The Septuargenarian Speaks – published January 9, 2019, Siskiyou Daily News

Just out of curiosity I counted the number of my Facebook “friends.”  To my surprise, I tallied 145.  To my further surprise, I discovered that four of them are deceased.  I started to “unfriend” the deceased ones, but couldn’t do it.  Somehow it didn’t seem the decent thing to do, so they are still my “friends,” probably forever; meaning I will continue to receive Facebook’s standard “wish them happy birthday” messages, which can be distressing. 

For clarity in this story I will refer to the people on my Facebook list as “friends” (with quotation marks) and refer to my other friends as friends (no quotation marks.)

Happily, I have more friends than “friends.”  All of my “friends” are friends (save perhaps the deceased ones, although it does raise an interesting question of whether it’s possible to be a friend of a dead person.  Maybe you can be their “friend,” but not their friend.)  I wouldn’t have chosen to “friend” a person in the first place unless that person was actually a friend.  But some of my “friends” are pushing the envelope of my patience, and I’m tempted to “unfriend” them; but won’t, because I know they are good people, even if I disagree with them on certain subjects.

When a person calls me stupid, ignorant, misled, duped, idiotic, corrupt, brainwashed, uninformed, weak, and a coward, is that grounds to “unfriend” that person?  To be honest, that person hasn’t singled me out personally, saying, “Bob, you are stupid, ignorant, misled, duped, idiotic, corrupt, brainwashed, uninformed, weak, and a coward.”  That person referred to a group, not to me personally.  The group could be, you name it, Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal, NRA, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, etc., etc., etc.   I didn’t worry much about being a worthless person until I found myself trapped in Hillary’s basket of deplorables.  It has gone downhill ever since.  I am in everyone’s basket.

It is not my practice to post political messages on Facebook.  But that is just me.  There is nothing wrong with posting such messages, and it falls within Facebook’s mission statement.  Facebook is one of the many modern forums that exist for healthy debate and discussion. Whether that is good or bad depends on how it is used.  For example, if you want to persuade me of the wisdom or lack thereof of building a border wall, go for it.  I will listen.  You may or may not persuade me.  But when you put me in a basket, and call that basket, and therefore me, racist, bigoted, and stupid, you are toast. 

There has been more and more of this type of chatter from my Facebook “friends” on both edges of the political spectrum, and I am trying to figure out how to deal with it.  The solution is simple, correct?  Just “unfriend” them.  But maybe they’re right; I am a moron.  The primary reason I won’t “unfriend” them is that I want to know what they are saying.  Sometimes it scares me, but I don’t want to stick my head in the sand.  I want to know what people are actually saying, so I can defend myself, if necessary.  This kind of chatter is a major part of what we now are getting every time we watch or listen to the “news,” read our newspapers, or read a Tweet.  It can be toxic.  People are not being conditioned to learn and understand; they are being trained to be angry.

So, I’m not going to “unfriend” you, even if you re-post some mean-spirited slogan requiring little effort or thought on your part to do so.  I will even continue to read what you say.  But please don’t put me in a basket.  I’ve satisfied myself that, no matter what you call me, or what basket in which you have placed me, in the words of Todd Snyder’s song, “I’m an alright guy.”

Bob Kaster
Yreka, California

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