Welcome, Beth, who wrote the post I've been meaning to write for WEEKS.
This summer, the internet appears to have caught a case of False Dichotomy-tosis. With every opinion on a major news story comes a flurry of memes, charts, and comments announcing that that’s YOUR WRONG OPINION and this is MY RIGHT ASSERTION OF REALITY and our positions on this topic are mutually exclusive. It seems we need a way to acknowledge that the limited characters in our social media discourse don’t always afford space for a complete expression of thought.
I hate to diagnose a problem without offering a cure, so here’s my proposal: if you’re posting about current events or other controversial topics (or topics that you can’t believe are controversial but trust-me-they-will-be-when-you-expose-them-to-the-scrutiny-of-your-Facebook-friends), just end the post with #Nuance as sort of a modern footnote telling the reader, “I have more to say but I’m out of time, and you’re out of interest. Please don’t make a bunch of weird assumptions based on this post, cool?” I understand that the world really doesn’t need another hashtag, but it seems from scrolling my feeds that we need a short way to introduce some fine print on our tweets and status updates.
Post: Caitlyn Jenner is brave. #Nuance
#Nuance meaning: My definition of “brave” is expansive, and I see bravery as a broad spectrum of risk-taking worthy of admiration. By calling Ms. Jenner “brave,” I don’t mean to rule out the possibility that there are other brave people in the world or other people who are markedly more brave than she is. I don’t qualify all of my statements on bravery because that seems rude. For example, I wouldn’t say to a friend who just launched a start-up, “hey, that’s brave of you! I mean, obviously not like the bravery of our men and women in uniform or people battling cancer…but I still admire your entrepreneurial spirit.” Or “My Dad is really my hero…he’s not like, Superman or an astronaut or a Navy Seal. But, I still hold him in high esteem.”
Post: Black lives matter. #Nuance
#Nuance meaning: By recognizing the tragedy and existence of institutionalized racism, I don’t mean to discount other lives. Of course, all lives matter—it’s just that we have some serious systemic problems. Also, I think almost all police officers are dedicated public servants and heroes. But a few aren’t, and that hurts everyone, including the excellent police officers.
Post: I’m totally torn up about Cecil the Lion. #Nuance
#Nuance meaning: By expressing my sadness about the senseless death of one of Earth’s most magnificent creatures, I don’t intend to display callousness about anything else, including (but not limited to) other endangered species, abused animals, children, the unborn, individuals living in poverty, dentists who don’t slaughter wild animals, etc. I also don’t intend to express any opinion about (1) the type of hunting that, say, your uncle does, (2) eating meat, or (3) global climate change.
Post: I think Mike Huckabee’s comments on the Iran deal disqualify him from serving as Commander in Chief. #Nuance
#Nuance meaning: I don’t know much about the Iran deal because I haven’t read it, and I bet you haven’t either. I also don’t pretend to understand all of the social, economic, cultural, historic, and religious forces that influence Middle Eastern dynamics. That said, I think the Iran deal is scary, too. What I’ve heard worries me. But I think references to World War II should only be used to talk about what actually happened during World War II. I think speaking only in hyperbole jeopardizes our ability to rationally debate ideas. And I think the leader of the free world ought to be more sensitive and careful than that
Post: Donald Trump shouldn’t be Commander in Chief. #Nuance
#Nuance meaning: I, too, am fed up with the gridlock in Washington and politics as usual. I don’t trust most politicians, and I worry about the state of our government. I think we need leaders who have demonstrated success outside of government to have any chance at reforming government. However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want a POTUS with some knowledge of foreign affairs (aside from incendiary talking points) and some level of humility.
Post: Hillary Clinton should never have used her private email at work. #Nuance
#Nuance meaning: Yes, I’m a woman. And I would very much like a woman to be president. But, more than that, I value transparent and open government. I would also like our POTUS to be more cognizant of cybersecurity issues and to be willing to be inconvenienced by 50 devices if that’s what it takes to keep our information safe. What’s that? Oh…yes, I would feel the same way if Ms. Clinton were male.
Here’s the thing: we don’t have to stake out these extremes, and doing so is reductive and unworthy of our democracy. Our social media discourse matters, so we should elevate it by asking questions, fleshing out ideas, and, respectfully engaging with each other. If we can’t or won’t do those things, we can at least stop assuming that someone is against everything we believe in based on a single tweet. You can believe in gun control and care about the Second Amendment. You can acknowledge the existence of man-made climate change and God (for that matter, you can even acknowledge global warming on a snowy day). You can be against drug use and pro-legalization. You can pray every night and believe prayer in school is problematic. We can and should examine our positions and allow for depth in both our own perspectives and the perspectives of others. Go forth and tweet, facebook, and blog—just make space for the entirety of the conversation.
Beth is a mom, wife, sister, friend, and HR executive. She's also on a journey to become a yoga teacher. She likes watermelon, reality television, and politics.
This post sparked a discussion between Beth and I ... that turned into an idea... that turned into a podcast - Pantsuit Politics!