I recently had a good conversation on Facebook with someone who disagrees with me.
I know. It's weird. You might need a minute to digest it. I'll wait...
It's unusual to have a good conversation online, especially between people who disagree. There are bots and trolls who make it hard, but there are also regular people who become brave online in the worst possible way.
Anyway, I had a conversation with someone online, and we asked each other questions, and we responded to each other's answers (often with more questions) and when we were through, neither of our minds changed. And yet, and yet, and yet, we both felt heard. We both felt respected. We will both keep advocating for our gun-violence solutions - his, the building of a more respectful, nonviolent culture; mine, stricter and more responsible gun laws. We will remain Facebook friends.
Once, years ago, I got into a conversation about faith with a devoted Christian friend. She told me about a car accident she and her husband had been in. It was a terrible accident - they rolled the car - but she and her husband were unhurt, much to the astonishment of the emergency response personnel who arrived on the scene, extracting them with the jaws of life. She was convinced it was divine intervention; I was convinced it was crazy good luck. But I've loved her most of my life, and, God or no, I felt every bit as grateful as she did.
I have a friend who believes it's morally wrong to kneel during the national anthem, another who believes that our national debt is a bigger threat to future generations than climate change, and another who believes vaccinations are dangerous. I disagree with all of them, but I've never called them names, never "unfriended" them online or off, never reduced their entire humanity to a single issue on which we disagree.
That said, I'm not perfect. These are all my friends. It's a lot harder to recognize the humanity of strangers, but I think it's necessary - for our society and for ourselves, our achingly tired, outraged, heartbroken, dug-in selves. I worry about the society we're becoming, the way we talk to each other (when we even bother to talk to each other), the way we reduce each other to labels, and damn each other with the posting of cleverly constructed memes. (Made in Russia, it seems.)
I'm not saying that we have to make room at the table for the haters (the racists, the bigots, the misogynists). I'm saying maybe we need to take a breath, ask a question (or two, or three) before deciding that's what somebody is. A little more conversation, a little less vitriol. A little more heart, a little less tribalism.
A little more humanity. A little less hate.
Maybe it's not possible. I know I struggle with this all the time. But I also know that I recently had a good conversation on Facebook with someone who disagrees with me.
And I'd like more of that, please.