I try to be a nice person. Really I do. OK, it doesn’t always work, but I deeply believe in the practice of civility and respect toward all people. So I was genuinely sorry when a Facebook friend wrote to say that I had deeply offended her by questioning her integrity, and that we would no longer be friends. I wrote and apologized, but even as I was writing, I knew it was the kind of crappy apology that politicians are known for.
Here’s the thing. I didn’t just phrase something poorly and, as so often happens online, say something that I didn’t mean. She’s right. I did question her integrity. I accused her, I believe, of “being disingenuous at best.” That’s not a very nice thing to say, and I said it. I also meant it.
Let me say this: there are many political subjects on which I think it is entirely a good thing that people disagree. There is such a thing as too much government and such a thing as not enough government, and people should argue their case about where the line of just enough government falls. Governments should both protect the rights of individuals and act for the common good, and sometimes those two values are in conflict. I believe society is better off when there is lively discussion about how to manage those two important values. There is no one right answer on a whole variety of contentious subjects.
So here’s the question: is it more important to preserve the human relationship and just let outrageous lies go past, or is it more important to stand up in a public forum and ask that people give some evidence for what they say? Which response is more ethical? Which more spiritual? Can you be genuinely spiritual without being ethical? Is it more respectful to call someone on behavior you think is inappropriate, or is it more respectful to make sure that feelings aren’t hurt, and relationships preserved?