A little while back, a long-time friend, upset over an article I wrote about marijuana, threatened to expose some skeletons in my closet if I didn’t back off on my belief that the drug should remain illegal.
"You better clean up your own house," he said.
Long-time readers of this site know of my past battles with alcoholism. I often write about my struggles with the beast. That, and the fact that I lost a loved one in an accident caused by a driver under the influence of grass, lead to my opposition to the legalization of marijuana and other drugs.
But my position is an opinion: Nothing more, nothing less. It is my belief based on my own personal experiences. People can — and should — agree or disagree. That’s their right.
Yet my friend’s reaction — and threat — surprised me but it wasn’t the only strong one over the article. Some readers threatened boycotts. Other friends cut off communication. Another withdrew an invite to a social function, saying my presence there would make his other guests uncomfortable.
I’m no stranger to controversy. I’ve been stirring emotions with readers for more than 40 years. But lately, I’ve seen disagreement replaced by anger, debate supplanted by hate and discussion pushed aside by threats of retaliation or violence.
It’s not just the atmosphere here in Floyd County. Bitter partisanship divides our governments, road rage is commonplace on our nation’s roads and debates on TV turn into shoutfests. Emotions run too high and tempers too hot. At Floyd County town council meetings, regular attendees talk about heated arguments between Mayor Rob Shelor and councilman Mike Patton and say their debates have come close to fist fights. A fight broke out recently at an event at Pine Tavern.
We’ve become a contentious society where diatribes become the dialog of debate. It’s not enough to say you disagree with someone’s position. You have to make it personal by calling them names or issuing threats.
I’m not sure where the answer lies, or if one even exists. Perhaps civility has no place in today’s society. Perhaps an extended middle finger or a shouted expletive suffices as communication now.
Maybe we’ve lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable.