Here I Go Again

October 22, 2020

I have written about this topic before and I will write about it again, I am sure. I shouldn’t write when I am angry and exhausted from social media’s seemingly inherent meanness, but here I am. I write sometimes to vent. Bear with me or bail while you can.

I was raised in an interesting family. My father was an Irish, socially conservative Republican and my hippie mother was an Italian, liberal-about-everything Democrat. There were lively discussions at the dinner table. We were taught to respect people and to respect differing opinions. We were taught to listen, even when you disagree. “You just might learn something,” was a common refrain.

So how did we get here? How is it that we live in a “cancel culture?” The new norm is that if you disagree with someone, you disparage them, call them names and then…heaven forbid…unfollow them or block them.

Are we kidding with this?

I am a passionate health advocate whose works is based on decades of personal experience. I have busted my tail to earn two Masters Degrees and become an expert in Chinese medicine so I could confidently speak about the impact of food on wellness and on our planet.

And the interesting thing is that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that our food choices are killing us and our planet.

I get it though. We want what we want when we want it. We pay the price when it’s demanded and not before. Heck, in my own life, it took cancer for me to change my ways.

What wears me down is the venom with which we disagree. I am stunned by the absolute rage with which people tell me to “shut up and cook” or “I don’t follow you for your opinions; I follow you for your recipes.”

Well, my darlings, there’s more to me than recipes and in my social media, I very rarely post anything without a direct or indirect connection to food because that is my work and my expertise. But I have opinions; I have personal passions. My question is this: on your social media, you post what you like, be it photos of your dogs and cats, food, your kids, your political opinions, right?

And yet, a public figure is not entitled to do the same? Public figures are people whose work has placed them in the collective social conscience. That doesn’t make us public property. I pay my own bills and my taxes. I work hard. I don’t think that following my passion, my mission of talking about food makes me any less free to share my feelings on other subjects than food than anyone else.

I am happy to see someone with a differing opinion on my pages or feeds. They often make me think. Did I make a blanket statement? Did I judge where I should not have? Is there something I can learn from this person?

We do not have to agree on everything. How boring.

But when people yell at me; call me names; unfollow me (as though that knife will cut so deep, I’ll just die…); try to trivialize the work I do, melting it down to posting recipes, I feel gutted. Truly I do.

Maybe I just don’t understand the reason for being so mean. I don’t know (I don’t think…) any of the people who are cruel or “cancel” me from their social media. I personally would never think it was ok to write to someone or post to someone I didn’t know some of the things that have been sent to me. I would never presume it was okay to call someone I had no connection to other than on my TV screen a ‘bitch,’ ‘whore’ or ‘stupid.’ I would never judge someone’s appearance as mine has been. Why would I do that? Why would anyone? What right would I have to do any of this? What kind of person thinks this is okay on any level?

We live in challenging times; I know that. It has become completely okay to demonize someone you disagree with. People wear tee shirts with slogans like: “I’d rather be Russian than a Democrat.” We act as though people of opposing views are somehow an existential threat to us.

A friend sent me a video hoping to make me feel better. It was an interview with Bradley Cooper being asked why he has no social media. He shook his head and talked about not being tough enough for what would be written or said. He said he didn’t have a thick enough skin for it. Think about that for a second. He is a very famous, very talented actor/director who has been nominated for many awards. And he’s not tough enough? I’m just a chef who cooks on public television. How can I be expected to be tough enough?

I will never understand it. I will never accept it. None of us should. It might be my turn at the moment, but the cancel culture can come for any of us at any moment. If we continue to allow it, who are we? When we can no longer listen or learn, what have we become?

Finally, I didn’t write this to elicit compliments. For the most part, my social media platforms are populated by kind, loving, compassionate, funny, inquisitive people and I love, love, love engaging with you.

I felt it was time to write though, when I click on my various platforms with a dull throb of dread of what I might find on my feeds, comments or in direct messages.

We must, now more than ever, think before we write, post, message or speak. Now, more than ever, we need understanding and kindness if we are to find peace and harmony once again; if we are to come together to solve the problems we face.