The Golden Rule

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I had a disturbing experience last evening. It actually kept me awake lying in bed thinking about it; what’s worse, this morning, about ten minutes after waking up, I suddenly remembered the experience and it’s put a pall over the day. Let me tell you about it.

I have a Facebook account and most days I use it. I don’t post a lot, but I love going to the Facebook page a couple times a day to see what’s up with my friends. Well, last morning I did post something…a link to a CNN story about the 2012 Presidential election, along with a tongue-in-cheek comment about it. The comment was innocuous enough and in fact could have been taken two, extremely opposite, ways. Well, by early evening a bluegrass friend of mine, a CBA person, posted a very angry note to the thread I’d created. I was taken aback and immediately sent an email to the friend, (I’m afraid ex-friend now), apologizing for any offense taken. I didn’t try to offer an explanation or make a defense, just said I was sorry and asked forgiveness.

The email of apology didn’t go over well, to say the least, and the response was angrier and a good deal longer than the Facebook post made by the person. To say I was bothered by the exchange….and still bothered….would be an understatement. Frankly I find myself dreading encountering this person at a future bluegrass event, which I’m sure to do.

Needless to say I have, for the past eleven years, been scrupulously, almost obsessively, careful to stay away from politics on the CBA web site. As a columnist, as a news item designer, as a user of the Message board. In fact, to state the obvious, I’ve been the chief enforcer of the bluegrass community’s Golden Rule….thou shalt not discuss politics or religion. It’s been said over and over again, in many, many different ways and by countless people: the music we love allows us to meet and become friends with folks we’d otherwise never have encountered….by adhering to the Golden Rule we can sustain those friendships despite any different or conflicting political or religious views. A pretty simple, straightforward concept and one that, after 35 years in the bluegrass community, I accept without any qualification whatsoever.

So now, this morning, I find myself wondering whether I have, in fact, broken the Golden Rule. In the general course of life in the world of bluegrass, it’s not so much a matter of keeping one’s political and religious beliefs a ‘secret’ from others; rather, we simply refrain from conversations that go there. But now, in the era of social networking, things have become a little more complicated. I’ve watched over the past couple years bluegrass friends come to blows on Facebook, arguing about issues they’d would NEVER even hint at during a bluegrass festival, jam or camp out. For better or worse, Facebook, Twitter and the like have opened up a window on ourselves, our lives, our beliefs, and pretty much anybody out there can peer in if they choose.

So here are my options as I see them: go on using Facebook as I have for the past several years, mostly reading but occasionally posting and not censoring myself, except, of course, in matters of good taste and propriety; posting on Facebook the way I post on the CBA Message Board, which is to say, being extremely careful to write nothing that could possibly cause bluegrass friends of a different persuasion to take offense; or simply close out my Facebook account. In all honesty, if I were a mere ‘civilian’ I’d probably go with option one. But the fact is, at this point in my life I’m a leader in our bluegrass community….the CBA chairman….and as such, I feel a deep responsibility toward helping to preserve our long-established and very effective Golden Rule. So, for now, the jury’s out.

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