I was recently unfriended by a classmate from high school. I didn’t hang out with her in high school, and I am sure we wouldn’t hang together now, but she was in my Facebook footprint because our whole class seems to be in touch with one another’s lives, and I like that.
This person was — and is today — the goody two-shoes type. You know the one. Always looked put together. Everything she posts on Facebook is filled with “God’s Blessings” and celebrations with her children and grandchildren. We see her flying in her husband’s small plane. A lot. We see pictures of her perfectly laid-out home. The good deeds she does. She is surrounded by the applause of those who read her posts, and aside from the applause and vanity posts, there is nothing of substance that she writes about. I say this because what happened between us has made me realize that it’s the choice most of us make in our Facebook life scrap books. I’m no different. We look our best. Present our best and perpetuate the lie that all of our lives are fabulous – every minute of every day. We present our best foot forward without stepping anywhere near the land mines of our lives.
I do have a friend from high school who is a real friend outside of Facebook. We hung out in high school, and while we haven’t seen each other over the years, we speak on the phone from time to time and the conversations go on for hours and they show our best and worst selves. He shares many of my politics, but he also challenges my thinking. He is much better read than me, and smarter, probably. He certainly did better in class; I think he graduated third or fourth or something out of more than four hundred and fifty students. In the interest of full disclosure, I graduated in the lower quarter of my class. I missed not graduating by one percentage point, and my father often pointed out that I know how to ride the fine line between success and failure. My dad was a glass half-full guy. Back to what happened. My friend EJ is smart. He doesn’t filter.
A few days ago, I woke up, got some coffee and went to look at Facebook.
There was a post from HD (my unfriended past “friend”) that was a picture of a man’s silhouette on a shooting target, with a large hole over the heart, where the bullets had clearly hit their mark, and a comment (I can’t quote it exactly because I have since been banned from all things HD) that read, “50 rounds from my husband hit the mark during our concealed weaponry class. I can count on him to protect me if I need it.” I think I should mention here that her husband is a doctor, and if I’m not mistaken, he might even be a cardiologist. Ah the irony of it all.
I had a visceral reaction. Her Christian-minded posts about love and God just didn’t seem to mesh with the fact that she was saying her husband would blow out of the water anyone who threatened her. Yikes. Then I started to read through the comments, and there was EJ at 2:00 AM. I think his first post said something like, “What is the point of this?” But alas, he didn’t leave it at that, he then he went on to say he shouldn’t post in the middle of the night because he had nothing good to say. And, then he went on to say nothing good. He was sorry, but …
Then HD’s son said, “If you were really sorry you would apologize.”
As alluded to earlier, I struggle with the nice-niceness of Facebook, and how everyone only posts the fabulous things in their life or the deaths and other important losses; the day-to-day sadness, philosophical disagreements, and challenges are rarely there. I think there is room for both. But someone has to start that ball rolling. I have also recently recognized that I have a voice, and I have opinions, and that voicing those opinions is part of what matters in life as well. How you voice them matters. I have struggled of late not to care what others think, but instead to care about what I think, and how to voice it in a way that is not personal and not accusatory. It’s better than just saying, “Yay you!” or “Congrats!” or worse yet, not responding at all.
I decided to come to EJ’s aid. I said I thought his response had been made with the best of intentions, if perhaps not the best of his words. I then said something like, “I beg you to reconsider carrying a concealed weapon.” I then went on to lay out the case for why I thought it. Then I said that one of the great things about being an American is that we can all voice our opinions and exercise our rights inside the laws of our land. I recognized her right to disagree. I also said I’d been held up at gunpoint in New York City in my early twenties, and that I never once since then wished I’d had a gun with me during the robbery. God Bless America. I thought adding the God reference might help.
I was unsettled after posting, but I also felt that EJ should not have to stand alone, and that standing your ground is not just a physical thing you do in Florida and other lawless places, but also something one has to do in conversations with “friends” on Facebook. I’m not the one who posted a man’s outline with fifty bullets through the heart — right after a post about the love of family and God. I mean, seriously.
By the end of the day, I was banned from all things HD. I received a number of private messages from mutual friends supporting me, but I have no idea where the conversation went publicly because the minute HD didn’t like what was said, she cut off the conversation, but only with me. I’m sure she leaned on the support of fellow concealed weapon carriers, but as far as EJ and I are concerned, we are out of the loop.
I laughed. At her. At myself. At my ridiculous “friends” list on Facebook, which has nothing to do with the real meaning of the word friends. And I felt it was yet another confirmation that those who choose to see things like guns only in black and white, who cannot even acknowledge another point of view, are dangerous people. I do see her right to have the gun. I did not attack her. I even acknowledged that she might have the same response to abortion were I to post something with a picture of the woman’s right to choose. Well, I think we can all agree that my efforts were in vain.
So bye-bye HD, and those around her who also unfriended me. I have a feeling you all felt that you “got me.” You did not. All you did was shut the door of conversation. You tightened the blinders under which you run your personal race on your personal race track filled with only horses that don’t challenge you at the finish line. Your loss. And my loss too, for discourse in this country is gone and we are all the worse for it. I would love to have heard why someone who seems to value life from a Bible mandate could put up that picture – that silhouette – that shadow of a nameless man who could have been Travon, or worse yet, someone I love, with the giddiness that sings of the fun surrounding it all. Convince me. Explain to me why. And that is really the sad part of this story.
Facebook’s lost potential as a place of debate, discourse, and celebration – a place of teaching and learning from others, will never be as long as the HD’s of the world unfriend the person that might have taught them something outside their own world’s view. And, HD might have given to me the same in return.
My name is Christine and I was unfriended. Alas.
And, here is EJ’s comment on my post here.
Thank you Christine for being a person of conscience. My original comment was perhaps that I thought it a monumental waste of time for people to use guns as sport. I was not raised in that sort of culture. I wrote that I had “the governor” off my personal editor when I submitted my comment in the early morning and in fact wrote what I thought. I only subsequently hesitated on the tone of my message but not the message. It escapes me frankly that educated folks, medically trained individuals in particular, find the time to own and work with guns. I find it patently absurd to even have them in a home where children might visit. You folks all know the arguments on this topic, both sides.
So, it was never my need to have support in any argument I’ve made but I appreciate Christine’s willingness to stand apart, or in front. She always had a great mind of her own and has honed it over the years. I appreciate her inflating my academic standing while in High School as well.