One of my messages to my kids has always been that it’s okay to get upset about how someone behaves, but that everyone has a right to think whatever they think. So if someone does not treat them well, they have both a right and a responsibility to address the problem, to confront the behavior and/or separate themselves from that person. But they do not have the right to impose their views on someone else.Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t always operate under those guidelines. All too often, people respect freedom of thought–so long as the other person’s thoughts match their own. Gun rights/control. The definition of marriage. Immigration. Healthcare. The topics are endless. From talking heads on TV to people I meet daily, we seem to have arrived at a point where too many people believe they have the only acceptable point of view.
Personally, I think extreme, all-or-nothing positions are usually intellectually lazy, but the truth is: I don’t care very much what other people think. Everyone is free to believe whatever they believe; and I’m pretty sure it’s all but impossible to convince someone to change ‘sides’ through a public conversation once they have dug in anyway. How many Facebook ‘wars’ does it take to demonstrate that? So all I really care about is how people ACT on their beliefs. I’m fine with ‘live and let live’–so long as how you want to live does not harm other people. And I expect to be allowed to do the same.
So in the spirit of acceptance, I have a few simple requests of the world this evening:
- Decide whether or not we are friends before you include me in your Facebook world. Simple, right? Then, if I take a different position than yours on a topic–live with it. If I mock you–feel free to unfriend me. If I get into an extended, unfriendly back-and-forth–unfriend away. And rest assured, neither of those will happen. But if I’m voting for a different candidate for governor or I have the audacity to post a status update from a steakhouse rather than liking your picture of a tofu sandwich–lighten up. (For the record, this one was inspired by a high school friend who decided there was only one morally acceptable presidential candidate in 2012. She unfriended me without even telling me she had done so, and I haven’t heard from her since. Really?)
- If you don’t know me, keep your thoughts on my Redskins t-shirt to yourself. I’ve been a fan of the team my whole life, and yes: as I do not live in a cave, I am aware of the controversy related to the name. Obviously I’ve made up my own mind. It’s fine if you disagree, but I will probably not react well if you decide to play t-shirt police. (This one?–Inspired by the stranger at a swim meet this morning who quickly re-thought his choice to voice a critical opinion of my shirt.)
- My wife and I will decide whether and at what age our kids are allowed to have cell phones, social media accounts, and pretty much everything else. Have I ever used the word ‘should’ in a conversation about your kids? (Easy answer: No.) That’s something to think about.
Actually, the best example of this philosophy in my own life is my relationship with my son’s godparents. We have been friends for over 25 years, and partly because of a 20 year age difference we see the world in almost completely opposite ways on almost all things political. So we do banter, but we also accept one another. It is still possible.
Earlier this evening, I read tweets by ESPN’s Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) quoting Michael Sams in response to Tony Dungy’s statement a few days ago that he would not have drafted Sams because of media distractions: “Thank God [Dungy] wasn’t the St. Louis Rams coach. (laughs) I have a lot of respect for Coach Dungy. And like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.” Well said, Mr. Sams. Well said.