Discourse

Since publishing my piece only four days ago about the election and baseless conspiracy theories surrounding it, I’ve had the good fortune to be confronted by someone who believes the election to be fraudulent. Now, I know this person, I’ve known them for most of my life, although I can’t say we were ever close. There had always been some distance between us. He’s rather masculine, muscular, and conservative, while I’m effeminate, thin, and liberal. So, I wasn’t confronted by a stranger per se, but I was confronted by someone who I’ve always remained distant from for reasons that will become clear.

            Now, the piece I posted was admittedly a one-sided condemnation of conspiracy theorists, and especially election conspiracy theorists. I stand by the piece. But, this old acquaintance commented on my Instagram post promoting the piece, asking if I’ve read any of the affidavits or hear about any of the “first-hand” accounts of voting irregularity. Because this person is someone who I’ve already been leery of, and know to be rather prejudiced and heavily right-leaning, I chose not to engage. Not because I was unwilling to have the discussion, but because I didn’t want to talk to that specific person. I saw no value in engaging with him, especially in the comment section on an Instagram post. That’s embarrassing.

            And so, I deleted the comment and blocked him. I deleted the comment because I didn’t want his stank on the post, plain and simple. I wasn’t silencing him, I was cleaning up my post as I saw it. I welcome conflicting opinions, but I’m not about to engage in a comment section debate, nor am I going to leave an unanswered comment on my post. But, I also blocked him. I know this person to be antagonistic in nature, and so I didn’t want to invite any future comments from him. It would only be trouble, and he has no qualms about making such trouble. I was nipping a problem in the bud.

            But, he managed to reach me by direct messaging me through his girlfriend’s Instagram profile. I’ve known his girlfriend since high school, and him since at least the first grade. We’re not close, and I’ve maintained distance in recent years. Years ago, before I made the conscious decision to keep my distance, his girlfriend uttered that their household was a proud “hard R” household, meaning they regularly use the heinous epithet referring to Black people. So, I checked out. 

            This message he sent me, he told me I was spineless. He told me that I was “silencing dissent” like a fascist and “unwilling to engage in the discourse that follows.” He went on to say that his comment “challenged my narrative” and that I “didn’t want free thinkers to intrude into [my] safe space.” All of the above phrases are indicative of the far right. They always posit themselves as free thinkers, and that liberals are weak-minded individuals needing a safe space. I’m willing to talk about anything, but what he didn’t consider is that I wasn’t willing to talk to him specifically. 

            It had nothing to do with ideas and everything to do with not wanting to engage in such an exhausting and pointless discussion. Neither of us would’ve changed our minds, and it only would’ve raised my blood pressure. But, in the days that followed his comment and subsequent messages, his words rang in my head. I wasn’t concerned that I didn’t “engage in the discourse,” I knowingly avoided it. I didn’t and don’t want to talk with this person, period. But, I was thinking about discourse in general.

            Discourse isn’t you yelling your ideas at another person, it’s a two-way exchange. There has to be a mutual respect and both parties should be intellectually willing to accept arguments against their point of view. I know that saying this seems hypocritical since I blocked this person, but the circumstances are unique. I already know this person to be someone I don’t wish to engage with, and so I didn’t. He seemed to believe that by my posting a “self-written” article, as he called it, I was required to have the conversation – that to not have the conversation is fascism.

            Fascism is a serious word, and both sides of the aisle bandy it about with reckless abandon. Fascism is many things, but it certainly isn’t not wanting to talk to someone you know. It isn’t abstaining from a hostile conversation. And so, I wanted to write this to shed some light on what goes on. Discourse isn’t an assault. Writing an article isn’t a conversation. I’m willing to have a discussion, but I couldn’t waste my energy on this one. I was exhausted by all the far-right buzz words and accusations of fascism and the like. I’ll engage, happily, but I didn’t want to talk to this particular person. I had a lifetime to decide that I’m done with him.

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

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