September 13, 2008

I Found My Enemies and They Are Me

One thing I'm learning this semester: don't read the comments. With all the hype from the election, I've been taking a more political stance in my columns for the Daily Nebraskan of late. Of course, for an environmental columnist that generally means aligning with Democrats in an overwhelmingly Republican state.

So in the last few weeks, I've been called close-minded, cave-dwelling, childish, and, worst of all, a "hater." Despite the comfort I can take from the fact that these commenters aren't actually reading my comments (because if they were they would have read the part where I wrote I'm not opposed to offshore drilling and wouldn't be ragging on me for that), these comments bother me. I suppose the previous sarcastic biting sentence is proof of that.

One commenter actually suggested that I'm too young to get it and won't until I "grow up and start paying taxes." I wonder if I can send him my receipts for this year's property taxes and vehicle taxes and demand that he pay them in exchange for reading my juvenile columns. I wonder if I could send him the closing documents from my last mortgage closing and see if he can figure out what error it took the title company three tries to fix. I wonder if I could get him to spend six years living on ten grand a year and then ask him about the dent energy bills make in his pocketbook after telling him he obviously doesn't understand what it's like to be grown up.

Oooo. Yeah, I'd say it bothers me. I seriously considered deleting all of the above, taking the high ground, but hell, I'm not perfect either.

You see, once I get over the wounded, hurt, mildly shocked, bewildered ("why can't we have civil discourse without belittling each other?") slightly broken-hearted feeling, then I get mad. I get pissed. And I want to show them all what idiots they are. I want to show them I'm not stupid. They are stupid.

But they aren't. They probably aren't even mean, or vindictive, or unfeeling if you met them in person. They probably love their wives, husbands, kids, parents, friends, and country. Something in the culture has just broken down. Something allows us to think that anyone who disagrees with us must do so because they aren't as smart as we are, or as experienced, or as knowledgeable. If they just knew they'd surely agree. And the fact that they don't in the face of our oh so generous attempts to enlighten them just means that they don't want to and suddenly a difference of opinion becomes a grave offense.

So, what alternative is left to me? Perhaps I shouldn't read the comments. (And perhaps that policy which doesn't allow staff to make their own comments, which I so disparaged upon hearing it, is actually really wise.) Hey, at least they aren't calling me some of the things they call the other columnists. Somehow it feels like the malicious comments on other's columns should hurt just as much, but they don't. Yet somehow, not reading the comments feels like chickening out. They took the time to read my column after all. Shouldn't I be in touch with what other people think? I shouldn't write them off the way they've written me off, should I? The Dharma tells us our greatest teachers are our greatest enemies.

Yeah, I'll just keep telling myself that why don't I?


Stephen Parks Bell said...

If it don't apply, let it fly.

greenfrog said...

There is so much to be learned by how the things that get under our skin get under our skin.

...our greatest teachers are our greatest enemies.

Literally, among the greatest insights I've had in recent years have come as a result of an internet friend with whom I clashed unexpectedly and repeatedly year after year. It wasn't until I got tired of the repetitious suffering that I turned toward the unhappiness enough to see it, rather than responding with aversion.

Good luck.

(missed you at Shambhala a couple of weeks ago.)

Elisabeth said...

I read somewhere once that our greatest enemy is that which tells us to hate that which is different. As you point out, these people are not the enemy, though they may say hateful or belittling things to you. They may, in reality be very nice people. But the real enemy here is whatever it is that has taught them to say these hateful and belitting things to those they disagree with, in this case, you.

wolfie185 said...

I have to remember Rule 62 "don't take myself so damn serious". On the bright side you said yourself they were a bit nicer to you than others, which is a plus. I am the only liberal minded person in a company of 25 people, some of my co-workers are of the nasty Neo-con variety, when we go on break they are liable to spout stuff from Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Beck and the rest. What I do most of the time is just wonder away and block out the conversation by looking off to the distance concentrate on the sounds of nature, thing is I figured out a long time ago it wasn't worth my energy to get into a pissing contest with these type of people. My core beliefs are very strong and can not be change and their ignorance/prejudices are just as strong. As I try living a life of compassion I learned to turn the radio or TV off or to a different channel if something is messing with my inter peace. If I am in the right spiritual frame of mind I can handle listening to stuff that grates me but if I am not then I need to move away from it. Most of the time I don't tell things get to me but once in a while I find myself flipping the bird to someone they are interviewing on NPR and when I do this I know it is time to turn the radio off or lose my serenity, my choice of whether I want to stay in my own ignorant illness or move on to peace of mind. The people in my life who upset me are very much my teachers when it comes to living a life of compassion and kindness, doesn't mean I like them any better just that I don't let them "live rent free inside my head", I am responsible for my own serenity and degree of suffering.
Thanks for the post, keeps me on my toes and makes me reflect on where I am at on the path.