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Button Sunday

October 10th, 2010 (05:43 am)

Last week, Tim talked about going to College Station to be part of the official photo shoot for the NOH8 campaign. He brought me back this button! Thanks, Tim. He also let me take a couple of photos with Rex and Pixie before he scrubbed his face clean.

Dogs don't hate.

For anyone who doesn't know, NOH8 was born as a means of protesting California's hateful Proposition 8. All funds raised by the NOH8 Campaign are used to promote and raise awareness for marriage equality and anti-discrimination on a global level through an educational and interactive media campaign. This matters to me foremost as a simple matter of justice--we should all be equal under the law. And on a personal level, I have gay and lesbian friends who I believe should have the same rights as me.

October 11, Monday, is National Coming Out Day. That's been on my mind a lot in the context of the current wave of publicity and action arising from the suicides (the ones we know about) of kids who've been bullied or tormented in school or at home. As a longtime advocate and ally on behalf of those who are GLBTQ, I never stop believing that straight people have a moral duty to provide our voices and safe places on behalf of those who are marginalized and harassed.

Yet I find it so frustrating when those who deplore hate speech and believe it creates a climate conducive to violence descend to that same level. When we dehumanize those with whom we don't agree, when we talk of hurting or destroying those who anger us, when we call them horrible names, we are hardly creating an environment that feels safe for anyone to thrive as themselves.

I have friends I could call out on this. That's not how I operate. But for the past week or so, it's been crazy how people I respect, like, even love, have given me just as much heartburn on my social networks and in e-mail as those who line up way to the other side of where I stand on many issues.

I've never quite been able to compose a post that adequately describes my conflicting feelings about Facebook, but here's one of the reasons I struggle with it. I welcome the concept that people are free to believe what they believe, even if what they believe is radically different from what I believe. Certainly there are people in my life who don't see things the way I do. But I have to be honest: Most of those people are friends or family members of long standing. I love and cherish them. I respect their right to see things another way from me, even when those beliefs vex and hurt me, and more achingly, when I know they are potentially hurtful, even harmful, to the well-being of other people I love and cherish.

However, I don't seek out or welcome new people into my life whose beliefs will vex or hurt me, or who would be thoughtless or cruel to those I cherish and love. As an analogy, if every person is a book, I know there are a lot of books out there that I don't want to read. I won't burn them. I won't ban them. I won't fight to remove them from the shelves. But there are so many other wonderful books that I'd rather spend my time reading, and it's part of my liberty to do so.

Facebook consistently agitates me with people who I might have known long ago, or people who've connected with me through other contacts, who say things and link to things that I find insulting, demeaning, even cruel. For a while, I found myself "hiding" people so I didn't get that stuff pushed in my face every day--until the occasion on someone else's wall when someone said hiding people on Facebook is passive aggressive "defriending." It IS. So I did a huge "friends" purge. I got rid of the people who either update, or get comments, on their walls, in ways that I feel are hateful or defamatory (even inflammatory), or who consistently link to public figures whose beliefs I would never promote or want to be connected to. I try to fill my life with people who build up others, who look for solutions, who are positive and affirming. So why would I clutter my online life with hate, divisiveness, bigotry, and destruction?

Some of the people I "unfriended" were people I know never read me; I'm only a number to bolster their hundreds to thousands of "friends" because they use Facebook as a networking tool. In the case of writers I deleted, I'm aware of their work through sources other than Facebook, and I didn't necessarily want frequent updates on their works in progress or their personal lives--just as I know they have no interest in me or mine. I'm not offended by that, and neither should they be.

Finally, I deleted many of those who asked that we be "friends" but who've never interacted with me, shown any interest in my work or my life, or with whom my only connection is that we once might have shared the same school or town. If they are genuinely interested in me, my LiveJournal is always here, always open. My e-mail address is published everywhere. I doubt they even noticed I fell off their contact list.

But what do I do about people I know "in real life," whose company and time I've enjoyed in the past, but whose status updates consistently run contrary to ideals and principles I hold dear? I really haven't figured it out yet. If they wrote those things on my wall, I'd react for sure. But on their own Facebook walls, they have the right to say whatever they want, and I don't have the energy or enthusiasm to debate or refute them--knowing from experience what a futile effort that is. But does my silence, while my face and name are right there on their friends' lists, imply approval? Agreement?

There are times I get so irritated by it all that I want to deactivate my Facebook account, but it provides a convenient, one-stop location for people who live far away and with whom I enjoy staying in touch--in enough numbers that e-mail would be cumbersome, even daunting. So I hover above that option but don't take it. And I wonder if the people whose beliefs are so antithetical to mine have hidden me long ago, so they don't have to see my occasional links and notes and updates that might vex and trouble them?

No real answers here. But one thing's for sure--I'll get it worked out long before the next election season for my own peace of mind.


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