I’m not sure this will come out right, but I’m gonna give it the good ol’ college try…
The other day I put up a Facebook post about how history is taught in schools, as told through my own experience as a student in North Carolina many decades ago. No need to rehash the whole post here. Suffice it to say that my main point was that history should be taught from a 360 perspective. It should include the history of the victims as well as the victors, the powerless and the powerful, the minorities and the majority, the conquerors and the conquered.
In the United States, history lessons should include George Washington AND Harriet Tubman AND Geronimo AND Elizabeth Cady Stanton AND Cesar Chavez AND all those other social-change advocates I never learned about as a kid in school, but that kids today probably (hopefully) do. It should include the good, the bad, and the ugly.
This seems logical enough to me. History should deal in facts – and the fact is, not all history is pretty, and not all of it involves the people with cities and monuments named after them. Teach all of it, not just part of it. Give us the bitter with the sweet. Don’t whitewash it or ignore its dark side.
Some people seem to have a problem with this idea, but that’s fine, that’s fine. I don’t mind pushback if it is rooted in facts and leads to something constructive. If someone had come on to the post and said, “You know, this kind of thing can go too far, and here’s why….” then I and others would likely have given it a fair hearing. Constructive dialogue keeps civilization pressing forward.
That didn’t happen, though. Instead, one person came on to the post in full attack mode. She ranted about how “everyone hates America,” how “no one says anything good about America,” how she is “sick of the bashing of America” when we should be “bashing our drug laws,” and how the “woke mob” is “destroying our laws and ability to live with one another.”
Well, gee whiz. I had no idea my post about teaching history held all that. I must be a master at sleight of hand!
Anyway, she and I got into a pissing match that quickly devolved into a toxic, ugly exchange filled with personal insults and aggression. I was angry and so was she and we let the hate flow, boy did we ever.
And here’s the thing: I barely even know this woman. We met two times in our whole lives, over drinks, through a mutual acquaintance. We have spent maybe 90 minutes in each other’s presence, total. And we had a pleasant time – for 90 whole minutes!
So, we became Facebook “friends.” She came on to some of my posts and sometimes praised them and sometimes didn’t. On a couple of occasions she would put up three or four or five lengthy comments in a row, until I could not sort through them anymore without my eyes glazing over. But we kept things civil – until the other day.
But never mind all that.
Here’s what haunts my brain: The hate-filled diatribes she and I aimed at each other are simply part and parcel of the social media experience. People who barely know each other, and would otherwise say a friendly hello if they passed each other on the street, start going for each other’s throats over nothing at all.
For example, that post I put up about history and education? I only did so after reading a column on the topic in The New York Times. I mainly wanted to share the column. This topic is something I feel strongly about, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about. It represents only a tiny sliver of who I am as a person. I spend more time thinking about food – a lot more time. For that matter, I spend more time thinking about baseball, the weather, music, socks, whatever.
And yet the woman I mentioned earlier seemed to take my post as some kind of indictment of me as a person. She equated me with the idea behind the post, and since she opposed the idea, she decided to oppose me. Among other things, she called me “woke” (many times) and “full of crap.” For my part, I countered that she was full of bullshit, and maybe out of her mind.
She later “unfriended” me – which would be sad, except we’re not really “friends” in any real sense, and probably never would have been. The world shall not weep over our parting.
This has happened before, plenty – social media shouting matches with people I barely know or haven’t seen in decades, over nothing important.
Even worse, I’ve had lifelong relationships go sour – permanently damaged or altered – because friends or family members read something I wrote and decided then and there that I should be judged on that and that alone, rather than everything else in the world I am, and everything else they have ever known about me.
Some have unfriended me. Some have blocked me. Some won’t return my text messages, or have adopted chilly attitudes toward me (you know who you are).
I’m not sure I’ve ever unfriended anyone on Facebook. Why would I? It’s just f’ing Facebook, there to keep Mark Zuckerberg in yachts and Lear jets.
I’ve known people who have spent decades telling me all the things they believe in that I don’t – and criticizing things I believe in that they don’t – and it never occurred to me to sever ties with them over it.
I’ve already deleted my Instagram and Twitter accounts. About 15 years ago I deleted a Facebook account after having it for a day, because I decided I didn’t want to take the dive. That’s why my current Facebook personal account doesn’t say “Vance Cariaga.” When I deleted “Vance Cariaga,” Facebook retired it forever. So I had to go with my first initial, middle name and last name for my current personal account, which I didn’t open until 2017.
I opened a new Facebook account because I had just published a collection of short stories. I figured, ya gotta have Facebook to sell books. Well, you don’t gotta have Facebook to sell books, because Facebook is all but useless for selling books at any kind of scale.
But I have kept this Facebook account because I … I’m not even sure, to be honest. Probably something to do with ego. I tell myself it’s because I want to promote my writing on it (like this blog!). That’s maybe half true.
I also tell myself that I will never again get into a pissing match with anyone on social media over the kinds of stupid shit that appears on it every hour of every day.
We’ll see how that goes.
Note: Image from FAVPNG