I had to block a friend on my social media last night.
It was a decision that was essentially made for me a week or so ago, but I elected, like an idiot, to prolong it for a bit, hoping for a change, praying for smoother waters, allowing this person to create their own whirlwind of hate, lapping up waves of social alienation through imagined discourse between us. I walked away after about 70 or so messages directed at me, most of which were private, some of which were public, where in every response I tried to reason, to connect,to cajole, and was met with anger and insult and lies and rage.
And this is what I realized.
If there is only one thing I will own for the rest of my life, it is my name. I do not care if you are conservative or liberal, independent or politically agnostic, but you will never troll me and win.
You will not.
I have made a conscious decision to engage with folks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, on this blog, in person and on the phone. I am pretty damn open both with my opinions as well as creating a safe space for others to contradict what I think without fear of retribution. As a result, I have become a stronger and better advocate and ally. I’ve also been schooled in understanding my own inherent privilege, and I learn.
But the moment folks arm themselves with name calling and race baiting as proper weapons in a directed online war, the minute how I look is suspect to what I believe, I am out.
Here’s a piece of me: I am a white lady Hebrew from New England. My parents are middle class. My mom is a social worker, my dad makes popcorn and sometimes he writes. My brother lives with paralysis, and also a dog. I’ve worked many different kinds of jobs over the years, and have been fortunate through those experiences to meet many different kinds of people. I have liberal friends, conservatives, people who would rather talk fashion and shoes, those in luxury dwellings and those in unstable housing. Doctorates and high school diplomas. Most are folks in between.
Everyone has faced at least one moment in their life when survival seemed implausible. And yet that’s what we did. It’s part of the reason people connect, and part of the reason why online discourse can be key. We share. These stories remind us why we are here. They keep us alive. And others show us how to live.
Her majesty Oprah Winfrey, the People’s OWN Pope, once quoted Maya Angelou: “when someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
Everyone likes to point to the conservative tea party as those crazy folks blind to reason. Here’s the sad truth: that militant fanaticism is also alive and well for those left of center, and it will eat the liberal party alive.
If you bully your way through, successes will be short and ineffective. Look to the people who influence, and understand why they successfully lead and sustain. How they make us feel. If you’re in the political/advocacy world, try this fun two minute exercise! Close your eyes, and remember that we are human. Try to act humane.
Open your eyes. Eat some popcorn. The popcorn is key.
When you are surrounded solely by people who think like you and act like you, when your friends and allies have been silenced and judged, when your connections are based in anger and trauma and – most importantly – you know only how to inflict the same, you’ve forgotten what it means to lead. You have become a living wound.
A friend, aware of last night’s mishegoss, sent me a graphic: “Keep calm and don’t feed the troll.”
Breathe. Listen. Learn. Block those who are unable or unwilling to do the same. Repeat. Breathe.