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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Speaking Out


I ended a relationship last night.  One I'd ended before and gone back to multiple times.  The relationship was abusive and volatile and unhealthy.  But it was hard to get away.  And yet, I woke up this morning feeling free. Feeling something I have not experienced in a great while: serenity.

The relationship I speak of was with Facebook.  For months, now, I've been allowing a social media website to steal my peace.  To instill fear and confusion.  And anger.  The agitation of late that has been consistently growing has not been of the I'm-spending-too-much-time-looking-at-people's-food/vacations/cat memes-and-therefore-wasting-my-day variety.  I sort of long for those good ol' days in a way.  No, what I'm talking about is the type of angst that has arisen out of the fact that the political climate has changed so drastically and so quickly in our society and that this has become evidenced on my Facebook account.  I can only speak for my experience with my own page.

I have a friend who for as long as I can remember would deactivate her account and then reactivate. She would explain that when she was on, she just felt pulled into debate and then wound up feeling discouraged and disheartened. I couldn't understand this until recently. There is no denying the disunity that is present in our culture today.  We are one year away from an election but the unrest has been swelling for some time now.  People seem to be more divided than ever on all numbers of issues. This, in and of itself, is not a problem.  In fact, as a democracy, we need differing points of views. We need debate.  We need voices to be heard from all angles of any given subject.  But, herein lies the trouble. This isn't happening.  Many are being silenced.  Many are being ridiculed.

I am not sure if I happened to be friends with an inordinate amount of people who believed differently than I, or if those who share my beliefs were simply quieter.  I suspect it may be the latter.  Personally, I will admit to being silent too much of the time.  It seemed easier.  I don't like conflict.  I've come to a point in my life where I don't believe I change either individuals or entities.  I can only change myself.

But over the past several months, there has been an indignation stirring up inside me.  Daily, on my newsfeed, I was reading not just articles, or memes, or viewpoints that stood in stark opposition to my own belief system, but was faced with articles, memes and viewpoints that were insulting, inflammatory, and hateful in their onesidedness.  Everywhere I turned was journalism that was clearly an opinion piece written and presented as fact, 'studies' that shamed the way I choose to raise my children, attacks on the God I believe in, and then of course, Facebook being what it is, I was privy to all sorts of personal disagreements that had nothing to do with me among "friends." And I've observed over the months a pattern.  I've seen time and again, within the comments section of friends' posts, tension arise and it culminates in the same way.  Someone is publicly defriended or silenced.  And noticing this as it happens to others, I've felt increasingly uncomfortable.  I've begun to wonder what happened to the era where we believed firmly in freedom of speech; where we not only accepted it but embraced it.  It's important to note that the tension I referred to was merely discussion.  An opposing viewpoint brought up with respect.  And yet, quickly, the dissenter was dismissed and rejected.

Now, this could very well be exclusively the dynamic on my own page.  Other people's feeds could be full of those who are open-minded and thoughtful in their assertions yet humble and polite.  I don't know.  What I do know is that my own experience played out again and again and I watched and bit my own tongue and read and vented my dissidence to my husband where it was safe rather than in a public format, but finally last night my tongue began to bleed.

A "friend" posted an article which I read and which upon reading had a strong reaction to. The piece was a strong opinion piece and in turn, my opinion reading it was strong.  And I responded with my opinion on the article itself.  And I was careful to speak only of the author's viewpoint and to express what I feel are the problems with that viewpoint.  And within a matter of minutes, the "friend" who had posted the article deleted my comment.  And that would be fine if this was an isolated event.  But it's not.

And now I cannot hold my anger back or bite my tongue.  Because over and over again, I'm seeing it. I am witnessing one "side," if you will, continually silence the other.  And it's working.  There is a "side" who has grown fearful.  Who fears to stir things up, to speak their truth, to call out what they see as wrong, because those who disagree, disagree in a domineering and threatening manner.

The "friend" who deleted my comment, did so with a comment of his own, stating that I needed to post my views on my own page, not his.  And then in his next post, he personally attacked my Christianity. Now, mind you, I had said nothing in my response of my religious beliefs.  Nothing. This is what I feel we're up against. I feel strongly that this epitomizes how many today operate when others don't agree with them.  They have nothing in their vocabulary to defend their own views, so the viciously attack their opposition.  And it works.  To avoid being spat on, we just shut up.  Everything has been spun, so that we appear to be the perpetrators.  And this is how it happens.  This is how an entire faction of society begins to be eliminated.  It's happening on a much bigger scale, of course, than my very small Facebook page.  It's just that this was the first time I felt it so intimately.

I did not deactivate my account because of this interaction.  It's been something I've been inwardly struggling with and this was my final motivation.  Do I believe I need to stand strong and stand my ground and own my own voice and truth? Yes.  But right now, I need to do so while in prayer, unswayed by the noise of the enemy.  I do that here.  I cannot, currently, do it there.

This blog has always been a prayer closet for me.  One that I've visited less and less.  But I return to it now because I still need to hear myself pray aloud as I grapple with God over words while I'm here.  It's how He and I have done things for a while.  And partly, I'm doing it here in order to not be silenced.  I don't care if just one person comes across it and I don't care whether they agree or disagree with it, the important thing is that there has to be an outlet where I do not feel silenced.  Where I do not feel like what I have to say is not valid.