Tragedy Is Not a Competition: How to Talk About Boston


Welcome to a very special episode of Friendzone, Jezebel’s column devoted to dealing with the valuable people in your life who you’re not humping. In this installment, we’re tackling one from the comments on Boston: dealing with your sanctimonious friend who says we should reallllly be talking about [insert other awful thing here], which is “so much worse” or whatever.

How do I deal with friends who post things like, “Yes, bombing in the US is bad, but what we need to be talking about is the US sending drones to bomb other countries”? The same friend posted an article a few weeks back that said (paraphrasing), “Sure, there are issues with LGBT Americans, but most of them are well enough off that marriage equality shouldn’t be a big issue. While you were too busy paying attention to the Supreme Court, Obama signed a bill protecting Monsanto’s ability to grow GMO crops, and that’s a way bigger problem.”

I have a hard time reading these things and not feeling shitty about everything; they make me feel guilty for some reason. How do I respond? Is it even productive? Why can’t this friend just talk about their concern about drones separately from the Boston Marathon? Isn’t raising awareness about issues one at a time better than being elitist about the ones you think are more important than others?

Ah, the pretentious Facebook shit-starter. Convinced she alone truly understands the way things ought to be, she just loves posting opinions and ideas that run counter to what she regards as unenlightened conventional wisdom. Less sophisticated beings may be wasting their time mourning the terrible loss of life in Boston, but she has her eye on the Big Picture. She’s wiser. She’s more clever. And she can’t wait to prove it to you.

Let me be clear. I don’t entirely disagree with your friend, at least not politically. She makes some salient points that are perhaps worth discussing in a forum more suited to intellectual and ethical discourse than frigging Facebook. But she’s intentionally being a pain in the ass in order to gain attention – as if all 563 of her friends are actually going to say, “Hey, great point you made on the FB, Alicia. Time to march on Washington to demand the end to program X or special cause Y. Wow. You’ve really changed things.”

If she’s a good friend whom you do not care to insult, simply hide her provocative posts from your newsfeed. If she’s a “meh” friend about whom you don’t actually give much of a rat’s patootie, defriend her. You’re not going to change her mind, and you’re not going to win any heroism points by going off on her on Facebook. What we need to do here is ease your mind, and the best way to do that is to get her purposely pot-stirring posts out of your face.

As for your guilt – I’d say it’s entirely unnecessary. You are allowed to feel bad for bombing victims in Boston and drone strike victims in Pakistan. You are even allowed to hold these two thoughts in your head at the same time. Unlike your friend, who seems to see life as an either/or proposition, you seem to grasp the concept that reality is far more complicated than anything one might express in a Facebook status update.

Got an issue and looking for guidance? Email [email protected].

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