Over at Political Moll, I have started an ongoing series of posts called "The Facebook Files."
The idea is to convey actual political altercations I have encountered on social media, predominantly Facebook. My first edition in this series described the caustic brouhaha that erupted over "The Case for Reparations," my college lecture over Ta-Nehisi Coates' article of the same name. Since then, I've had yet another rollicking good time on the information superhighway with someone of opposing views.
As is wont to happen with Facebook, I was friended by an old college acquaintance. I'll call him Kirby. We did not develop any kind of deep relationship in college, but we did know each other well enough to say more than just "hi" to one another in the cafeteria. Thus, he is available to me as an"acquaintance." Kirby has more energy than most four year olds and talks in incessant streaks, seemingly without pausing for breath. This probably explains why he majored in Phys Ed and minored in communications. So when he sent the friend request, I didn't think much of it and accepted it. Like I said, this sort of thing happens all the time. It's an overall sterile and innocuous connection and little comes of it.
But nothing could have been further from the truth with Kirby.
I started to get invitations from Kirby to "like" pages. These included "Ted Cruz for President" and "Tea Party Patriots," Oh Kirby. You hardly know me. Nevertheless, such intrusions are mild at best in the digital world. I am free to ignore or delete altogether such invites. Would that the broadcasting of his views had stopped with invites.
Like many, I sometimes indulge in the narcissistic act of posting pics of what I'm about to eat. On a Tuesday night, I was particularly proud of a balsamic chicken I had grilled and paired with asparagus. I posted a picture. "I don't think Michelle Obama would approve of that," commented Kirby, an obvious sideways slam at the First Lady's attempts at fighting obesity in America. I responded: "You're right, Kirby. Too much asparagus. Now my urine smells funny. At least I'm covered by ACA and can see a doctor tomorrow." This prompted a private message from Kirby.
"Tell me you don't support ACA," Kirby pleaded.
I think at that point, it was the most Kirby and I had ever spoken to one another in 20 years...and the conversation was him basically evangelizing me to come to the right wing. Deciding that things weren't going to get any better, I thought I might as well let it all hang out. I wrote back to Kirby, letting him know that I voted for Obama twice, volunteered on his 2008 campaign, and now write for Political Moll.
"So I suppose you want Hillary for president in 2016?" he said.
I told Kirby that Hillary Clinton would probably be a good choice for his side as well. After all, they could switch gears from blaming a black man for everything to blaming a woman without missing a step in rhetoric.
That didn't go over well with Kirby. He sent me links to rebuttals to ACA, a few right-wing news sites, and maybe even tossed in a couple Ted Nugent videos from YouTube. I can't be sure because to be honest, I had sort of tuned the messages out. That, however, was about to change.
I did a blog post on climate change. Regular readers of mine know that this is by no means an unusual occurrence for my blog. The post detailed new research that showed that February 2015 had been the warmest February on record. I then wrote on to give various likely scenarios of what climate change will do to us and our world.
You can probably guess the unsolicited comments from Kirby.
"Can't you see that climate change is a hoax?" he whined. "It's just a conspiracy by the Dems to steal our hard-earned money! GOP in 2016! It's the only way to get our nation back on track! Amen!"
I'm not really sure where the whole "amen!" tag came from, other than perhaps a crib of Bobby Jindal. Then again, why should I be expecting sense from Kirby? Why indeed for he followed that comment with something of a non-sequitur:
"By the way, classic blog on PM today. How much does the site really hate Republicans? We counter by exposing lies of the democrats and let the people decide who's right. That's what a Republic is all about. Amen!"
"Give me your email and I will send you counter arguments on cc," Kirby furthered.
Then it hit me. While scrolling across Kirby's FB wall, I noticed that he posted his own policy regarding comments: "No lib talking points!" Drawing inspiration from that, I stated that in the minuscule corner of the Internet that I had staked out for myself, I could correspondingly declare: "No tea bagger talking points!"
"I am offended by the tea bagger comment!" Kirby retaliated. "Seriously! That's over the line. I never went that far. That was a rude and underhanded slap in the face."
Right. Because "lib" was not meant in a pejorative sense whatsoever. Still, being cursed with a sensitive and guilty conscience, I attempted to make amends.
"Kirby, I like and respect you," I offered. "But it's obviously not a good idea for us to discuss politics."
"Then that means you don't want to talk to me," he responded.
Well yeah, kinda. Kirby might be brighter than he sounds.
"Politics is my life," he continued. "If I had a dollar for every time a lib said 'I like you, but I don't want to talk politics with you,' I could retire. What that really says is that you don't want to learn. You don't want to hear anybody's side but your own. You have no interest in finding common ground. If we were in a debate, you would be walking off the stage right now. That says volumes about you and your side."
I made no response. Partly because I believe people sometimes only deserve silence. Also, I just couldn't see it going anywhere. If Kirby was unwilling to accept non-biased, peer-reviewed scientific data on climate change, I doubted any real interest on his part to see a side other than the Republican line. So I kept quiet.
Then it showed up. My last ever message from Kirby.
"I have a history of HBP in my family," it read. "I have therefore decided to end our FB relationship. No hard feelings."
I have been called many things and a few of them have not been altogether complimentary. This was the first time, however, that I have ever been accused of exacerbating someone's chronic health condition. I never knew I possessed such power.
Probably just as well that I lost that digital friend. His blood pressure would no doubt have spiked as I posted links to articles about taking political action against states that deny climate change and this just in: President Obama's recent statement that climate change will cause an increase in disease.
Apparently, one of those diseases in question is high blood pressure. Guess that's what the truth can do to certain sects of our population.