I never thought I’d have to “unfriend” somebody I’ve known for such a long time.
She’s always sort of lorded it over me, patted me on the head and dismissed me as naïve or maybe cute.
OK, I thought. She’s older. Since my mom’s not around, I’ll let her think she’s the boss of me.
Mostly she sent me sappy sayings about “liking this” if you love your children and how it’s a shame more people won’t “share” to show their support for our troops.
But over time, she started sending anxious emails about how I might already be showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, or throw up frantic posts like those urban legends that circulate saying “don’t flash your high beams at night or gangsters will turn around and shoot you.” Or “be careful in movie theatres because people are putting needles in the seats.”
In retrospect it’s uncertain, but I’d like to think in the beginning I responded out of an altruistic intent to allay her fears. I’d go to Snopes and send her the link to debunk the scare.
But she didn’t seem to like that. She just wanted everyone to be informed, she’d say. She wanted everyone to be safe. So, if she posted something that sounded a little whacky, she advised me just to delete it and go on.
But I couldn’t do that.
I don’t like being scared unnecessarily, I told her. So, if her posts seemed a little whacky, I’d be happy to check them out for her and let her know.
She didn’t post that stuff for a good long while, but I don’t think she started doing her own fact checking. She told me Snopes was unreliable. I checked it out, and found information to the contrary. Still I went on to citing Politico and Annenberg’s FactCheck instead. Let her try to argue with their credibility!
Maybe she quit caring if I was in danger.
At last, we got into a tussle over the presidential campaign. I kept insisting on running those fact checks on her wildly improbable assertions. Then, and this is where I took a stroll with Rod Serling myself: I’d post what I learned. That was my obstinate and oft-repeated error. I guess I was trying to convince her of something. Anything.
I’m confessing. I took the book of cardinal rules and ran it through the shredder. Perhaps foremost among those rules is the one against trying to overcome the irrational with logic. I used to coach debaters, so maybe my behavior is understandable to a degree. But why Miss Manners didn’t step in eludes me.
Oh we’d lay off for a while. But the campaign wore on and neither of us could stop ourselves. Out of patriotic concern for the ignorant, or maybe a hen’s worry for her chicks, she had to let me know the sinister motives of those truly in control and the newest catastrophe on the horizon.
In the thick of our prolonged and pointless post and counter-post I guess my relentless insistence on reliable sources of information pushed her too far. So she played her trump card; she said she has a friend in a position to know what’s really going on behind the scenes in foreign policy: Government infiltration and puppets at the helm, bent on the destruction of the US of A.
Oh. Tina. This crystalized the issue.
How could I argue with Tina?
Or, more importantly, why would I argue with Tina?
What the heck have I been doing? I’ve been arguing with Tina. Trying to educate Tina. Sharing facts with Tina.
Ridiculous. I know. But here’s the weird truth I learned about myself: I have the capacity to cast off perspective and wade into the swamp just like the rest of the whackos I mock. In the most beautiful of ironies, I didn’t get a chance to unfriend my friend. She unfriended me.
Don’t wrestle with a pig, my grandma would say. You’ll only get muddy.
And I might add, whatever you do, don’t argue with Tina. You’re going to get that mud on your face. And you’re going to lose.