“The older you get, the more you realize you have no desire for drama, conflict or any kind of intensity. You just want a cozy home, a good book, and the company of someone who knows how you drink your coffee.” —Uncredited motivational poster
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While writing resolutions last week (hey, the year is still relatively new), I recycled all the usual suspects: lose weight, exercise, save more, quit buying so many old car parts. After some hesitation, I crossed off that last one and wrote, “get a bigger store room.” Pleased with my efforts, I concluded by adding one more, “avoid drama.”
Never one to enjoy drama, my disdain for it has only increased with age. I’ve always enjoyed healthy discussions on politics, religion, philosophy, cars, music … you name it, so long as its civil. I’m not naïve enough to think I’m going to change anyone’s mind, therefore I don’t enter into a discussion with hopes of doing so. I just strive to respect individual differences because to me, agreeing to disagree is better than losing a friend. As Thomas Jefferson once noted, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”
I come by that honestly. Dad was a confessed “yellow dog” Democrat, and mom was an unbending Republican. She was also a lifelong member of the church of Christ, and dad dodged her diligent efforts to convert him. Despite differences that often create difficulties in marriages, theirs lasted 62 years and 8 months before dad died unexpectedly in 2006. Every election cycle, they canceled each other’s votes. Dad never joined the church of Christ, and mom never missed a service until Alzheimer’s eroded her mind in the last years of her life.
Yet, I never heard a disparaging word over politics, religion, or anything else for all my years with them. Oh, they disagreed on things all right. But when they failed to see eye-to-eye, there was never an ugly or harsh word, not even a change in either’s tone of voice. Most disagreements ended quickly with dad shrugging his shoulders, walking away, and shaking his head with that, “I’ll never understand her,” expression every married man knows. And mom? She voiced her differences by pleasantly presenting her case, then ignored any further comment busying herself with housework or reading a book.
Often wondering what might be on his or her mind, my assumptions of unspoken words my father might have had were like, “I don’t understand, but it’s not worth an argument.” And it always seemed to me that mom’s thoughts could have been, “I’ve stated my case. If you didn’t understand me the first time, there’s no sense in repeating it.”
It’s that inherited dislike for drama that prompted my final resolution for 2021 to reduce it, and a good start will be reducing my intake of social media. Digital messaging has its good side. It’s facilitated reuniting friends and family as well as finding new friendships in a manner that was impossible 25 years ago. On the downside, however, it’s exacerbated what family and friends sometimes do: fuss, argue and get mad. And even worse, it’s normalized dissension between total strangers who by some unfathomable logic consider it sane to call each other, or others, ugly or even profane names and broadcast the whole sordid speech to an anonymous worldwide audience.
It’s no coincidence to me that the proliferation of social media and deep divisional discord in our society have traveled parallel paths. The divide can be traced at least to the rebellious 60s. It increased dramatically in the mid-90s when Hotmail became the first free web-based email service in 1996 and “SixDegrees.com,” debuted as the first social media site in 1997. Facebook launched in 2006, and as they say, “the rest is history.”
I enjoy social media to stay in touch with family, friends, and special interest groups dedicated to old cars, airplanes, and music. But, the political and societal drama has for the most part, made the rest distasteful. So, it was when I found myself sucked into these frenzied free-for-alls foolishly dreaming civil discourse was somehow possible that I realized it was time for a change. For now, my goal is to keep the positive, uplifting, and civil elements of social media. But for all the “invitations” to hate-fueled drama, just like changing the TV channel to avoid vast wastelands there, I will keep on scrolling.
Will I avoid all discussions expressing my opinions? Heavens, no. I didn’t say I was rolling over and giving up on my beliefs, just that I’m tired of the hate-filled, disrespectful content based mostly on misinformation from which nothing good comes anyway. As I’ve said in this space more than once, the biggest threat to America’s future is our loss of respect for each other, for our country, and to a large degree a growing loss of self-respect.
That said, if you need any 1950s Ford parts, message me. I’ll respect you with a “no drama deal.” Plus, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee to boot. Just let me know how you like yours.
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