We Disagree. I Still Respect You.

One of the worst things about the increasingly partisan atmosphere we face in America today is the loss of civility and respect. People seem to think that if you don’t agree with them, you are condemning who they are. They think if you have a different solution to a problem, you don’t actually care about the problem.

When someone in the spotlight attempts to foster respect in the face of disagreement, the internet mob comes after them. And it’s not just trolls — respected figures are in on it too.

Case in point: Olympic bobsledder and silver-medalist Lauren Gibbs posted photos with Ivanka Trump and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders at the Winter Olympics. She noted in her post that “we don’t have to agree on everything to get along, be civil to each other and enjoy each other’s company.”

She probably had little experience in the world of political online assault, but she learned quickly. Gibbs was quickly slammed by legions of followers, who weren’t happy she would associate folks some labeled as bad as Hitler. She was told she was being used for propaganda and shamed for simply being friendly and respectful.

It wasn’t long before she got so sick of the bullying, she took the photos down. You can agree or disagree on whether that was the right move but having posted something controversial before online myself and being on the receiving end of hate, I have done the same thing. And Gibbs didn’t back down — she defended her choice to take the photos and insisted she requested the photos and can think for herself, thank you very much.

This comes at the same time that some people on the Left, who favor extreme gun control measures, are calling out those who disagree with them as heartless, cruel, child killers who don’t care about kids lives. The sentiment is all the same. If you don’t agree with me, you are a bad person.

That’s just not how rational adults who believe in civil discourse behave. The presence of rational adults seems to have vanished in recent years. I’m not arguing for or against a specific gun law, but I’m smart enough to know that even Republicans who don’t want any new laws whatsoever don’t hold that opinion because they are evil. They truly believe that new gun laws isn’t the answer. Maybe they are wrong. I’m smart enough to to know that even Democrats who want a complete ban on all guns don’t hold that opinion because they hate America and the Constitution. They truly believe this could stop mass shootings.

Can we start there? Believing that most of us have the best of intentions that come from a place of authenticity. Ivanka Trump is not evil. Sarah Sanders is not Hitler’s right hand man. President Trump may be misguided but he’s not trying to destroy America.

Even on the very difficult issue of abortion, I have found a way to somewhat understand where pro-choice folks are coming from, though I firmly believe they are wrong. I don’t think they are evil, simply misguided. Name-calling and hatefulness on the issue certainly won’t get me anywhere on the issue. The same goes for pretty much everything.

I disagree with you, but I still respect you. That’s how you start a conversation.

Check out this video from Independent Women’s Voice for some perspective:

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  • rp518dan

    It is a pity the gun issue is the example used for civility of discourse. It is an objective fact that those who supported policies that legalized assault weapons ARE responsible for children getting shot up in schools. Kids getting murdered is the price we pay for suppprters of lax gun laws.
    If you suppprt the NRA, you are an enabler of mass murder.

  • Zenmyme

    I recently had this happen with a church member, who wanted me to retract an article I put in our church e-newsletter. I simply refused at first. Then I was harassed about it, as somehow this person thought it was a poor reflection on her. No such thing I replied, “It was purely informational and not everything is about you.” Still she persisted (Low self-esteem, I suppose) and still I refused to be bullied. I suspect it’s over now that the article has run a couple of times. If not, I remain steadfast. I do respect this person, who has many good qualities, but I will not be a victim of her narcissism.

  • Robert H. Woodman

    And yet, I have friends on the pro-gun side of the debate who cannot (not “will not”, not “refuse to”) see your point of view. Their worldview, their opinions, the way that they interpret the facts presented to them, are entirely different from the way that you and I interpret them. Should I regard them as unworthy of further discussion and cut them off? Should I tell them that their deep-seated distrust of government is entirely misplaced? Should I tell them that they have made an idol out of the Constitution (and specifically of their interpretation of the Constitution) and that they are unworthy of further dialogue? Or should I continue to reach out to them with the love of Jesus and with the facts at hand to try and persuade them — not harangue or cajole them — to come around to my point of view?

  • Les Mc Mahon

    Disagreement should be the Start of conversation not the termination of the talking. I live in Australia and i find your gun control arguements as rather pathetic and very childish. anyone with an ounce of commonsense would have to see that strict gun laws would stop this senseless slaughter of innocent children.

  • Scoots McKenzie

    You lost me at Jesus.

  • Robert H. Woodman

    Well, try and find your way back again. It’s not that hard.

  • Linguagroover

    There is a basic divide of methodology between those who always try to rely on fact-based evidence in running their lives and those who (maybe not all the time) allow for dogma-driven assertion. That can sometimes make respect amid disagreement difficult if not impossible.

  • Ericka Andersen

    Sorry I totally disagree with you 🙂 I’m not an enabler of mass murder. But I respect your right to have that opinion.

  • Ericka Andersen

    Clearly, not a lot of people respect others opinions on either side of the gun control debate.

  • pacman2076

    Distrust of the government. No. Just those running it. There was war. Fighting and crime 2000 years ago. Tyrany thrives on taking away our rights

  • rp518dan

    Robert, while Scoots McKenzie and I probably share a non-theist view, you share some values I hold as more important.

    I don’t have any easy answers.

    My family went to see the movie “Black Panther”. In five of the six previews, and the movie itself, an object I would call an “assault weapon” was featured. I don’t think we can underestimate the power this has over our us.

    There are some truly toxic people spreading deliberate lies on the issue of guns. They convinced a lot of people that the Newtown shooting was a hoax. The grieving parents received death threats.

    NRA’s spokesperson, Dana Loesch just made some thinly veiled death threats against the Florida high school students. But Alex Jones and many others had done so already. They have been getting actual death threats.

    There are not two sides to the gun debate when it comes to death threats. The pro gun side has, in a sleazy “plausibly deniable” manner, advocated murdering their opppnents– who are motivated by a desire for the ease of murder to be reduced.

  • rp518dan

    That is true. There is a lot of disrespect on this issue. Curiously, most NRA members oppose many decisions of their leadership, like allowing guns to be sold to suspected terrorists or the memtally ill, but still vote based on the leadership’s position. It has been my observation that some highly deceptive and flawed arguments have been put in the mouths of suppprters of “gun rights” by well paid and highly skilled manipulators.

  • Les Mc Mahon

    very true.

  • Pennybird

    A lot of us do but we are outspent.

  • Pennybird

    “This comes at the same time that some people on the Left, who favor extreme gun control measures,…”

    This isn’t helpful at all. That the Left favors extreme gun control is a scare tactic from the NRA which will accept no impediment to selling guns, no matter what. I’m as gun-control as they come and I support the right to possess and use firearms, but with some restrictions. I can’t offhand think of a single person I know who wants to ban all guns, and I run in some pretty left crowds. It is not extreme to want information, waiting periods, background checks and some restrictions on war weaponry, all of which are opposed by the NRA. That’s the sort of common sense solutions that make mass killings much more difficult in literally every other country on earth. Nothing extreme about it. That statement up there is a perfect example of how we paint our opposition into corners and dehumanize them, making respect that much more unlikely.

  • Robert H. Woodman

    rp581dan, the first thing we have to acknowledge on both sides of the gun debate is that there are not now, and never will be, easy answers. I should be clear that I hold the current leadership of the NRA guilty in part of the mass shootings. I hold them guilty because they have resisted fiercely even the simplest, most commonsense reforms to our gun laws. My friends who support the NRA and the Second Amendment do so for various reasons, but many of those reasons have to do with the fact that the NRA has very successfully spun a story that “they” are coming to take “your” guns away from you just by asking you to take reasonable restrictions for the sake of gun safety. The NRA’s professional fear-mongers coupled with the many other people who, for whatever reason, spread lies about gun control or who claim that the mass shootings were lies bear responsibility for the warped, toxic gun culture that permeates our society. There is, however, no easy way to hold them accountable for their lies. We can confront them with facts, and if necessary, shout them down, but it will be a long, slow process, and it will often resemble the game of “Whack-a-Mole.”

    It would also help if we really understood what drives mass shooters so that we could stop them before they kill. Some mass shooters are mentally ill, but most, as far as I can tell from online research, are not. In any event, the vast majority of mentally ill people do not become mass murderers. We need a way to identify and contain mass shooters. There is as yet no way, let alone an easy way, to do that.

  • Scoots McKenzie

    Sorry, I never believed in magical Jesus in the first place, so I cannot find my way “back again.” The author Flannery O’Connor described Jesus perfectly in her book “Wise Blood.”

  • Robert H. Woodman

    Do you know that Flannery O’Connor was a faithful, orthodox Catholic and a devout believer in Jesus? Wise Blood is both allegory and farce, critiquing the idea that Jesus is just another moral man and that people can save themselves by their own good, moral acts.

    The Jesus in whom you disbelieve is probably not the Jesus in whom I believe. My faith, like Flannery O’Connor’s, is orthodox and Catholic, with no magic.