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Lost In Semantics

In our current climate of heightened tensions, Christian Shuck reminds us that the best thing we can do before engaging in a political argument the best thing we can do measure ourselves earnestly before stepping into the arena.

On January 20th, around 3:30 p.m. EST, I made the mistake of scrolling through Facebook. The social media platform is, or was, to me, a way to catch sound bites of news without suffering through the agony of sensationalized “journalism” on network television. It’s not really worth that any more. At best I catch some great quote or video of an idiot trying to wrestle an alligator. I do admit that I use it to disseminate my blog. Anyway, the point is looking through the feed was a bad idea.

I’ve gotten carried away in exchanges with strangers before, and almost instantly regretted it. Not because I think it’s wrong to stand up for things like facts. I got upset with myself because I let people get under my skin. It’s a disservice to myself, to begin with. But it’s also an insult to civil conversation. Maybe the internet has destroyed the art of personal interaction. It’s made it too easy to hide behind a keyboard. In fact, the effect it’s had on society as a whole seems to be the exact opposite of what was initially intended.

One particular post I saw that afternoon demonstrated this concept very well. A friend of mine (an actual friend in real life that I’ve known since grade school) shared a link to a blog where the author lists statements that he did not consent to the election of Trump, or any of his rhetoric, or potential policies, as POTUS because he did not vote for him. I read the post and while it is certainly passionate, it does not express hatred toward Donald Trump, the man. It’s far more a statement against what many assume his presidency will bring in the next four years. (Fine, fine, here’s the link.)

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True to form, someone whom I do not know made a comment under the shared link expressing their, um, disappointment in the demonstration of apparent hatred for (gulp) President Trump. My friend responded with far more patience than I could have by pointing out the link does not, in fact, say anything at all about hating Donald Trump. Merely that it represents a sentiment felt by many US citizens as well as citizens of the world.

Aside from pointing out the fact this stranger did not actually read the post, the response was less than intellectual. What I mean by that is an opinion was shared that I have seen hundreds of times in the last twelve-plus months. It was a regurgitation of catch phrases about Hillary being a criminal, that all the stories about Trump are lies, the DNC paid women to lie about him, that he himself is the most honest person in Washington, and that he indeed wants to seek out truth and love for the entire country. The kicker, though, was a final sentence about how in all her years, apparently more than seventy, she’s never seen so much hatred and uncivilized protest toward a leader in the US. I mean, really?

I resisted the urge to click “comment”. I wanted to, so very badly. Instead I just read on. Unfortunately the rest of the conversation was what I could have predicted with my eyes closed. (Er, hands off the keyboard?) My friend repeated their tactful response, adding in that mountains of evidence exist to show why most people don’t really believe that our new President is all for peace and love. From there it stopped just short of spiraling when the antagonist brought out the big gun, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

Adrenaline flooded my brain as my hand jumped to the mouse awaiting orders to click and type. I wanted to, I really did. This type of comment, whether made at a dinner table, in a bar, or via social media is like scraping nails down a chalkboard. I can’t stand it when anyone attempts to quote scripture about anything. Doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on, or whether that aisle is in a grocery store. It’s so often pulled out of context the user probably doesn’t even know where it comes from. Or, that the quote is actually this:

“Do not judge, so that you will not be judged, since you will be judged in the same judgment that you make, and you will be measured by the same standard you apply.” (Book of Matthew 7:1-2, the Bible)

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Generally the summarized version of this particular statement is utilized at a time when an individual is making an attempt to defend an action that could be interpreted as wrong or immoral because it indicates the suspected accuser is “judging” someone. This is not completely accurate. The verse is not, in fact, about passing judgement but about hypocrisy.

If you keep reading, verses three and five highlight this point by saying:

“Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”

It’s far more about learning the lesson that if you’re going to point fingers, make sure you hold yourself to the same standard. The intention is to elevate one’s own thinking so that you realize when you see something “wrong” with another’s behavior, that you check yourself first. Make sure your own behavior is up to your own standards before classifying someone else’s.

What does this out-of-character rant about biblical verses have to do with online discussion? Lots. Especially when it comes to politics. I’ve always thought it strange that as a population we have an expectation of our elected leaders to be morally righteous when we ourselves look the other way in our everyday lives. It exhibits the denial we feel toward politicians in general: they’re reflections of us.

I’m like a lot of people in that I’m really trying to comprehend what’s happening in the U.S. Regardless of your stance, or individual perspective, we are all going to have to realize it’s a reflection of us as a whole. And if you don’t like what you’re seeing in the mirror, pull the log out of your eye, get some perspective, and get to work helping others dig the splinters out of their eyes. Sign up to volunteer somewhere, doing anything that you believe leads in the direction of unity. It’s far more effective than bashing on your keyboard.

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About Christian Shuck

Christian Shuck is a Greencastle native and Hope College alumnus who works in higher education as a major gift officer. Besides his contributions here, he also writes for his own blog cmshuckstories.com.  He currently lives in Terre Haute.

Photo Credit:  Women’s March January 17, 2017 Chicago by Jonathan Eyler-Werve is licensed under the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic.

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