Now that I have a column, I’ve have people commenting on what I have to say. I knew that going in, yet I was surprised when I found comments posted the first time I read it online, which I thought was pretty early in the morning. And they weren’t that supportive, either. I’m not sure why or what I said to elicit such responses, all I said was that I was going to talk about change. But then, people resist change.
And people have their opinions, some long held; certainly some of mine are. Like the importance of safe, reliable public transit. Like the protection of local food production and green space. Like the revitalization of the urban core. Like the well-being of some of our more vulnerable citizens; the young, old, sick, and the poor. Like the importance of dialogue, debate, and discussion to the effective functioning of a democracy.
I also believe that we can do anything we want; that there is no limit to the brilliance that can shine from the depths of the darkness that we sometimes find ourselves in. But we’re not going to find that brilliance if we don’t cultivate some space for it to shine in. If we shoot down the thoughts and opinions of others because they don’t fit with either our worldview or our sense of self, we’ll never grow beyond ourselves. And none of us are finished growing yet. We have to open ourselves up to the thoughts of others, to their experiences, to understand their place under the sun, to see how we fit with them.
Isn’t it beautiful that we all have the right to speak our opinions under our freedom of speech laws?
As a writer, I always wonder if anyone reads what I write, whether anyone agrees, and if they don’t, where they think I’m wrong. Letters sent to the Editor are not sent to me (I don’t think) but the online comments are posted directly for all to see. Comments appear almost as instantly as they are contrived. Often people are driven by emotion to respond quickly and the internet is happy to provide a complicit companion. The anonymity of it all only adds fuel to the fire.
I don’t mind, I can take it. I don’t believe there is anything anyone can say to me that someone hasn’t already said. My roots are in the immigrant east end of Hamilton, just down the street from the steel mills and I was teased as a child (who wasn’t?). I’m well read; there aren’t many words I don’t know. Some call me argumentative, sometimes I’m just the devil’s advocate (or the poor, the downtrodden, the mentally ill…). I don’t hold my opinions lightly, but I like to think I have an inquiring mind, one that is open to explore all perspectives of my opinion. I’m a reasonable person, I can be talked to.
I just wonder what message people think they’re trying to relay when their language is dismissive or insulting, trying to bully people to their perspective?
I’ve long been interested in what people leave in the comments section of online news sites. For a time, I collected the comments on news articles that dealt with gender or women. I noticed that articles that dealt with those issues pulled in sometimes hundreds of comments, many of them downright abusive, although the sites themselves are listed as moderated.
Comments are welcome and encouraged. Dialogue is part of discussion. I look forward to hearing the thoughts of my readers, I’m not just interested in spouting my own. But believe that I’m not speaking out of a hole in my head; I do try to give consideration to my argument so as not to inflame or incite. I can only ask that you do the same.