Shut Your Mouth
I remember a time when all weddings had that one, small request a priest or justice of the peace would insert just before the ceremony; “if there is any reason why anyone would feel these two should not be wed…”
A seemingly harmless ask. A group of close friends, family, friends of family and a few strangers thrown in and given enough power to potentially disrupt what could be one of the most important days in someone’s life. And for what purpose?
The idea behind it was someone close to either the bride or groom may have knowledge unknown to anyone else, perhaps even the bride or groom which would make the union questionable. It could be anything, really. You don’t like the groom, you think the bride wasn’t trustworthy, you didn’t like the idea of your clan marrying someone from another clan…and so on.
Could you imagine? I have never been to a wedding where someone had the stupidity (or even courage) to attempt to derail a couple’s nuptials. And what would it even look like? Could the argument be strong enough that one or the other would look at the evidence presented and walk away from a lifetime commitment?
While it may seem, especially in the face of so many failed marriages in the world, that stopping a potentially bad life choice — few if any would take the rather large step and put themselves out there. The risk/reward has to factor in and unless you lack even the most basic of filters — the reward simply isn’t there.
This is an analogy of the world we live in today. Your opinion isn’t welcome. I should probably clarify…your opinion isn’t welcome unless it aligns with my opinion. The truth of the matter is I already know everything I need to know. I like absolutes and resolution. So once I get there, conversation is moot. We can talk about the weather, how your family is doing and other niceties but I will draw the line at you challenging any of my current convictions.
I could go into ideas about the internet shutting down civil discourse and social justice warriors creating so much fear around even asking a question but the reality is we have been in this state for a long, long time. I remember having conversations with my grandfather about politics and where his support was.
“John, there are a few things you never want to ask someone…” His tone was serious and he leaned in close because he really wanted to drive the point home. “You can talk about a man’s faith and we can respect the beliefs someone else carries. What you can never talk about is who you voted for. It’s a line in the sand. And while your best friend may share your views and have even voted the same way, there is no way back once you declare this.”
I was 12 years old at the time and didn’t quite understand how profound his statement was.
It’s 2019 and while people clearly show their support for one party or the other, here in Canada — you tread lightly when discussing that support. Everyone is watching. We’re in a fishbowl. Especially those of us who work at jobs where social media activity is monitored and your adversaries lie in wait, hoping you’ll trip up and say the wrong thing.
There is now a long, detailed laundry list of things you may not talk about on social media. You’re now one click of a button away from never talking to a long time friend you may have went to elementary with. Of course, you could use the argument — “maybe they were never really your friend…”
We’ve gone past that. The most long term, loyal of friendships are now being challenged by a simple designation around truth.
What is truth?
It gets seriously complicated when trying to answer this question. Truth comes in many forms and interpretations. My truth will always be different than yours. It simply comes down to how we look at the data presented and how we choose to interpret it. I liken it to Einstein’s special relativity theory where two people can inhabit two different places in space while observing the same object within that space and their experience and even time will be completely different. I am paraphrasing, to an extent, and using my perception to get his point across.
Understanding truth in this day and age is different than accepting that truth. The reality is, truth is not an absolute. We can search for it and find varying degrees of it but to accept the finality of truth means discounting others and their observations of the same truth.
I guess what I’m saying is simply this; when you choose to take a hard line with a friend, a family member or foe, you have to acknowledge you have completely discounted them. This isn’t about being right or wrong. We all have a basic obligation to treat others with respect and dignity.
My truths are mine. I tend to be on the fringe with a lot of ideas because my view of the world comes from my life experiences. I am not contrary simply for the sake of being — the lenses I use to filter information and come to my truth are as arbitrary as the music I choose to like. You are no different.
We’re all in this mortal coil moving towards an inevitable truth, which is our certain demise in this reality. Holding on to your convictions at the expense of friendship and decent humanity doesn’t make you a better person, it makes you a bully. Forcing someone to agree with your point of view and holding them accountable for sharing theirs is text book bullying.
I’m ashamed we have actually evolved back to a time which essentially mirrors a “burn the witch!” herd mentality. The number of social media platforms rolling back once unfettered territory to share ideas, in the interest of appeasing all of the social justice warriors is no different than 16th century ideas around Paganism vs Christianity. Sure, we may not be burning people anymore but if we shame them to the point they are compelled to take their own lives…
I see the bad behaviour every day, on every forum. People sitting at their keyboards taking their pound of flesh, not caring or understanding that their hatred and anger has real and profound outcomes.
We need to be able to agree to disagree. My best friendships are with people I can have fringe conversations. They’re intelligent enough to understand I’m still the same person they were drawn to in the beginning. My truth isn’t always theirs and vice versa. It doesn’t mean we can’t challenge each other with thoughts and ideas. We just have to remember to be kind and to respect each others choices. It’s not the end all.
As a caveat — and sadly, I pronounce this because people reading will interpret how they want and I need to acknowledge: Accepting another’s truth is not accepting behaviour that may hurt another person or group of people. There is not room in this world for hatred based on bigotry or racism. What we tolerate has to be based on the most basic of decency.
Everything else should be fair game. Truth isn’t an endgame, it’s the starting point.