A Facebook friend who I hadn’t spoken with in at least a decade challenged me to debate him on politics. I was a little taken aback by the message. He didn’t say hi or even acknowledge that it’s been awhile since we’ve talked. He went straight for the kill:
Ok, I'll play. Prepare for new arguments. Give me an issue that's important to you. "I think it's important for the government to ____" (health care, foreign policy, education, welfare...)
I ignored the first message, thinking that he meant it for someone else, but then he reached out again.
Just to clarify, I'm letting you pick the most important, easily defendable issue. I don't need all the talking points or statistics.
I declined, citing that I don’t really enjoy arguing politics over Facebook. (That doesn’t me it doesn’t happen, I just try to back out of them as quickly as possible.) I also noted that it’s been a long time since we talked in person and I didn’t really know about his political beliefs were shaped.
When I talk politics, I at least like knowing a little bit where a person is coming from. That allows me to extend some empathy towards their positions and softens my rage towards opinions and views outside of my own.
I also think a myriad of factors influence our politics. It’s not like choosing a sports team. So, on Facebook today, I thought I’d hash out where some of my beliefs come from.
Being a lifelong Boy Scout, attending an environmental boarding school, being an environmental studies major and working for the park service all shaped my views on the environment. And I suppose playing in the woods as a kid helped as well.
Being the son of two public school educators helped shape my views on public education and unions and their importance.
My mom, who worked with immigrants from all over the world for a good portion of her career, introduced me to numerous immigrants who dispelled the negative stereotype portrayed in the media. I believe the fear-mongering that is so prevalent towards immigrants in our country is so, so dangerous.
Having a brother who was adopted from El Salvador and who is on the spectrum made me passionate about issues related to race and mental illness. Seeing my parents struggle to keep up with the paperwork and the other issues made me furious over how little is understood about mental illness.
Having a cousin get killed in the Iraq War filled me with rage over the wars fought in the last decade. It made me realize that big, foreign actions have very real consequences. And that we need to take better care of veterans.
The Catholic Church, especially Catholic Social teaching and Benedictine spirituality, shaped my views on the need to help those less fortunate and be a more compassionate person.
Having a relative and friends who are Gay and Lesbian made me believe that gay marriage should be right. Seeing their shame and hiding their true selves made me believe in it.
Maybe I’ll debate my friend when I see him in person, but Facebook filters and aggregates things to make it look like it knows the complexities of people’s beliefs, but it doesn’t. Things are always more complicated than we’d like them to be. And I think it’s better that we recognize that.