Monday, January 16, 2017

When Twitter Works

I had the most amazing Twitter conversation with someone. It was amazing because we were able to have a civil, respectful discourse about politics. There was no talking at each other, no screaming and no accusation. On top of that, we were able to get our points across using groups of 140 characters or less, which for two writers, almost never happens.
I don’t know how she feels about my writing this, so I’m not going to name her. But she’s a best-selling writer I’ve admired for years. She’s an Iraqi war veteran, an officer in the Army and she brings that experience into her books. She’s currently getting her PhD at Duke. She’s been featured on PBS and has written widely about her military experience. In other words, she smart and powerful and mighty.
While she’s not sure we’re on different sides of the political aisle (we didn’t actually label ourselves), if we’re not, we definitely don’t agree on everything. But that didn’t matter. And it shouldn’t, because it’s possible for people to disagree to still have meaningful conversations (I would have said “expected,” but these days, I can’t.).
She tweeted her dismay at people potentially boycotting LL Bean because of a board member’s support of Trump. Because I am familiar with her, and have never seen her tweet anything disrespectful—that’s not to say she’s not passionate about things—I responded.
While my knee-jerk reaction is to boycott any company associated with a message of hate, after speaking with her and thinking about it, I’m not sure one board member’s association is enough to warrant it—if you think about it, it’s quite a high standard to start requiring and one which I’m confident would result in failure all around. And although it does leave a bad taste in my mouth, I’m pausing before making a decision that is right for me. I think I’m going to have to do a lot of that for the foreseeable future.
We talked about the need to balance support for companies that bring jobs to the US versus making our displeasure known when those companies show their support for hate. I talked as a civilian, Jewish woman. She talked as an Army officer from a small mill town. We both talked about our intolerance of hate.
In the end, we both agreed with the larger picture, we both expressed fear for the future, and we both appreciated our being able to discuss things clearly and rationally.
There’s a huge risk to starting or entering into these conversations on social media. You don’t know what kind of Pandora’s box you might be opening. And I’m not sure that someone else won’t respond angrily to something either one of us said. Freedom of speech is a scary thing right now. But we were careful with each other and we kept a common goal in mind—hatred, regardless of who it’s directed at, is never okay. And with respect, we can find our similarities even among our differences.

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