The Unfriending

The Unfriending

All this Facebook stuff probably occupies far too much mindshare at the moment, but who can help it? If you need any proof that man is a social animal, then you need look no further than Jeff Zuckerberg’s little invention that now boasts more than 350 million users. We can’t seem to get enough of this burgeoning pastime of checking in on friends, real and faux, every twenty minutes, all day long.

Facebook has brought new people into my orbit, and sadly, has torn some away. Just in the past couple of weeks, I can cite Facebook as the catalyst for one interesting example of the latter.

As mentioned in a previous post, I sparked a bit of a tempest for unfriending a creationist. One of those who unfriended me as a result of something I said was the wife of an actual friend. For those familiar with the dynamics of marriage and friendships, you can probably already see the writing on the wall here, and indeed it came to pass. After the online exchange with the wife, contact with the friend came to an abrupt halt as well. In an attempt at rapprochement, I invited the friend to lunch, normally a weekly event for both of us.

After some perfectly civilized conversation over a sandwich, I expressed an apology to my friend for the fact that his wife took such umbrage at what I had said. I did not regret actually saying it. It was my opinion, and it was not meant as a direct affront to anyone. He disagreed and accused me of intolerance. “You think anyone who doesn’t agree with you is an idiot,” he told me, an accusation that took me by surprise. We met at a company where we both freelanced, and we bonded among other reasons, because we shared the same passionate disgust for idiocy.

At the end of the lunch, we seemed to laugh it off, but I suffered no illusions about the effect of this incident. Like broken pottery, no amount of glue will completely hide the cracks.

Then my friend, a relatively infrequent Facebook poster, stepped up his presence. Almost every status update had uber-conservative overtones — something straight out of the Glenn Beck playbook. A former military guy, the friend made no bones about his politics. This hardly bothered me as I have friends on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, and we’ve had those third-rail discussions that might have sent otherwise reasonable people into fist-fights.

My own opinions, as I’ve said in past postings, I generally keep to myself unless asked. I can’t stress that last part enough, because I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut in those situations, even when subjected to the blatherings of the most doltish jackass. Rarely at the end of their tirade will they then turn to me and ask, “And what do you think?”

As a consequence, most people don’t know what my political leanings are, and I consider that something of a triumph and accomplishment. I know full well that I will probably never by myself convince anyone to change their opinion about something, so why alienate a potential drinking buddy?

I can clarify the discussion, however. For the past twenty years, we’ve seen the rise of the BIG LIE and the corruption of meaning. What is socialism, for instance? As I understand it, it’s an economic system that employs varying degrees of government control over the means of production coupled with the forced redistribution of wealth.

Few could argue then that we don’t already have a form of socialism employed in our economic system. To say that the United States represents the last bastion of free enterprise would be an outright lie if most people weren’t so utterly ignorant of how the economy works.

In the past year, some on the conservative side — including my friend — have taken the occasion of the Obama election as an opportunity to crank up the volume of their disgust for socialism. Those of us imbued with a healthy sense of skepticism have all gotten a good laugh out of images that came from Tea Party rallies showing people holding placards telling the government not to touch their Medicare.

I’m no fan of socialism either, but I hate to break it to you: We’re already there, and we’re in it DEEP. More importantly, attempts to roll it back make lots of these very same voters unhappy.

And if you honestly don’t like socialism, ask yourself if you’re prepared to truly see the restoration of a truly capitalist, free-market economy. Do you want to see the end of public schools? The privatization of the highway system? The abolishment of the income tax? How far are you willing to take it? Is a little bit of socialism okay? Define “little bit,” then.

As it happens, my friend professed his desire to see this happen, and that’s fine. I can live with that because in all seriousness the likelihood for any of our ultimate desires to come to pass is pretty remote. As a result, I concerned myself more with the competence of who we put in power than I do with their ideology.

Which was why I voted for Obama. I mean, if you’re going to have people in office who do nothing but raise taxes and spend money, then you might as well have them be Democrats, because unlike Republicans, that’s their raison d’etre. Republicans only seem to preach fiscal responsibility when out of power. Once in power, they spend like drunken sailors. With Democrats, at least you know what you’re getting, and after 60 years of doing it, they seem to know how it works. My friend didn’t appreciate the joke.

In retrospect, the beginning of the end of this friendship came at the election. After revealing my vote to my friend, he would call me — with perplexing sincerity — a “traitor.” Okay, whatever. I didn’t take this too seriously until our last FB exchange where he posted yet another conservative declaration of some sort. Again, I called him on his assumptions, and he called me “comrade.”

And then, I was unfriended.

Liberals, conservatives, libertarians, socialists, it doesn’t matter to me. What does matter to me is integrity. If you take a stand, then own it and stay true to it. If you’re going to tell the FB universe that you do not tolerate liars and thieves, then don’t do it on a computer loaded with $1500 worth of bootlegged graphic design software. And if you rail against the threat that “political correctness” poses against free expression, then don’t get all tender and swollen when your friend makes an opinion that just happens to hit a little too close to home.

And if you’re going to accuse someone of intolerance, don’t unfriend them when you discover they don’t tow your party line.

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