By Brad Torch
I’m going to start off by assuming two things: First, if you read my piece from last week, there is a good chance you passed up on this article, and second, you are already preparing for some type of article about President Trump. Forgive me if my assumptions are incorrect. Keep in mind, that this is an opinion column. I do not claim to know everything, but if I am writing about a topic, I likely know a lot about it. I will site facts, but again, unless I say otherwise, these are solely my opinions. The Amarillo Pioneer has graciously given me a platform to express my uninhibited opinion, however that doesn’t necessarily mean the editor agrees or disagrees with my opinions.
I prefaced this article with the preceding message because last week’s article, “Tariffs Are A Bad Idea For Our Country”, elicited quite a number of responses. While there were a few respectful criticisms of my opinions on the topic, there were far more personal attacks. I absolutely can appreciate and respect others’ opinions on any subject. What is and has always been great about the U.S.A., is our liberty to have an independent opinion and to disagree others without government interference. What I do not appreciate, is blatant attacks on one’s personal attributes because they don’t agree. I have put a lot of thought into this behavior after being called “an idiot", “ignorant”, and “full of Scheisse". I have pretty thick skin, so I don’t generally take offense to these attacks, besides, I am confident in my own intelligence.
Politics have always been difficult as a discussion topic, so you have to expect disagreement, debate, and argument, but why does it so often turn into personal attack and hateful rhetoric? We are civilized human beings, but we can’t resist the chance to put someone down for their beliefs, preferences, or opinions. Might I also note that I am not just referring to supporters of any specific party or ideal. I see this behavior from individuals who identify as Democrats and Republicans. These individuals have no shame for their behavior and lack of decency and in fact, often portray a sense of pride in what they see as some type of vengeance of their beliefs.
I have a few theories as to what contributes to this behavior. First, just as some readers viewed my writings as fact, rather than opinion, I believe that in many cases some may view their own opinions as concrete fact. When one is absolutely sure they know something, they believe they are right no matter what. This inflated sense righteousness may empower them to believe they are better than those that disagree, and with no valid argument, turn to insults. Second, I believe that the advancement of social media has contributed to the growing number of “social media warriors”. Online political discussions have gained popularity and like other forms of electronic communication, have decreased personalization. Due to this, we have lost the ability to humanize others in the way we do in real life communication. It is far less likely we would call someone an idiot in real life as easily as we might on a social media thread. Lastly, I believe an individuals feeling of inferiority plays a factor in disparaging others. As many studies have shown, insecurity is found in almost all individuals that display bullying behaviors. Low self-esteem can create a complex of inferiority and the only comforting action is to attempt to make others feel equally inferior.
I am confident these are only a few of the reasons that others act in such a disrespectful and indecent manner when reacting to another’s opinion. Every individual has their own history and likely their own specific reasons for behaving so indignantly. I often say, “Do no harm”, which means, act as you will, as long as you are not harming others. It applies to many situations in life and can be a guide for those who have a difficult time being kind. From past experience I have learned, when dealing with someone who cannot control their behavior in these situations, it is best to look past the behavior and move on. I am certainly not perfect, and have engaged with these individuals, likely more often than I should. I can only learn from my mistakes and move forward. Remember, I may not always say something you agree with, but if want to change my opinion, you are more likely to do so with a kind conversation rather than throwing unfounded and crude remarks. I am always up for a healthy conversation and am always looking to learn more.