Daily Prompt Ready, Set, Done Our free-write is back by popular demand: today, write about anything — but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less.
I wonder if there is anyone who has used Facebook who has not lost friends there. I did over a really stupid thing — my friend’s fanatical position on male circumcision. I didn’t even disagree with her. The whole thing got ugly over a misunderstood motive in a misunderstood comment…
I have a friend who pretty much alienated everyone she knew because of her passionate and extremely conservative political rants and attacks during Obama’s second bid for President. Her friends are friends she’s had since junior high and with whom she shared many important experiences throughout her adult life. But because they would not agree with her (it wasn’t even see her side; they had to be convinced) that was the end of it. Facebook.
I was her Facebook friend too, back in those days, and I saw the whole ugly thing.
“I have a right to my opinion,” she said.
I thought, “No you don’t. No one does. You have a right to express that opinion, but you have opinions — we all have opinions as involuntarily as breathing. Rights come into play when we open our mouths. The other side of that is that everyone else has a right to ignore or reject our opinions…” A major point of my critical thinking class which stressed the importance of expressing fact-based and objective opinions whenever possible. The question in expressing an opinion is whether it’s going to be useful at all.
Last night we talked about it. She has decided that she doesn’t need to tell everyone what she thinks, that maybe it’s wiser to ask. Then she said, “It’s amazing how much we have in common considering how different our views are.”
I said, “I think you’re talking about politics and you know what, you don’t know my views. You THINK you know what they are but you don’t. What you need to do is ask.”
That flummoxed her and she suddenly saw that it’s not all just about waiting for people to ask HER, it’s about not rushing to a conclusion based on one small bit of something, but asking others for their ideas and opinions. So, she did.
I told her that I thought that politicians are mostly crooked; that by the time they are seeking national office, they’re interested in winning, not interested in serving.
This is what she thinks, too. She was blown away because she had never TOLD me that or TOLD me to think that.
I said that after living in California for a while, with the crowded cities and the numbers of immigrant cultures, that while I believe — in general — the fewer laws the better, when there are all of those customs rubbing against each other, laws are necessary for clarity and to help people get along.
She’d never thought of that. I said politics is important to me on the local level because the immediate needs of a population are local, not national.
“I need to be assertive,” she said. “I don’t want to be passive. I want people to know what I think because the world is messed up.”
I thought to myself, “It’s not your job to fix the world.” I didn’t say anything. It was very hard for me to understand that point, and it would never sound to anyone the way I mean it.
Having spent a whole career teaching in schools where no one (boss, administration, etc.) ever wanted to know what I thought, after numerous confrontations and ugly moments, I reached an understanding that what I think is not universally important. Anyway, not as important to me as being able to live with myself which was difficult when I’d been angry with someone over a difference of opinion. I could talk myself blue in the face and it would never change anything for the better. None of my bosses cared about my classes or my methods or my beliefs about education or about the problems I was finding with a group of students. All that mattered was that I followed the rules, showed up in the classroom, did a decent job imparting skills and knowledge, did not earn student complaints, kept the class grades down and turned in grades on time. THEIR opinions about teaching mattered; not mine.
But what mattered MOST is that my students learned.
And then there was my brother. For years I held the opinion that he should stop drinking, that he’d realize this and would give it up. I spent most of my adult life working toward that end, pushed by my opinion about what he should and would eventually do. It took a long time to realize that his opinion was different. He thought he SHOULD keep drinking and I should continue to believe he should stop so I would keep supporting him. From him I learned to look at what people do — what I do — more carefully than I listen to what people tell me. I also learned that my relentless efforts to change him were disrespectful of his right to be the person he was, however I felt about it. He wasn’t trying to change me; he was just taking advantage of the benefits of my trying to change him. I was a patsy because of my opinions.
My opinions are best served by my actions in this world.
More than 10 minutes — I took a few to proofread…