To hear him tell it, my column was simply "the last straw" — the piece that prompted an educated artist to call and leave a message that he was later humiliated about leaving.
I actually get that.
Too often, I'm tempted to respond in coarse fashion. In fact, too often I do. Heck, had I answered the phone when he called, I'm sure my response would've been just as unproductive.
In such cases, it's probably best to think about what's really making us angry. Introspection before aggression.
Unfortunately, modern-day discourse encourages no such thing. Discord is welcomed by media and pundits who seek to incite rather than inform; people who actually profit off division.
Many of these people try to convince their followers that they are under attack — and must retaliate.
It works. People walk around refuting accusations that were never leveled.
At one point, my caller said he was angry that I called him a bigot.
But I didn't, I responded. While I stand firm in my belief that equal rights on gender, race and sexual identity are the right thing to do, I have always said that I understand people come from different perspectives.
More important, I know that I will never change minds by calling someone a bigot. Or a racist. Such labels simply shut down conversations and close minds.
Besides, identifying people only by the issues on which you disagree is a scary way to go through life.
Heck, I had a passionate debate with a well-known conservative pastor after he penned a rebuttal to my gay-marriage column. But he's not my enemy. In fact, we ended our polite exchange knowing that we'll cross paths again on behalf of a charity that we have teamed up to help before.
For all the discord in the world, I truly believe that there is more that unites than divides us.
That includes me and this caller.
We actually continued our discussion later in the week. We talked about our families and our jobs. Our backgrounds and our values.
He said he had continued to think about our conversation and his initial message; about why he had gotten that angry and the legacy he wants to leave. I told him he'd helped me learn the value of trying to communicate rather than retaliate.
At one point, I asked him what he cared most about. "My family and my children," he said. "And a belief that there's something bigger than just yourself in the world."
I'm not sure I could have said it better myself.
And neither of us could have said anything productive if we'd let our initial anger rule.
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