dwight column photo

I read Tony Messenger’s column in the Wednesday, July 29, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It was about a West County Facebook group that only allowed participants who agreed with the objective of the group which was lobbying for full-time in-person school for all students in the local school district.

Also Wednesday morning, I watched and listened to a long Facebook monologue from a youngish acquaintance whose career in a successful international bluegrass band has been put on hold.

Travis Book’s lament was similar to Tony Messenger’s, even though the topic differed. Book, who said he rarely visits Facebook, expressed exasperation with his scroll of that morning. He challenged posters from across the spectrum who are so loyal to the rightness of their own opinions that they will repost anything that supports their point of view, regardless of its source or veracity.

He supported his bully pulpit with his morning cups of coffee and treated viewers to a couple renditions of song and guitar.

The point on which I most affirmed his expressions of amazement and exasperation was one of tone. The tone of “knowing” I am right and you are wrong and “here, I will prove it” with such-and-such document. The tone of unkindness. The tone of meanness. The tone of despair, of giving up all hope.

A couple of weeks ago I got into one of those back-and-forth arguments via text with a friend over the demonstrations in Portland, Oregon. My friend was heartily approving that troops had been sent in to quell the rioters. She said that the crowd of demonstrators was laced with members of “Antifa.”

The news station I had listened to earlier that day had a very different take on the Portland situation, describing arrests made by plain-clothes federal agents with no identification who eventually released arrestees with no paperwork. My source, a media source I trust most of the time, quoted a mayor and a governor who did not want federal intervention. My friend’s source said the people of Portland must be breathing sighs of relief for the intervention.

We eventually dropped our argument with an agreement to disagree and that our old friendship was still intact.

There is so much information available to us all. It becomes nearly impossible to sort factual information from widely acclaimed misinformation.

My sister in rural Pennsylvania does not believe in the Covid-19 statistics. We have had recent demonstrations in Missouri of people who believe orders to wear masks are a form of socialist control and a violation of their rights to breathe freely.

Yes, I will be a little resentful if I have to start wearing a mask on my evening walks out-of-doors. But I believe the health authorities who tell me I am helping to “flatten the curve” by wearing a mask at my office or in the supermarket.

A friend just revealed on Facebook that she had been afflicted with a COVID-19 infection and is recovering.

“My advice,” she wrote, “ – wear the mask. Stay home. You DON’T want this. It’s HIDEOUS.”

On top of that, I think we should add for purposes of every day interactions and most especially for our social media interactions:

Be kind! Give your friends and strangers benefit-of-the-doubt. Yes, I believe I am right, but recognize that someone else believes just as strongly in their own view. And please don’t forward those tomes from your chosen sources!