Hindsight is 2020

Posted: January 9, 2020 by Brian Johnston

A new year is typically accompanied by a bit of reflection—a past year’s accomplishments and failures, an assessment of any milestones passed, remembrance of those we lost, and an inventory of where we are and where we hope to be going. In times of division and open hostility toward one another, this bears even deeper consideration as we navigate an increasingly complicated world that is somehow getting both smaller and larger at the same time. Personally, I have given some thought to my own role in this quagmire and what I might do differently moving forward in hopes of finding common ground, consensus, and fostering an environment that embraces change without ever letting go of that which makes us strong. It has taken our nation 250 years to weave the fabric of our Republic, and I’m bound and determined to do whatever it takes to not lose those hard-earned gains to some meme, fake news article from a Russian troll farm, or Twitter post from the Commander in Chief. Indeed, we need to be better than this, and it must start from within.

Just yesterday I called out a family member for her never-ending political memes on Facebook. Quite honestly, I told her that she ‘needs to give it a rest,’ citing her never-ending anti-Trump posts and warning of a phenomenon I call ‘Liberal Fatigue.’ I suggested that her politics are probably bigger than any meme and that sometimes less is more.

Naturally, this offended my family member and she let me know in no uncertain terms that I was trying to ‘squash her expression.’ Suggestions that her constant posts might be contributing to a smaller voice through attrition and that she ought to value her voice more were met with more offense.

This is just one of the people I scolded for putting too much out there last year. I asked my most MAGA friend if he actually believed that the 40 or so pro-Trump memes a day were netting him any benefit. He said it didn’t matter and that until there’s a reduction in the ignorance around him, he’s going to keep doing his thing. My former neighbor posted her skepticism about climate change—I found it necessary to remind her that the polar bears don’t see it her way and sent an article with it.

Even my own stepmother wasn’t exempt from my wrath—after her umpteenth ‘LIKE if you agree and SHARE if you’re going to vote for him again in 2020,’ I felt compelled to post an article from Christianity Today called “Trump Should Be Removed from Office” and shared my own article to wash it down.

In hindsight, I can’t help but ask—who the hell do I think I am? After all, I’m the one with the website, blog, and podcast, putting it all out there for whomever to see. I like to consider these op-ed venues to be several orders higher than any Facebook post, but are they really? Just because I take an hour to pen a tailored response to a specific issue, does that make my opinion any more valid than that of anyone else? It’s rather narcissistic to believe that my thousand words on any subject adds any substance to my position. Just because I’ve got enough strength in my convictions to power my way through a two-page rant about nearly any given subject doesn’t necessarily mean that opinion is worth a damn. What’s the proverb? Opinions are like what again?

My wife and I were scrolling through Netflix one evening, trying to find some entertainment when she zipped past a title I had put in the queue, “Knock Down the House,” a documentary about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Upon seeing her, I must have made a groan or some disparaging sound. My wife asked me, “Why did you put it in there?” I answered, “Well, that way I can be triggered every time I see it.” We laughed a bit, but I am willing to bet there’s a little more truth in that statement than I care to admit.

I’m not much on New Year’s Resolutions as I tend to give them up for Lent, but I am genuinely trying to be a better person this year than I was last year. To that end, I am going to make space for everyone who feels the need to voice their opinion on the platform of their choosing. Everybody deserves catharsis, and I still believe it has value—even in its lowest common denominator form.

Taking it a step further, I’m going to resist the urge to respond to every post that gets my goat and I will temper my responses appropriately, reminding myself that I AM easily triggered. My father used to tell me not to roll in the mud with pigs—you just end up dirty and the pig likes it.

I am going to consciously ask more questions rather than provide responses in hopes of conjuring dialogue and free exchange of thought. After all, I’m not really out there to change people’s opinions—I’m more interested in expanding the number of ideas accessible to people in hopes that there might be a little more overlap in the Venn diagrams at the end of the day. That’s about all anyone can hope for. It’s about PRO-versation, not CON-versation, and in hindsight, sometimes I missed the mark. Maybe with a little foresight, I can do just a little bit better this year.

Brian Johnston
Author: Brian Johnston

Author, podcaster, optimist, guardian of The Proversation.


  1. Never Wrestle with a Pig
  2. Christianity Today--Trump Should Be Removed from Office
  3. Toldja So?
  4. Spirited Debate--A How-To Primer in the Days of Social Media
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  • Brian's Family Member Reply

    “Dedicated to Mr. B.J.”
    I am the family member Brian is referring to in this Op-Ed. I’ve learned in my 25 years in Overeaters Anonymous [12 step recovery group based on AA’s steps & principles] that no one’s opinion of me is any of my business. That is until they make it my business like you did Brian. There I was minding my own business and then you messaged me out of the blue. I will use a ‘My Cousin Vinnie’ movie quote to explain how I initially felt; Mona Lisa Vito: “Imagine you’re a deer. You’re prancing along, you get thirsty, you spot a little brook, you put your little deer lips down to the cool clear water… BAM! A fuckin bullet rips off part of your head!” I felt like that deer, and you Brian were the one shooting me. Of course, it wasn’t literal, but in the moment, it felt the same, every emotion flared in me!. Without getting nasty or using profanity, I responded that I was offended, and you responded by doubling-down on your response and then added you were only trying to help me. To make matters worse you were demeaning and misogynist on top of it. If I search my true feelings and put anger aside, the demeaning and misogynist part of our communication hurt the most.
    I have so much to address with these verbal assaults, let me start with this article, ‘Hindsight is 2020’. You say, “I am going to consciously ask more questions rather than provide responses in hopes of conjuring dialogue and free exchange of thought. After all, I’m not really out there to change people’s opinions” Yes! I wholeheartedly agree and in my FB posts that is always my intention; to provide information and have others come to their own conclusion.
    You said “I called out a family member for her never-ending political memes on Facebook” Brian, I am very conscious of not posting ‘memes’ but instead post articles where I make a comment usually with a link to an article. Like you Brian when you informed your neighbor with a comment and an article about climate change. Yes, I occasionally post memes underneath in the comment section. I do not post nasty memes where they are mocking or referring to a persons’ look. Instead, I do my utmost to have content in my memes underneath an informative article. Yes, it’s easy to post a hateful meme like Putin & Trump sleeping together, but I choose not to. I feel you have diminished my intent by referring to my posts as ‘memes’ when I believe there is more content than what you are giving credit to.
    Now I’m going to address your message to me on FB. “We know you hate Trump. Your memes don’t serve to help get rid of him, they contribute to what I call Liberal Fatigue. How about bringing it down to one good meme a day? Puppies, snow in Greece, funny pics of you [and your partner]—all very good.”
    The “I hate Trump” statement. No, I don’t hate Trump, I believe he is mentally ill, and grossly incompetent! To quote Nancy Pelosi here, “I don’t hate anyone!” Now because I quoted Nancy Pelosi you assume, I am a Liberal, that it’s coming from a liberal point-of-view, I am not a liberal. I gravitate to the Democratic side, but I look at each candidate, political issue and decide from there. My nature is one of empathy. I am very sensitive to the wrongs that have been done to people, animals and politically [taking people’s rights away especially]. I have had a very abusive, traumatic childhood and I look at these issues from an empathetic point-of-view. “How would I feel if I were in that situation?” Having survived a lot of traumas, I have a survivor mentality. “I lived to tell about” or “that didn’t kill me!” has been my mantra for many years. I am growing past that, and feel my words and actions have value. I now put myself in the abuser’s point-of-view. “Why are they wanting what they want?” “Why do they feel the need to hurt others to get it?” That’s where I come from when posting political articles on FB.
    Brian, you say you have ‘Liberal Fatigue’ whereas I have ‘Human Nature fatigue’. Human nature is a bundle of characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling, and acting, which humans are said to have naturally. The term is often regarded as capturing what it is to be human or the essence of humanity. The term is controversial because it is disputed whether such an essence exists to be human. Whether that’s true or not I have fatigue from it! Putting up with uniformed, judgmental comments from humans like you. That Liberal Fatigue comment from you was very demeaning to me and others. No matter whether I identify as a Liberal or not! You’re ‘free exchange of thought’ will never happen if you have ignorant labels for people.
    The second time I told you I was offended, you doubled down. “Do what you want. I wonder how many other people just unfollow you rather than tell you the truth. Your voice gets smaller with each one. I’m telling you to VALUE that voice more. But you can be offended instead if that is better for you. Again, I love you and actually agree with MOST of what you are saying. Less is more sometimes.” I cannot tell you enough the disdain I felt in that moment. You were summing up my voice to how many people potentially would unfollow me. That my voice is not of value because you deemed it so! Then told me if I wanted to be offended that it’s better for me, as opposed to being enlightened by your insight into how I conduct my Timeline. Then you used a tactic from the unwritten “Abusers Handbook” [anyone who has been abused knows these tactics], by telling me you love me while justifying your words and actions, which is supposed to take all the other offenses away and make it okay … for you!
    Finally, the misogynist offense that hurt the most. “Puppies, snow in Greece, funny pics of you [and your partner]—all very good.” My immediate response was “NO, HE DID NOT!” In this instance I wish I could post a gif/meme here! Something like “get back in the kitchen and serve me!” Brian, not only did you tell me what and how to post political content on my Timeline, but then you had the audacity to tell me to stick to the fluffy stuff and I should be okay with that! Can I legislate the feelings men hold in their minds or hearts? No! How does one fight an emotion like this? I was tempted to reply with a misandry response. I know two wrongs do not make a right and I do not hate men, so I took the high road and did not respond and stayed silent until I could respond with a clear head.
    In closing, I do accept the apology you offered. I can’t hold onto the anger this incident has produced. It serves no one to hold onto it, especially me! I’m encouraged that you have written about it. It’s a start, I see a lot more insight on your part before you ‘get it’ and display more appropriate actions in the future. It takes a lot to own up to your mistakes and apologize. It also takes a lot to accept an apology. My hope is you have heard my words with sincerity, mindfulness and grace.
    P.S. Immediately after telling you to block me so you didn’t have to be burdened by what you called ‘Liberal Fatigue’, in anger I unfriended you. I don’t see that changing anytime soon, but please know I have dedicated to you every single political article and meme I post. “Dedicated to Mr. B.J.”

    • Brian Johnston Reply

      Thank you for the deepest and most detailed response we’ve ever had to an article on The Proversation. While I clearly see this through a different light than you do, I was affected enough by your response to actually think about my own actions and words and to make some changes.

      While I’d love to believe that America is a bigger and better place than to allow a handful of articles and memes alter the course of history, apparently that is not the case. After all, without Facebook, does Donald Trump ever even ascend to the presidency? An appreciation of this truth was my intent, however my means to that end was in no way Proversational, and that failure is mine alone. I promise to make every effort to do better in the future.

      • Rachel Johnston Reply

        Dear loves of my life,
        I do not pretend to know what has transpired. But to my beautiful family member-you be you. To my loving husband, you be you.
        I often just scroll right on by stuff that I absolutely 100% disagree with that someone I either like or love posted, and I move on. I suggest all parties involved here do the same. Maybe, closer to the truth, is that is what I call FACEBOOK fatigue. It’s not a real world. It’s a fake world full of a bunch of crap that we all get way too sucked into. I actually don’t read or look at most things political on FB because it’s ALL stupid in my opinion. I would much rather watch puppies all day long, oh, and read weird history and strange facts that are half-true. I don’t choose to love or unlove, or like or unlike someone based on his/her politics…if I did…I would not like or love lots of people. I choose to love people based on their kindness, their goodness, their ability to serve or help others, their humor, their idiosyncrasies, and their soul.
        Proversation is about the freedom of ideas and dialogue. This creates healthy dissonance. Let’s keep it that way-thought provoking, and meaningful in moving us forward toward truth and understanding. I think this is something we all as Americans need to do a little bit better job at this year.
        At the end of the day, when we strip it all down, all we have is our love for one another, and if we lose that, we truly have nothing.
        Love you both! Peace!

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