Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Don't Make Me Pull This Car Over!

I think I've figured it out.

I'm not expecting any huge cash awards. Please don't bother notifying the Nobel committee, or even recommend me to the Pulitzer bunch. I'm just a workin' Joe doing my part for the greater good.

One thing that has truly boggled my mind since joining the Blogosphere nearly three years ago has been the levels of poisonous invective that have been reached in many of the discussions I've read. Or even participated in, for that matter.

No one is immune, apparently. Michelle Malkin can, in her own way, be just as spiteful and (dare I say?) mean-spirited on certain issues as the people who regularly write nothing but hateful, sexist, and racist posts about her. Kos and his infamous Kids are widely known for profanity-laced writing of the sort that we used to ban from classrooms back in the day. Used to be that newspapers would bow their heads in shame if they allowed language like that to appear in one of their "responsible" publications, but now they seem to relish the nastier attitudes that are extant throughout the current political dialogue.

So what happened, and why do we allow this sort of thing to continue?

One might argue that this sort of dialogue is a waste of bandwidth. Why clutter our servers with so many words that have absolutely no chance of resolving anything of any real importance? The "I hate you; you hate me" meme that we find in 95% of the comments on any given blog are useless. I don't think they even serve any therapeutic purpose other than to demonstrate the apparent lack of any real education on the part of the commenters (as adjudicated by the number of misspelled words and grammatical errors). As one former boss once told me, there's no reason to use profanity in order to do business. (This lesson has actually only recently been learned in my company. Profanity is finally frowned upon by enough upper managers that I hear much less of it in today's environment.)

So here's my theory. I grew up in what would be considered by many to be a "large" family. There are five of us siblings, and I'm the old guy on this totem pole. Five more different personalities you couldn't hope to find anywhere. As a kid, I ruled with an iron fist (almost literally, really). I was the tyrant. My brother, the middle child, was the class clown. My sisters had differing levels of sweetness, but each has had their own method of conflict resolution with varying degrees of success.

Dialogue in this large-ish family pretty closely resembled what we see in the blogosphere (and politics in general) today. Lots of accusations thrown around with little or no proof to back them up. Very little attempt to truly understand the other person's perspective. If I was annoyed with my brother (which I often was), then he was just wrong and that was all there was to it. If one of my sisters dared to enter my Sanctum Sanctorum (I could tell because one of my dirty clothes mounds had shifted slightly to one side) then there was hell to pay. Explanations were for the weak.

Then we grew up.

We dearly love each other these days. Oh, I may not agree with everything they say or do, but I'm also mature enough to understand that I don't have to. In fact, they probably think of me as more of an old fuddy-duddy than my past life would seem to have indicated. I have not only become conservative in my old age, I have become very conservative. But I believe they still love me all the same.

So what we have here, in the Blogosphere, is a large family (like mine, only larger by a factor of about 100 million) waiting to grow up. Really. That's the only reason I can see for the whole "neener, neener, neener" voice I come across on so many blogs today.

Nowadays when a sibling of mine tells me something with which I may not agree, I will very politely listen, perhaps make a comment or two, but largely leave them to believe what they will. If it's something I happen to feel strongly about, then I'll let them know. Politely. Hopefully without leaving the other one feeling like they have a big red "A" sewn on their chest. And the next time we talk, we'll still be the same loving brother and brother and/or sister that we've always been. I also - contrary to what you may see in my writings - have learned enough to know when I don't have the answer. And I've even had to admit that to my siblings at various times over the years.

It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

So here's my thought, for what it's worth. Let's try treating our blog-family like just that. A family. We all breathe the same air; we have many of the same needs; we probably even share more goals than we're likely to believe based on the discussions we're not having right now. If we need a time-out, we take one. Then we can return to the discussion without accusing each other of having genetic abnormalities or deviant sexual proclivities.

It's something to look forward to.

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