Saturday, January 10, 2015

Strange Bedfellows

The saying goes that politics makes strange bedfellows.  I think it is also true of the internet, Facebook in particular.  Now I believe that most folks have a fairly drama-free selection of interests on Facebook.  Sure, there's wacky Uncle Harold with his obnoxious politics or ditzy Cousin Isabelle with her conspiracy theories.  But we can put them on mute, avoid the annoyance and still get through family gatherings in peace. But this week I got two examples of high drama coming from the most unexpected spots and it caused me to think about just who I bounce up against on the internet.

Both, BOTH, of the incidents happened on two knitting groups.  Yep, knitting groups.   On one of them, I stumbled into a very spirited discussion (read name-calling) concerning copyrights on patterns.  Being well versed in the issues of plagiarism, this seemed like a no-brainer to me.  But, clearly, I wasn't entering into the spirit of the thing.  After close to 200 entries weighing in on the issue and taunts of "thief" and "heartless", I tuned out.   It seemed like an easy thing, don't give away things that should be paid for.  But, alas, the verbal war waged on.

The other case was more interesting and, for me, more thought provoking.  Someone on the group announced, rather dramatically, that Facebook was a very real threat to her, her family and everyone she knew and that she would be leaving in 24 hours.  Wow, I thought, that's fairly huge.  So I decided to poke around during the time remaining to see what could be so threatening.  This was not a person that I was personally acquainted with and wasn't aware of any direct interaction we might have had.  It is a huge group.  But I poked a bit and discovered a person that I could not have been more different than.  We probably wouldn't want to know each other in real life and had nothing in common beyond knitting.  In fact, I know that I wouldn't want to know her because she is involved in something that I find reprehensible.  It is an issue that many people have different opinions on, so the specifics don't really matter.

I was reminded of a time years ago when, as part of a job, I was expected to deal with a couple of people that had committed hideous acts against children.  (I declined.)  But it was pointed out to me that I had probably dealt with similar people in other arenas without knowing it.  They may have been correct, but it still seemed different to me.  And it remains that way.

The thoughts circled around and around after I read more about this woman.  What does it say about me, that I couldn't dig up any compassion for her once I figured out her situation?  I'm not sure I'm too happy about the answer to that question.  Should I consider that having one common interest allows for broadening of one's scope?  Maybe.  Does it allow both parties an opportunity to see beyond the self-adopted labels to the other's innate humanity?  Perhaps.  Should one take advantage of those opportunities, even if the other party wouldn't/couldn't?  Don't know.  But it got me thinking.

I thought about how many wars/battles/struggles/conflicts we humans carry on, frequently without thinking.  Perhaps that is just the way of humanity, but it is sad.  Throughout our history, we've carried on the battles/conflicts started by our parents, our grandparents, heck our grandparents' grandparents based on..we're no longer sure what.  The "other" looks wrong, thinks wrong, acts wrong, prays wrong, says the wrong thing and we must condemn them and oppose them because of that.  Wouldn't it be better to let bygones be bygones and drop the hate?  Of course.  But humans, as a group, don't seem to have reached a place where they can let themselves do that, yet.

So, what shall I do about my own lack of compassion?  The more I thought about it, the easier I could see that I could indeed feel sorry for this lady.  For reasons that are very real to her, she feels fear for herself and others.  Whether or not it is in fact real.  Whether or not it is a result of her own choices.  Whether or not I ever cross paths with her again.  She is a human being in fear and that is something that I can feel compassion for.

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