My wife (who has a Roman shrewdness though she's more cheerful than Calpurnia) says I'm posting too much political material on Facebook--she fears both for my wits and my reputation. It's one thing to be known as a gadfly but really quite another to be seen as a pest. She's right of course and in my better moments I know I risk being a public nuisance with my online activity. I tell myself it's OK since I'm not intentionally vexatious, after all I've good motives and i recite them silently--I believe in civil rights for women, people of color, children, refugees, all the disabled, LGBT persons. I support religious tolerance, help for veterans, the poor, animal rights, biodiversity. Yes, I'm also an ardent Jungian who thinks our very planet has consciousness.
So it's a firm list. As Cardinal Newman said: "We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe." I know my choices well. I'm of an age when (again quoting Newman): "You must make up your mind to the prospect of sustaining a certain measure of pain and trouble in your passage through life." I ask myself if I knew what fights were proper? Did I accept the consequences? Admit I couldn't be liked by many? I accepted the repercussions. There would indeed be a certain measure of pain. We are all answerable for what we choose to believe, whether we're religious or atheists. We're also answerable for the choices we make when it comes to speaking up or not speaking at all. In an age of calculated victimization, when universal human rights are besieged on all sides, not speaking is a choice but one I fear.
My wife is correct: I'm likely speechifying too much on social media. But I'm driven by "The Beatitudes"--"Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." And Cornel West: "Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public."
So I risk disapprobation over silence. Potential friends or prospective employers might be turned off by my views as I've written about the failure of higher education to support students and staff with disabilities. I've argued against the claims of neoliberalism by sharing narratives of social neglect. Trust me I'm in no way unique. i make no special claim for my own importance. I only say I'm consistent.
I am not a "troll" and I don't post hateful material, either on my blog or on Facebook or Twitter. But I'll quickly re-post an article about the New Hampshire State Representative who loudly proclaimed Hillary Clinton should be placed before a firing squad. In this way I suppose I'm naively imagining social media is like the Puritan stocks and pillory--that they can be a platform for registering decent outrage. Police brutality, Freddie Gray, tasering the autistic--these are more than injustices, they're atrocities. Each day I do my wee part and dare to say so. Now the real question: am I just "piling on" as they say in Football? Is the expression of sincere distress in the electronic media a failing? Maybe an abdication of sincere leadership?
There may be some truth to this. Most people hitting the "share" button are not organizing a neighborhood food drive. (A poet I admire once said: "they're risking varicose veins at their desks.") Opinions are certainly easy. Easy is as American as apple pie. What's not easy is sticking with The Beatitudes. Sticking with a vision of universal dignity. What's not easy is opposing war, demanding medical care and housing for refugees, wanting women to be safe in the streets. Not easy.
As for me, being blind, a non-driver in a town with terrible mass transit it's not likely I'll soon be leading a neighborhood canned goods drive. The digital world is where I can have my say. If I was actually going door to door asking for donations you can bet I'd take some abuse since the nation is filled with malcontents. Twitter and the blogosphere are no different.
I may offend. There's an always an audience for it out there. Christopher Hitchens, no stranger to the art of offense wrote: "Those who are determined to be 'offended' will discover a provocation somewhere. We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt."