A strange thing happens sometimes when people are communicating with the outside world, separated by their own domiciles and a computer keyboard. It’s the same sort of bizarre Incredible-Hulk-like transformation that happens when some of those same people are propelled down the highway, wrapped in several tons of steel and plastic and someone cuts them off on the highway.

Road rage.

Only, I think we need a better term for what I’m thinking of this morning. “Political Rage” just doesn’t seem quite right, because I’ve seen plenty of virtual and “IRL” (“In Real Life”) people thrown under the bus (so to speak) on the pages of the internet over things other than politics. Something about being at the helm of a computer gives us this same sort of Wizard of Oz power that makes us feel we have the entitlement to not only reveal and display others’ weaknesses, but do so in a manner that forgets that other people are… well… people. Made in the image of God, some of us claim. People. With  a soul and a heart, and feelings. But we forget that when we feel we have this mysterious power given us when we’re shielded from the world by a few tons of metal or …a few ounces of computer keyboard. Sometimes it’s rage, sometimes it’s just plain old thoughtlessness. We say things on facebook or online that we wouldn’t dare say to them in person.

I have a policy (it should be stricter) about not posting anything political on Facebook. Every single time I’ve done it, I’ve regretted it. My “friends list” is about perfectly divided down party ranks. The only thing that reveals where I stand politically is my declaration of being a “bleeding heart libertarian” on my main page. That’s as deep as I’m going to get on social media, until I either grow more courage or more wisdom on how to broach topics that bring out that sort of keyboard rage in people. I’d much rather use facebook for seeing cute pictures of my high school friends’ children and far away friends’ daily life than as a soapbox for shouting out my political beliefs and/or finding people that agree with me.

Why? Because for me, it doesn’t work. I find I can’t adequately explain myself, and the medium quickly gets out of control. My policy, for example, was formed after I watched my peace-loving former pastor get painfully “smacked down” on a friend’s comment thread, by someone who didn’t even know him, and by someone he didn’t even know. He was gracious in his response, but I couldn’t help but feel gobsmacked that the medium had that kind of potential for vitriolic interchange. So, since then, I’ve tried to avoid anything that has a high potential for debate on facebook. It’s just not worth it.

Others of my friends, however, have a better gift for communication than I do, and one, yesterday, posted this amongst the varying commentary that littered my newsfeed on the new healthcare mandate that the Supreme Court of the US deemed constitutional recently. I’ve reposted it here with his blessing.

I’ve tried to not post all that much political stuff on here over the last year or so, but there’s a photo of what’s supposed to look like a newspaper article going around Facebook that has pushed me over the edge.

It reads: “The Food Stamp Program, administered by the US Dept of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of free meals and food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the US Dept of the Interior, asks us to, “Please Do Not Feed the Animals.” Their stated reason for the policy is because the animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves. This ends today’s lesson.”

If you agree with this sentiment, that this analogy totally works, that food stamp recipients are essentially the same as a batch of squirrels at Yellowstone looking for scraps, I’d appreciate it if you’d just defriend me. Not just on here, in real life.

However, first, I’d like it if you sent me a note, either on my wall or as a message letting me know that you think I’m a bad person. That I failed America and God and my family and everyone by taking WIC coupons when Tara and I were really struggling, when all I could find was intermittent, unreliable freelance work. Let me know that you think we were just like animals that needed to be trained. That the author of this damn quote is right. Feel free to have complex rational thoughts about food stamps or public assistance, but if you want to make stupid, insensitive comparisons, thoughtlessly without regard for the real people who see this crap (and I’m aware liberals do the same thing sometimes, thanks), I’d appreciate if you showed enough courage to tell me you feel this way. Maybe you were judging us the whole time. We were pretty open about our struggles, but I don’t really remember anyone saying anything then. Maybe it was cooler or more socially acceptable to go through shitty times then.

Otherwise, it’s been a pleasure knowing you. I hope you feel the same way.

So, …that about says what I’d been thinking (although without the defriending part), when I saw that same post on my news feed, months ago. Probably a couple times. Oh, and the one about welfare recipients who all ought to be subjected to drug testing. We’ve never been on straight-up welfare, but if my kids were starving, and even McDonald’s weren’t hiring, I wouldn’t think twice about a drug test to feed or house my kids, because 1) I know it’d come up clean, and 2) I’d understand why there sadly might be a need for that. After all, I’ve had jobs where I’ve had to do drug testing and didn’t think twice about it. But… the thing is, I’m willing to place a bet that not ONE of my friends that posted that status either 1) personally knew someone on welfare, or 2) knew someone that fit that stereotype. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. And I deeply resent the assumption that my friends that I know who were or are on welfare are there because they chose a life of substance addiction over supporting themselves and their families.

So, maybe you don’t agree with “Obamacare” or the way our country’s government supports people in need. I’m not sure I do entirely, either. But until things finally get figured out, can we just agree that people are people? With real lives and real tough decisions and real feelings, with real families? If we stopped oversimplifying problems and rooting for our political views like we do our favorite sports teams, I think this world would benefit profoundly. Jesus never ran for office. His disciples seemed to want him to get political and take over the government. But He didn’t. He preferred healing people personally, changing lives one at at time in most cases. I think that action of His speaks volumes.

2 thoughts on “IRL

  1. Hey Shelbi! It’s been forever, sorry I haven’t called but I’ve somehow got two phone numbers and I’m not sure which one is right. Anyway, I’ve been going through a lot of my old papers and notes and came across a few of them from you from when we were in high school, it made me think of you.

    How are you doing? How’s Sam and the kids? I am currently working at Barnes & Noble in West Des Moines(the Jordan Creek one) and also finally pursuing my dream of writing and getting something published, plus I’m the proud aunt of a three year old girl so all that tends to keep me really busy!

    Anyway, just wanted to say hi, maybe we can get together sometime the next time you’re in Des Moines?

    Julie Huebner

Comments are closed.