Are political disagreements damaging your friendships?
I originally published this story during our last presidential election (in 2012). It has been on my mind because four years later, nothing has changed – well, except maybe the insulting terms I’m seeing on social media. Now in addition to “liar,”liar,” “idiot,” “loser,” “fool,” we have “criminal” and “sociopath.” It has become even worse after the inauguration. Just stop name-calling, people!
What are we teaching our kids? I’m trying to teach mine to learn how to love and forget how to hate. Like Ozzy Osbourne!
Crazy, but that’s how it goes
Millions of people living as foes
Maybe it’s not too late
To learn how to love
And forget how to hate.
I printed out the lyrics to Ozzy Osborne’s “Crazy Train.” I figured if my kids are going to shout this song in the car at the tops of their lungs, they should at least know the words. They initially heard the song from the TV commercial for a Honda Pilot, which is what we drive, thus considerable shouting occurs when we’re in transit.
Actually having lyrics in hand, my middle son decided to download the song on his iPod, during which he obtained a picture of Ozzy to go with it.
“Wow, Mom, is that really Ozzy Osbourne? He looks kinda scary. Is it really him singing the song?”
“Let me see. Yep. You know that song’s like, from the ’80s, right?
“Uh huh, so? He actually has a really good voice…”
“Yeah, he sure does. You can’t judge an album by its cover.”
“What’s an album?”
Social media unleashes the haters
I caught myself humming the song a few times and it got me thinking about a couple of things. First, what’s up with all the haters who have emerged as we approach our next presidential election? I don’t even watch the news and only get two weekly newspapers, but with the omnipresence of social media, I’ve been assaulted with terms like “liar,” “idiot,” “loser,” “fool,” “bully,” “out of touch,” “moron,” “stupid,” “deception,” “omission,” “narcissism,” “sucks,” “hates,” “fears,” and “distorts.” The same words are used by every group against each other – millions of people, living as foes. Can’t people disagree respectfully: stay calm, not take things personally, criticize ideas, but not each other?
Come to think of it, this language is prevalent in religious conflicts, sporting events, or anytime people have a difference of opinion – even with things like dog breeds. Personally, I would be much more receptive to someone’s ideas if they were presented on their own merit and not simply as the assumed opposite of anything used to tear down the opposing view. Crazy, but that’s how it goes.
Some conflict is necessary
Second, the song reminds me of a question my youngest asked on the way home from camp during a break from “all aboard,” “ha ha ha ha” and “ay ay ay”: “What if Adam and Eve never ate the fruit from the tree?” Though the boys go to a Christian camp right here in town, the story about the tree in the Garden of Eden is common to many religions, including Judaism and Islam.
“I guess we’d all be walking around naked, for one thing…”
“What!” His older brothers perked up, one of them pulling his earbuds out.
“Well, we’d be naked, but we wouldn’t realize it. Naked would be the norm.”
“Seriously, boys. The fruit was from the tree of knowledge, right? So once they ate it, they became aware of things.”
“Oh, yeah…we heard about that part during message time.”
“And also, I guess everyone would get along with each other…there would be no conflict…uhm, competition. Hmmm,” I continued, thinking aloud, “I’m not sure how that would work. If there were no competition, how could there be any businesses…never mind that, what about sports?”
“Well, how could there be a football game without competition? Someone has to win and someone has to lose. “
“And no one’s gonna say, ‘be my guest, go right ahead and score that touchdown’…”
“Duh! That would be so stupid!”
“I know, right? But it can be friendly competition: no trash talk.”
“Sometimes there is, Mom.”
“Well, I know there is, but I also know your coaches don’t encourage it. I know they teach you to compete respectfully. Stay calm. Don’t take things personally, and don’t criticize the other team. No name-calling.”
“Don’t ‘duh’ me, honey. Not everyone in this world gets it. Sometimes it’s hard to remember in the heat of the moment. That’s why we have terms like ‘poor sport’ and ‘sore loser.’ ”
Maybe it’s not too late to learn how to love and forget how to hate.
What do you think: Can you disagree without insulting someone personally?
Have any of your friendships been damaged because of politics?