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The Freedom To Ignore

Monica Wilcox's picture

Now that the riots have tempered down in the Middle East and the offender ran off to hide in his hole, I’d like to cautiously offer a line of communication. We’ve come to a point of mutual misunderstanding between our societies. You can’t understand how we can allow anyone to smear the name of a prophet; we don’t understand how one man’s rhetoric justifies murder and mayhem.

Consider the History

We’ve had 236 years to understand what it means to live as a vocal society. Our nation was born on the backs of England’s radicals. Their offspring were the ones who dared to fight for the independence of our country. Sometimes the radicals change history for the better and sometimes they’re nothing more than crazy-house-crazy.

Billy the Kid, the KKK, the Black Panthers: American history has always, always, been peppered with those who like to sizzle over the edge of the status quo. We’re currently dealing with the compound cults, the bunker hunkers and the clinic bombers and trust me; they’ve all got something to share.

Does the notion of giving a radical a voice scare you? Are you afraid that their wrong will somehow become your right? It does happen after all.

Back in 1848 a group of women started spouting that “liberty and rights for all” included them. There they were, out on the pavement, waving their signs, yelling all sorts of demands. The government locked them up, abused them and still they would not shut up. But then people started to listen and agree, more women joined in, men joined in. Momentum changed, their rhetoric became the acceptable and now the notion of women voting is so common place a large percentage of us don’t even bother to do so.

The same process happened in 1962 with Rachel Carson who wrote a little book. Silent Spring was anything but silent. She’s directly responsible for the recycle bins in my kitchen and the solar panels on my house.

Yes, sometimes a single person with a radical notion can shift the norm of a society. I can see how that scares the hell out of you because it can still scare us. It’s not always clear when you’re dealing with a radical like Martin Luther King or a radical like Hitler. Both convinced their societies that they were in the right.

What I don’t think you understand yet, because you haven’t had as much time to experience this democracy thing, is that when you gift everyone an equal voice you light up the entire spectrum of the human experience. It opens the doors of opportunity and forces us to ask, “How are we going to evolve?” It provides a confidence that out of all the opinions, the best choice will be found.

Why do we give everyone a stage (even if it is a street corner)? Because it empowers brave souls to shine a light in dark places as they search for injustice. As many times as a single voice has altered our society there were an equal number of times we should have listened to the street preachers instead of walking by (the leper colonies, the Japanese internment camps).

Yes, this means some dude is going to stand on his cooler in front of the city animal shelter screaming that puppies are the embodiment of the devil and should be grilled up and served to cats. But that same freedom offers someone else a step in front of city hall to ask why we are not doing more for our returning servicemen. Yes, this offers one person a video camera to smear God. But it also allows another person to video tape dolphins being slaughtered in a bay, and poultry farms where chickens never see the sun, and school systems suffering under tenured teachers.

Don’t Buy the Book

There’s another freedom we’ve clung to over the last few centuries in this democracy. It hasn’t been declared, no one gave their John Hancock to legitimize it, but this freedom has as much value as any other: the freedom to ignore. If you don’t like what someone has to say, don’t buy their book. Keep on walking. Change the station. Toss out the paper. Block their Facebook feed.

The balance between knowing when to react and when to ignore is something that each individual has to discover and gauge for themselves. There’s a fine line between listening, arguing, protesting and flat out ignoring someone. With today’s technology we are constantly relearning where these lines are. Democracy isn’t the stone statues decorating the Washington lawn, it’s a morphing organism.

Every time I write an article, every time I get on social media I’m balancing my freedom to speak against my freedom to ignore. If you want to see the full spectrum of human experience, check out my Facebook feed. I’ve got a Democrat yelping, followed by an image of a naked woman, followed by a feminist imploring liberty, followed by a Republican rant. Have I become desensitized to all this social ranting? Yes, to some degree. Why? Because I can’t become emotionally charged over one person’s perspective. If I burned down a building and killed a handful of people every time someone offended me, San Francisco would look like a war zone.

There is a time to argue, there is a time to protest and then there’s a time to walk on by. Nothing can be more disempowering than to be ignored. I suggest, the next time someone paints their opinion over Mohammad’s image, that you give it a try. Allow their narrow minded negativity to be smothered beneath the voices of those who love and respect your truth.

Of course, that would be my opinion.

Comments

Lissa Rankin's picture

Dear Kate

I think we're saying the same thing here. (And yes, thank you for using your name!) I didn't find any comments on this thread mean or hateful. I welcome the dialogue and challenges. And yes- I agree, that one can support free speech on a society level and still choose to set boundaries on a personal level (this is, after all, a personal website owned by an individual, not a government website committed to upholding the constitution.)

Thanks for reaching out and sharing your thoughts.

Warmly
Lissa

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Lissa Rankin's picture

Owning Pink's comment policy

To those who question Owning Pink's comment policy, let me speak to that as Owning Pink's founder.

I feel like my primary job as OP's founder is to maintain a sacred and respectful space for people to discover the authentic core of who they are and to learn to express that truth about ourselves- knowing that the individual's truth will be respectfully held in a container of love and acceptance, though certainly not necessarily agreement.

I fully support First Amendment rights. I also, like Monica, know that I have the right to ignore what I find objectionable. I have no problem with anyone expressing opinions that differ from those of Owning Pink bloggers. My only request is- and has always been- that you express your opinions in a kind, respectful way, free of overtly mean-spirited or hateful feedback. And if you must be hateful, by all means, muster up some courage and put your name on your comment. The internet has become a place where anonymous comments seem to serve as a way for people to express hateful opinions without taking any ownership for those comments.

My invitation to readers here is that you use these posts as a way to better know yourself and what you believe. Then YES! Engage in dialogue. Explore and share what you think. But also, open your mind and your heart and let it be okay that another human might hold a different view than you do- and that this doesn't mean you can't share respectful space on this big, big planet.

I believe there's a way to get your voice heard without stooping to name-calling or dehumanizing behavior or mean comments. I'm not suggesting anyone on this thread has crossed any such lines- no comments in this thread have been deleted- and I appreciate dissent when it comes from a place of thoughtful pushback.

In defense of Monica to Dr. Samson's comment, none of our bloggers are journalists. They are merely expressing their own opinions, and while we edit the content, we do not screen the content. This is merely a forum for individual's to express their own personal truths, and if you can't support an individual's right to express their own opinion without journalistic rigor, I support your right to ignore this post and any others that are not in alignment with your own personal truth.

Monica, personally, I agree with you. There's a lot of noise out there. And a lot of people spewing nonsense. And it calls to us, more than ever, to get clear on our own beliefs about what is true for us as individuals, which has always been one of Owning Pink's missions.

Thank you for your great post. And thank you all for engaging in stimulating dialogue!

With appreciation for our right to speak the truth,
Lissa

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Anonymous's picture

My name is Kate Rice, if that

My name is Kate Rice, if that makes a difference to how seriously you take my comment. It surprises me if you find my comment hateful, but it sounds from your comment that you do.

I like this blog. I think this policy is fine. I think the article published furthers a very demeaning point about a gigantic group of people based on the actions of a few. I have not watched the video that spurred protests (many of them peaceful) and a few violent crimes. But I think there is consensus that the video in question is not "kind, respectful.. free of overtly mean-spirited or hateful feedback". Is it a surprise that, in the same way that you would not post that video here, other people object to it.

I think your post just furthers my point. The fact that you have this policy - that you don't want hateful, mean-spirited comments here - does NOT mean that you don't know what free speech is, or don't understand. My point is - you can hold that view, and have good reasons for it.

I think the "us" and "them" differences that this article is so interested in are much smaller than the author thinks.

Dr. Samson's picture

This blog is quite offensive...

You lost me at the part where you make an ignorant, blanket statement such as: "school systems suffering under tenured teachers." That's when I stopped reading and then clicked the "unlike" button on the Owning Pink page. I am truly disappointed to see such hatred coming from a website/facebook page that is supposed to be promoting positive thinking. While it is your opinion to think that tenured teachers are evil, even though you offer zero facts to back it up, you should consider that the vast majority of your readers are either tenured teachers themselves, have been taught by tenured teachers in some capacity, or are people who have tenured teachers in their family.

I am not a teacher - in fact, I am a scientist and I work in a laboratory doing disease research. Tenured teachers are the people who taught me the skills that I needed in order to obtain my degree and subsequent career. Tenured teachers are the reason why people like me work on cures to save people like you. Why has the world suddenly started to hate teachers? In the past, teachers were considered some of the most important people in a society. Without teachers, you could not have written this blog! So show some respect.

The difference between tenured teachers and regular teachers: tenured teachers are seasoned, have paid their dues and know what they are doing. Non-tenured teachers are usually just starting out and have not yet proven themselves. While many people want to become teachers, not everyone is fit for the job. A lot of people want to become rock stars too, but few are qualified or talented enough. Tenure weeds out the good from the bad. You don't make the cut...too bad.

But if you want to talk about why education is suffering, point the finger at the politicians who cut funds from the education system and dump the money elsewhere or even use it to line their own pockets. Blame the people who vote for education cuts because they're afraid to pay a few more dollars so that the children can have the tools that they need. In my city, the district offered a deal to its tax payers: pay an extra $50 a year in property taxes or cut the after school programs and fire all of the new teachers in order to stick to a tighter budget. Do you know what the tax payers decided? They decided to save themselves $50 per year and cut the programs and fire the new, NON-TENURED teachers. It wasn't the tenured teachers that hurt the students and non-tenured teachers in that scenario, it was the tax payer. And this is not just my city, it's happening all across the country.

Do your homework before you go and make such an ignorant statement. This is why blogs are dangerous, because anyone can write one. You have alienated a lot of people with this blog and you're taking Owning Pink down with the ship; they really need a better screening process when it comes to the people who they allow to write for them and I will be contacting the owner of the site. You have failed as a good journalist. Next time you make a statement, back it up with empirical data and facts and consider that your readers may be offended. Most of all, consider whether or not it sends a positive message. You are no guru, that's for sure.

Monica Wilcox's picture

Dr. Samson

I'm sorry you took offense to my reference in this post to the film which investigates the American school system. The documentary is "Waiting for 'Superman'" which does criticize our system's dependence on tenured teachers. My argument is not that I agree or disagree with this film's assessment but that I appreciate the FREEDOM our country provides Davis Guggenheim, the director, to voice his opinion. I also appreciate the freedom we have extended to a documentary like the "The Cove" which I have also referenced in this post. This same appreciation is extended to you and your freedom to criticize my capabilities, understanding and intentions.

You can learn more about "Waiting for 'Superman'", if you choose, at http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2010/09/21/new-documentary-waitin...

Monica

Midge's picture

Examples Are Not the Same as Opinions

Monica,
I am a tenured teacher. Although my profession is indeed not as revered as it once was by our citizenry, I am not offended by your blog post. To my understanding, bloggers often include their opinions, as well as the opinions of others (as you did in this post). If readers are looking for facts, they should find appropriate sources. Like other social media sites, blogs are not good sources for evidence, research, credible journalism, etc. Readers need to think critically, and respond appropriately. Additionally, they need to read carefully, even slowly, and pause and think, not simply react emotionally. A hurried reader does not make a good reader.
While reading your post, I simply used my intelligence, coupled with a little critical thinking, and realized that you listed several examples of opinions (not necessarily your own) we've all read about or heard spoken, whether we agree or not, to illustrate your point. Your valid point is that our democracy guarantees freedom to voice opinions. Your post reminded us that we are also free to ignore them.
It all "seems" so simple.
But it rarely is, this communication thing.
Midge

Monica Wilcox's picture

A Good Reader

Thank you Midge. You've covered the point of this post beautifully. If I had wanted to share my opinion of our education system and tenured teachers I would have mentioned that my mother was a tenured teacher for 23 years and that I come from a long line of teachers. I might have also mentioned that I have 2 kids in school and that I've been personally involved in our school system for over 7 years. But alas,the topic I wanted to cover was how a single voice contributed to murder half a world away.

As a seasoned blogger, I have found that readers often get triggered by a side thought in a post. That's okay with me. Obviously, they feel a great need to express what is troubling them. The beauty of a website like Owning Pink is that it provides a place for everyone, not only the blogger, to do just that.

Thank you for your wise clarification. I promise to slow down in my own reading. :)

Monica

Anonymous's picture

I think this article is

I think this article is patronizing and makes a very simplistic and dangerous "us" and "them" distinction. No, an offensive YouTube video does not merit murder. I don't think you would be writing this sweet little article if the video in question had been made by a neo-nazi or KKK group.

How about this policy: When you comment on an Owning Pink blog post, we invite you to be authentic and loving, to say what you feel, to hold sacred space so others feel heard, and to refrain from using hurtful or offensive language. Differing opinions are welcomed, but if you cannot express yourself in a respectful, caring manner, your comments will be deleted by the Owning Pink staff.

How does this website's policy fit in with the views promoted by this article? Hate speech is fine as long as its directed at Muslims somewhere else?

Midge's picture

Now, this is thought-provoking content!

Smart Monica,
I applaud and thank you, as usual, and Owning Pink's decision to post content that moves my brain and heart from me to we in a truly global sense. Your words make the connection so simple yet profound. This self to world connection and the ensuing reflection is what I want to read and reflect upon.
Thank you for inspiring readers, especially me, to think outside of themselves, and to think about their human being-ness as it relates with the world, its inhabitants, and the universe.
Unwilling to ignore your brilliance,
Midge

Monica Wilcox's picture

A Skill We Need to Possess

Thank you Midge. This is one of the most heartfelt comments I've received on a blog post in the 3 years I've been doing this. You make a girl want to write. ;)

When I saw the footage of the riots and the burning embassy I kept thinking, "They don't understand; just ignore the guy. You don't want to draw massive attention to one man's opinion because that will empower him even more." I realized that we've had decades in this country to practice dealing with the freedom of speech but many of these countries have not. Maybe they are afraid that the American masses can be easily swayed by one voice?

At the same time I was listening to my friends on Facebook who are sick of dealing with the "haters". I realized that we practice our freedom to ignore every time we get on social media. It's common and I think a personal skill that we must possess in this day and age with the astronomical amount of opinions streaming over the Net.

Striving to move your heart and brain a bit more,
Monica

Tracie Nichols's picture

Choosing not to act

Well said Monica! The choice not to act is as valid & powerful as the choice to act. Speaks as loudly, too.

Love your writing, as always,
Tracie Nichols

Allison Crow's picture

Hooray for IGNORE!

Brilliant post Monica. It is amazing how many get their feathers in a ruffle or panties in a wad. Yes we have the right to speak, and the right to ignore. I use my right to ignore more often that my right to speak.
I also use my hide button, and my channel clicker all to often! Thanks for reminding us that we can choose what we tune in to and what we don't. Hmmm, sounds a lot like allowing - or the ultimate form of love.

XO
Allison Crow

Monica Wilcox's picture

Pure Efficiancy

I would guess, Allison, that we are using our freedom to ignore 70-80% of the time we are on Facebook and Twitter out of pure efficiency. To read everything takes huge amounts of time and can be overstimulating. I'd also guess that we will get better and better at it as social media keeps expanding.

Thanks for you comments Allison and Tracie. Love you both!!

When you comment on an Owning Pink blog post, we invite you to be authentic and loving, to say what you feel, to hold sacred space so others feel heard, and to refrain from using hurtful or offensive language. Differing opinions are welcomed, but if you cannot express yourself in a respectful, caring manner, your comments will be deleted by the Owning Pink staff.