But does that mean we can’t respect each other? For some people, the answer, apparently, is “yes.”
I had an exchange on Twitter today with @X* which came about as a result of my declaration that I love Dick Cheney. I do. I can’t help it. I think his treatment by the press has been spectacularly unfair.
Here’s what followed:
@X: wow , I lost so much respect
@itsonlywords: Why, because I like Dick Cheney?
@X: yes, to the rest of the world, the man is a criminal
@itsonlywords: I’m sorry you feel that way.
No response. I couldn’t leave it alone, so I looked around for a stick with which to poke @X.
@itsonlywords: I’m curious. What is it exactly that you don’t like about Dick Cheney?
At this point @X could have responded with a list of reasons he doesn’t like the former VP, along with links to support his position. Or even a list with no backup. Then again, maybe not.
@X: if you have to ask, there is no use discussing it. We live in a different reality and world. Hes a criminal. I hope he rots
I believe in second (and even third and fourth!) chances, so I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.
@itsonlywords: No, seriously. List his crimes, I want to understand your position.
Apparently that question was so offensive that, not only did I not receive a response, @X blocked me. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, blocking a person prevents their updates from appearing to you.
Think about this. @X feels so strongly about Dick Cheney, it causes him to lose respect for another individual, yet when asked he can’t give even one reason why. Instead, he resorts to personal attacks, saying “if you have to ask, there is no use discussing it” (i.e., you’re too stupid to understand) and “we live in a different reality and world” (i.e., you seem to be a little off balance…are you off your meds?); he then repeats the claim that Cheney is a criminal, as though the mere fact of repetition makes it true. He feels so strongly about Dick Cheney that he calls him a criminal and hopes he rots, but can’t list a single crime.
Yet this belief, so passionately held, is apparently so fragile that it can’t withstand even the hint of a challenge. @X could simply have ignored my update about Dick Cheney; it was directed to another person, so no response was required from @X.
I found this exchange to be quite discouraging. I’ve been having great conversations via Twitter with people all across the political spectrum and this is the first time it’s ended badly. Obviously we all hold some opinions that are rooted in something other than fact. My high opinion of Dick Cheney, for example is based on my impression of him after listening to him speak and reading a few things he’s written. It may well be supported by facts, but I wouldn’t be able to cite them. Accordingly, I wouldn’t presume to challenge someone holding an opposing belief.
That a person can hold a belief so passionately with apparently so little factual basis for that belief and act so swiftly and decisively, with so little debate, leaves me without much hope for a return to civility in the public forum.
*@X’s name has been changed to protect his identity. In fairness, the possibility exists that @X could have defended is position with facts but chose not to do so; however it seems unlikely to me that a passionately held belief would not be defended if it were possible to do so.