jesus and the Apostle Paul both quoted the Prophet Isaiah when the people who should know better refused to hear.
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’
(Matthew 13:15, Acts 28:27)
As I considered this post and the many others like it, it occurred to me that we conversing with swords and we respond with shields & swords of our own. Our desire is healing and we are utilizing instruments of war.
Unfortunately, those who are taking the brunt of the blame, the lower and middle class white population, don’t understand why this responsibility is falling on them. We have labeled the first generation whose children are worse off than their parents as white supremacists. These are people who do not really feel supreme and find themselves the politically acceptable butt of jokes. (rednecks, hillbillies, etc)
So how does this naturally play out?
- My black brother & sister become more frustrated and justifiably angry
- My racist white brother becomes more defensive & enraged …
- My police officer son becomes more fearful and more likely to make a poor decision which could cost him his life or the life of another
- My liberal friends fill social media with rants and incendiary language which swells the rage
- My conservative friends tighten their grasp on their guns, and fill their social media with their own poisonous memes
- Violence escalates proportionally to the level of anger & fear generated.
Change does not come about without a voice, but neither does it come without pain and loss. As people of privilege, we are in a unique position to extend grace to the oppressed and the oppressor. Both are important.
To the oppressed, we must learn to listen, to love and to place our privilege at their disposal to allow them to positively impact society (not for us to define for them … btw)
To the supporters oppressor, we must find ways to abate the fear & anger and persuade them to see that although laws have changed, that generations of oppression and economic / political manipulation have divided us to prevent us from working together.
I don’t know how we do this, but I know that helping the élite power structures to divide us is not helping matters. I wonder if we are just playing into their hands.
Active vs Passive Silence
I can’t advocate silence. That would be the sin of the “white moderates” addressed by Dr. King in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail. But speech does not need to inflammatory.
We must be wise (not slow) in our efforts to forward the cause of justice to minimize the escalation of violence. Poorly chosen or timed words can have quite adverse consequences (probably not from those of us who no one knows). I say this in the belief and hope that violence is not the answer. I am not sure that everyone holds this belief.
So I advocate a #silentday … be silent, listen, empathize and then act with grace and wisdom. I hope you will join me.