therefore we are

Kleiman,Jaime_Collection_04

Imagine my surprise when my conservative, Republican-leaning father told me he really liked one of my recent blog posts. Imagine my surprise when an ardent Christian lady (whom I’ve never met) told me how much she likes my blog. I identify as a progressive, but blogging has made me realize a couple things. 1) Politically, some of us have more in common than we might think, at least on certain issues; 2) unless you write a really in-depth essay on your blog about what you believe, people might think you have more in common with them than you actually do; 3) Gasp. We humans have the shared experience of being human – we’re not that different from one another once you get down to the nitty gritty.

This is obviously a bit of a mind f-ck, but also redeeming; it speaks well of us as a species. Veiled by the cloak of a blog, people have the anonymous luxury of imprinting onto it what they see in themselves – much in the same way that when you visit a museum with a friend and they tell you what they see, you have no idea what they’re talking about. Rather, you see something completely different. You see reflections of your own mind. Or when you have the good fortune to have enrolled in a college course taught by a closeted gay professor who is obsessed with gayness in America, and thus interprets every great early twentieth century American play as a trope about homosexuality. There may be some truth in what we see, but more often than not we’re just laying down our own agendas, using other people’s points of view to reflect back at us what we already believe. But then sometimes we don’t, and that’s when we move forward, individually and as a group.

I’m not sure it always used to be this imbalanced, at least not to this extent. Information and our ability to communicate used to be exponentially more restricted, constrained by distance, language, literacy, and time. Information and communication were crafted with more care, or at least with less volume, and usually by people of a certain level of education, social standing, and class. (Note: I’m not advocating for this, merely observing.) Nowadays, anyone can post anything online, reaching millions of people instantly, and the reader doesn’t know (unless the writer reveals it) the author’s gender, sexual orientation, skin color, political affiliation, or anything else. This creates mass potential for unlikely alliances, but also allows us to segregate and splinter off into factions more than ever.

For some reason, many of we humans seek out those who are just like us. Blogging, one of the great common denominators – you don’t even have to know how to spell – gives us insight into all kinds of people’s beliefs. You might discover that you like someone’s aesthetic, but not their point of view. How can that be possible, you wonder? I would posit that asking such things of ourselves is a salient and noble thing to do. Allowing ourselves to be challenged. To be uncomfortable. To be surprised. It’s so easy nowadays to seek out only information we agree with, information we deem safe, which paradoxically has made us more vulnerable than ever to stratification and division.

It’s important to allow yourself to see another person’s point of view, to perhaps even agree with some of it, even if it is for different reasons.

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