What's My Beef?
At the risk of divulging proprietary Bozeman Magazine secrets, I’d like to share a recent email exchange I had with Angie Ripple, the magazine’s publisher and an all-around amazing person who works tirelessly to create a sense of community in our community. For context, What’s Your Beef? is the magazine’s opinion column, an opportunity for a local to share their thoughts on issues big or small.
Angie: We’ve got everything for June, except a What’s Your Beef? (Letter to the Editor) No matter how many times in how many places I try to get one, it fails.
Me: I have a lot of beefs but not the energy to put them into words.
After this exchange, I could not stop pondering how, in a world as divided and polarized as this one, there was no one out there (including myself) interested in putting pen to paper (or more realistically, fingers to keyboard) and letting the Bozeman community know how they feel. I know my gut is a roiling sea of anxiety over a seemingly endless list of serious issues. Am I the only one?
I can’t possibly be. Surely others are concerned about the same societal issues that keep me up at night. There are big things, like how to be an ally to the BIPOC community, and there are smaller things, like how to support balanced use on the lower Madison River. Regardless of our political affiliations and personal pandemic experiences, we all have a lot to worry about. If we can only agree on one thing, we should agree that we have a lot of issues that need to be addressed. The first step is to start open conversations in safe spaces, and one way to do that is to share your Beef with Bozeman Magazine and its readers. I know I’m not the only one with serious concerns and strong opinions out there. Facebook and Twitter are proof of that.
Perhaps social media is to blame for our unwillingness to take a stand using more than 280 characters. Social media is my go-to scapegoat for all of society’s ills. If critical thinking were a lush pine forest, social media would be the lightning strike that burns it to the ground. Difficult and contentious issues require us to process information slowly and evaluate all sides of an issue, but social media tosses tiny cannonballs into our thought process, igniting our emotions
and causing our minds to resist new or different ideas.
In my initial attempt to blame social media, I thought maybe these platforms have made us all lazy. Is it possible that we’ve all started to think simply stating our opinion as fact is enough to make our point? Do we no longer look for evidence that supports our opinions and, more importantly, evidence that challenges our opinions? Have we given up the art of debate in favor of launching potshots at each other over the great distance that social media provides?
I hope not. Instead, I think we are all overwhelmed by the amount of information we receive, the energy required to determine whether that information is legitimate, and the sheer volume of issues we face. For worriers like myself, the options are endless: racism, climate change, affordable housing, gun control, human rights. The list goes on, and I think most of us worry about these issues and think deeply about them when we do. But, I get tired at the mere thought of organizing these worries into coherent, well-supported sentences.
I think we are all just exhausted and out of practice.
Being physically separated from those we like to have these difficult debates with has been tough on all but the most introverted of us. Maybe the pandemic has forced these difficult conversations into the ugly world of the internet. If I can’t blame social media, I’m more than happy to blame COVID-19. I’d like to think most of us miss these important in-person exchanges. It’s been a long time since I’ve debated the existence of aliens with my uncle while gorging on turkey and all the trimmings. I miss him.
Sitting down to put fingers to keyboard and address difficult issues may sound daunting, but it is a great way to get community conversations started. And, these conversations are important. We need to get back into the habit of having them and using more than 280 characters to do so.
Let’s get the conversation off social media and back into the community. Consider preparing for your next holiday meal and heated family debate by submitting your Beef to Bozeman Magazine.