My father in law used to be a chicken farmer for Tyson. After the chickens were removed from his houses every six weeks or so, he would allow local farmers to come get the chicken shit to fertilize their crops. My wife wanted some chicken shit for her tomato garden, and so she asked him if he could bring some from South Carolina to Georgia, and he did. She also wanted him to bring this beautiful cedar chest that her great uncle had made, for the kid’s toys. So he brought the cedar chest filled with chicken shit.
You know what else I hate?
When people on facebook get pissed off at someone else on facebook, but instead of addressing the person directly, by private message or even in public, they cloak it in a general statement that rails against people who do that particular thing. ”If you’re an asshole by doing this or that specifically, rest assured your comment will be deleted,” then they delete your comment, so you know you’re the asshole, but they hide behind the fact that it was just a general statement towards all people who happen to do what you just did, and not at all directed at you or at least not JUST at you. That’s chicken shit.
And because the statement is typically general, hordes of Facebookers file in to offer their support, “I hate people like that,” they say. “Happens to me all the time,” they say. “You don’t need people like that in your life.” I agree, but wait a minute… is she talking about me?
I had never actually borne the brunt of such a denunciation, though I had seen plenty, and always wondered about the other side. I’m not a common denominator, I promise. It has happened to me so far only once. A friend of mine, at least I thought she was, posted something political on her page. I took it as the start of a conversation because isn’t that what it is when you say something first? When you post something in a public forum? Are you not inviting comment and opinion (albeit respectful as it should be)?
I don’t often get into fights with people. I’m generally non-confrontational. In fact, I avoid confrontation even when I shouldn’t. But I will debate, in environments in which I feel safe (like online) or I’ll state my case calmly and with civility whenever I can. I’ll even tell a racist (and I have), “I just don’t see it like that,” and I’ll tell him why. It has happened to me that someone felt comfortable telling me her racist views because of how calmly I address them, and that gives me a chance to be honest. Now if someone starts in with me, I won’t pull punches. I’ll defend myself. I live in the south, but I’m not full of southern charm. I’m from New York.
She lives in New York now, the one who wronged me. But she’s originally from Kentucky. And I understand that some people aren’t worth arguing with, and if you’re tired of arguing with right wing republicans because you’re already from Kentucky and you’ve had enough of it, ok. If you’re sure you’re never going to change a person’s mind, why waste time? But if you post something on your page, I’m assuming you’ve opened the floor to discussion with other liberals, at least.
Before I go on, let me say that I have always considered my own sites, pages, blogs, to be free speech zones because I want it that way. I respect other people’s opinions, and accept that it is what they believe whether I like it or not, and I assume that their views appear reasonable to them. And they will never change if we don’t talk about it, and if we shut them up, it won’t stop them from saying the same things somewhere else where maybe no one will counter. And also, I could be wrong, and if I am I want to know it. So it’s very rare that I will delete a comment off my own page. But I don’t expect that of everyone. In fact I reserve the right to delete anyone’s comment, even though I hardly ever do it. Certainly if the comment makes the person look bad, I’d probably prefer to leave it. And if if their arguments sound reasonable, I’d prefer to accept the challenge, make the best argument I can and let the chips fall where they may. The only comment I ever actually deleted was my wife’s, but I don’t want to talk about that. Suffice it to say I did it to protect her, though she didn’t see it that way.
Bottom line, I believe that the answer to “bad” speech, if you will, is more speech, not less, a response, in other words, not censorship. But that’s me. You can delete the comments of anyone you disagree with, that’s you. You also have the right to say anything you want about me. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
So, I knew this woman from an online fiction writing class. We had never met in person, but we read each other’s work, which can be personal, honest and even intimate. After the class was over, we became friends on facebook. We have mutual facebook friends too, from the class, students and the teacher. And politically we were basically on the same page. She’s posted more than once in support of the American Civil LIberties Union which endeared her to me. My dad ran the American Civil Liberties Union for 22 years from 1979 to 2001, and the New York Civil Liberties for 11 years before that. I grew up in the ACLU.
When she moved to New York, and was looking for a job as a lawyer, I reached out to my dad to see if I could maybe put her resume in someone’s hands. Maybe he had been retired too long at that point, or maybe he didn’t want to try for someone I never even met in person (I guess he was right about that), so it didn’t pan out, but I was on her side.
Now, before the incident of which I’m about to speak, there was another discussion between us, which in fairness I should disclose, because the history apparently played into the thing, for her. It was our first disagreement as far as I remember. In brief the argument had to do with mixed income housing in NYC, and whether or not people renting the “affordable” rent units deserved to have all of the same amenities of those renting at market rate, particularly when the developer took tax credits to provide affordable units. In the end we agreed on many points, that minimum wage should be increased (really had nothing to do with the issue, but demonstrated a shared liberal sensibility), that mixed income communities are a good thing, and even that if taking the tax credit required the developer to provide the same rights and privileges to both higher income and lower income residents, then that was a contractual obligation I would consider legally binding. I reserved judgement, however, on the intent of the credits, because I didn’t know. This was a question of fact, upon which my opinion would turn, and I didn’t just take her word for it. This was important because I wasn’t sure I cared if people paying less got less – as long as they could still benefit from the advantages of living in a wealthier neighborhood, the schools, the police protection, the location by the river, near a park etc. Those are the advantages that accrue to lower income residents of mixed income communities even if they don’t get access to a pool, a gym, a doorman, concierge services, or whatever. My reservations bothered her, it was obvious. And I secretly harbored a bit of judgment towards her because of sentiments she had previously expressed which seemed to equate the financial situation she found herself in, six figure debt from a private law school that she couldn’t pay off, with those who struggle to survive on minimum wage. To me it looked like she was spending money while complaining she didn’t have any. She did everything right she complained, and I privately disagreed. I didn’t want to argue that with her, but I thought she made a mistake borrowing that much. Everyone makes mistakes, it wasn’t the mistake I judged, it was that she didn’t own it, even in retrospect. I’m not so liberal to think that her debt should be forgiven and that my taxes should pay for her private education. I went to public schools. My kids go to public schools. You know why? Because I can’t afford private school and I know it. I didn’t say any of that, but some of what I did say, that people weren’t necessarily entitled to luxuries they couldn’t afford were directed at that, and I believe were taken by her to mean that I was unsympathetic to the poor. I was only unsympathetic to her. But my beliefs aren’t necessarily fixed either, and I like to hear what other people have to say. Was I argumentative? Only to the extent I didn’t accept what she believed simply because she said it. No, I was not. And I did not lose respect for her over it, at least not much. In fact I admired her liberal sensibilities even though I didn’t necessarily agree with her on everything. We went a couple of rounds and it seemed like we were repeating ourselves, so I let it go.
Maybe a month later she posts something on her site about the Koch brothers and how Citizen’s United set them free to spend unlimited sums on Republican causes. Another political post. Citizen’s United, if you don’t know, refers to a relatively recent court case in which a conservative not for profit “corporation” called Citizen’s United went awry of campaign finance law. They tried to distribute a film they had made that was critical of Hillary Clinton (a candidate I voted for when she ran for president), shortly prior to the election. That happened to have been illegal. At least it was until “Citizen’s United” struck down the law as a violation of the first amendment’s protection of freedom of speech.
The decision is largely condemned by liberals enraged about corporate influence who believe that it opened the door to unlimited spending on campaigns. My father, the, as previously mentioned, retired director of the ACLU, an organization that has become in popular vernacular almost synonymous with liberalism (though it is technically non-partisan) – had been outspoken in defense of the decision. He argues that it is great ruling for liberals and that what it actually did is widely misunderstood and misreported. He wrote a piece on it soon after the opinion came out, which he published on the Huffington post.
My friend’s post also referenced the Koch brothers, infamous republican financiers who I do not happen to like, and blamed Citizen’s United for what they have been able to spend on right wing objectives. That isn’t true, first of all, because they are not corporations, and Citizen’s United only addressed limits on corporations. And even if it they were corporations, it still is questionable because Citizen’s United didn’t address what corporations could contribute to campaigns. It addressed what is called “independent expenditures.” I don’t argue it as well as my dad, so I posted this, and this alone, on her page.
“I know you are a fan of the ACLU. You might be interested in this:”
And I included a link which came with a teaser. Here you can see how it looked, what she saw, and in case you’re interested in reading it, you can follow the link.
Liberals who denounce the Citizens United decision fail to appreciate what a great ruling it was for the First Amendment, and what a huge victory it was for freedom of speech and against government censorship….
Later that day I see this on her facebook page (and subsequently confirmed that my comment was gone)
If you post argumentative comments or articles on my fb wall in response to my posts containing my political views, I will likely remove it. It is not your job to educate me or assume that I hold the views that I do because you have failed to introduce me to your opinion. I’m well educated, I get paid to think critically. Furthermore, I come from a background that saturated me in every possible shade of Republican philosophy, economic and moral. And I have concluded that most of those positions are dead wrong.
So the chances are that whatever article or comment you feel moved to post is not news to me and isn’t going to change my mind. Furthermore, I refuse to engage in flame wars on fb. You believe what you believe, I believe what I believe. If we’ve decided to engage in a respectful debate, I very much doubt the venue is my fb wall.
Post what you want on your wall but rest 100% assured, if you’re being rude or argumentative, your posts on my wall are coming down.
I love that so much.
Glutton for punishment that I must be, I returned to the scene of the crime, with this:
Maybe you misunderstood what I was trying to say. That article was written by the retired director of the ACLU, who happens to be my father. I can see how you might have expected it to be critical of the ACLU the way I introduced it. If that’s the case and you want to reconsider, here is the link again.
Liberals who denounce the Citizens United decision fail to appreciate what a great ruling it was for the First Amendment, and what a huge victory it was for freedom of speech and against government censorship..
She deleted that too, and wrote this to no one in particular:
I would prefer private messages if you feel that you must be argumentative. I’ve seen way too many fb disagreements turn into public brawls. There’s literally no reason for it.
So I private messaged her, like she suggested these combative, public brawling, flamers should, as if I were one, and began this conversation:
Is it unreasonable for me to assume that if you post something in a public forum that you’re up for some discussion? It happens that I’ve discussed Citizen’s United with other liberals, like the two of us are, and have convinced a few that it’s a actually a good decision. It happens to be widely misunderstood and misreported. I mean, you called me a Republican! Did you even read the article?
I read the article. I don’t think you’re a republican. I was making a larger point that addressed quite a few comments I’ve had recently – this was not merely a response to your post.
I think it’s disingenuous to say you aren’t addressing me when you’ve deleted my comment which is what you said you’d do in your “larger point.” The person you’re really addressing either knows you’re talking to them, or people you’re not addressing may think it (in my case, you’re not denying it) and that seems to me more combative than anything I did or said, and certainly not constructive. You may be highly educated and paid to think critically, but you come off as conceited.
I am not conceited. Other people including the four dissenting justices didn’t agree with the opinion of the court. You started this whole thing by intentionally being argumentative on my wall when I think I have made it clear that I won’t have debates publicly. I remove that kind of stuff and I always have. I don’t go onto your wall and start flame wars. I also don’t think I have any obligation to justify my opinions, just as no one has to me. I used to engage in open fb debates but realized that it turned into people basically yelling at each other online and no one came out the other side changing their minds. If people don’t like what I write they are welcome to unfriend me.
So hyperbolic to say that I was argumentative when all I did was offer an alternative opinion, by posting a link to an article that was written by someone I had reason to think you respected. Do you even know what flaming is? I am, in fact, open to hearing why you believe what you do. Maybe you could convince me of something. I think I could convince you of something. On the other hand, if you read the article, and completely disagree with it, maybe there is no point, unless you just don’t believe the article is factual.
I do not think I deserved the disdain that you more typically reserve for your conservative brethren in Kentucky with whom you obviously have (probably justifiable) issues. But I’m not them, and I quite frankly feel like I deserve an apology. If I don’t get one, that’s fine, but I think I will unfriend you.
I have not attacked you personally. My posting something that was addressed in general to facebook was not a personal attack. Every now and then I post similar things because I don’t like getting into fb arguments with people. I also think that recently, every time you have posted on my wall, it has been you arguing with some liberal political view I hold. That gets old quick. I am not here to try to convince people to agree with me and I am not interested in having those discussions. I have the viewpoints I have based upon my life experience and my own research. I read the opinion, I read the dissent. I agree with the dissent. And I don’t have a desire to rehash it. Life is too short to spend it arguing with people.
I don’t think I owe you an apology because I have not done anything to you. I have not singled you on fb nor would I.
If you feel you need to remove me, that’s up to you.
I don’t need to, but I want to. Because I don’t see any reason to interact with you if I can’t respectfully speak my mind. I’ve shown you no disrespect, yet you accuse me of it. I can’t understand why you would even bother coming to opinions if you aren’t willing to articulate why you have them after starting the damn conversation. Except that you didn’t start a conversation – because you “previously made it clear” (like I read every one of your posts) that you don’t want people to do anything but agree with you. As for that other “argument” we had I listened to everything you said, and agreed with you on more than you seem able to acknowledge. I can’t express honest doubts and questions about the particulars of an issue? I’m just trying to make sense of things like any reasonable person would. And then you accuse me of flaming you like I’m bullying or something? Like I’m calling you stupid? I wouldn’t have engaged you if I didn’t think you were intelligent. But there’s no use in conversing with someone who is so sure of herself that she has developed fixed beliefs that she refuses to reconsider. That’s a characteristic more typical, by the way, of republicans. If you don’t even want to debate liberals who don’t agree with everything you believe at the onset, then fair enough. It was nice knowing you.
In the end we washed the cedar chest with a hose, and though we were worried it would ruin the cedar, it didn’t. Once the chicken shit was washed away, it smelled wonderful again.