changing your friend’s diapers – a reflection on political discourse and caring for people

Everyone has a particular reaction to political discussion. It can be saddening, infuriating, invigorating, but it seems like most folks are generally repulsed. I count myself among the squeamish when I see people throwing political daggers and dropping religious “truth” bombs. More than ever, especially with the advent of social media, it seems like the daggers are more piercing and the bombs more explosive. Admittedly, I’ve blocked certain “friends” from my news feed as to avoid their repeated offerings of nonsense. Seriously, what’s more annoying than reading some pile-of-BS post from someone who is obviously just parroting their favorite website’s opinions? Right?………well, I dunno. Even if I’m right, I don’t feel less annoyed or squeamish, so, maybe I’m not right.

I thought about this for awhile. It turns out that I’m not really annoyed by my annoying friends, but rather, I’m annoyed that they annoy me. Does that make sense? No? I’ll put it this way: It’s frustrating that somebody can make a stupid statement that causes me to be pissed off. Why does it even offend me?

You see, my 4 year old son is, by definition, annoying. He makes silly, uninformed statements all day long (with an unusually high-pitched voice). He ordinarily means no harm, but sometimes, his aim is definitely to provoke me. Granted, there are occasions where he is successful, but mostly, it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I find it endearing. Of course, my patience for my own offspring is quite a bit different than it is for somebody who I never spoke with in high school that is now my friend via the “like” button. I love my son. I’ve changed his poopy diapers and I still wipe his bottom when he makes a “messy”. I would not help 94% of my facebook friends if they had a “messy”. But wait…why not?

I wondered what would happen if I was in a situation with my estranged facebook friends which called for me to actually change their diapers. No metaphors, just simply a load in their pants. What if they were disabled and needed help…would I have compassion? Would I have mercy for them?

All ridiculousness aside (although I do think that comparing political opinions and loads of shit is apt), political opinions reveal things about us, and it’s not just who we intend to vote for. We all view the world from our own particular angle. We have come to our unique position by way of our parent’s influence, schooling, friendships, religion, etc. Sadly, most all of us have been bruised along the way. Some more than others. We hold passionately to what we believe will make our world a better place.

I recently had an opportunity to chat about religion and politics with one of my impassioned friends. We shared stories of our past, talked about our bruises and frustrations, and before we even shared a single opinion, we had something. We both knew that the other was “messy”. I think this is crucial. For the most part, the average U.S. voter knows jack squat about political economics, their philosophical origins, or the  historical formations and outcomes of any economic systems. So, most political opinions are unfortunately formed by the latest and greatest demagoguery, and this usually puts us at odds with one another. My annoyance at my annoying friends could easily become anger or even hatred. But, a simple act of sharing and learning one another’s stories (or mess) can build something that directly undermines anger and hatred. Compassion. If your political or religious opinions are leading to anger and hatred toward people, chances are good you are being duped. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your opinions are wrong, but do you really even know enough to have an opinion, and do you really want to hold tightly to ideas that cultivate hatred in you heart?

After our chat, I don’t know that my friend and I agree about politics necessarily, but I do know that if I were to become crippled and incontinent, he would change my diapers….and I would do the same for him.

2 comments

  1. trent

    I fully agree with this. Well said. If you are interested, check out yourmorals.org. It is a site developed by psychologists studying moral cognition. The research is specifically aimed at trying to understand peoples values and how this may create the deep division we experience within the realms of morality and politics. The site has a bunch of surveys you can take and the cool part is that after each survey you can see how your results compare with those who have already taken that survey. The ultimate goal of such research is to better understand each other so that we can be better, as you say, “build something that directly undermines anger and hatred”. Of course no research will replace the ability to fully listen to another person’s story while belly up. Here’s to a less shitty world.

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