Nice is my favorite four letter word.  I value nice.  My Mom taught all her children to be nice.  Whether we practice it is up for debate, but I try.  I wish there was more nice in the world.  Actually, there is a small, beautiful city named Nice in the south of France.  I’ve been there, but the hostel I was staying in wasn’t so nice (semen stains on the cot, yo), which is why they probably pronounce it neece.

I want to take a few of your moments today to talk about nice and its relevance/absence in our modern world.  My guess is that lots of your Moms were like my Mom, working hard to teach their kids the lessons and importance of treating others as we would like to be treated.  With respect. With dignity.  Nicely.

Too often, I feel the absence of nice in our world today.  Our kids grow up with a paucity of the stuff.  They witness politicians on both sides of the aisle acting like brute buffoons.  They see and hear “news” commentators with a constant flow of vitriol shouting through the airwaves.  The bullies of our play yards have now moved into our kids inbox, smart phones, and facebook walls.  There is little respite from the absence of nice.

A few weeks ago I wrote what became a very polarizing and controversial post about the idea of a bald Barbie doll.  Full disclosure, I wasn’t feeling too nice as I wrote it, which is no doubt apparent in the tone of my words and strength of my stance.  I try to be nice, but I don’t always succeed.  I’ll keep trying.

Somehow, the organizer of the bald Barbie “cause” found my post in under an hour.  We exchanged what I thought was respectful dialogue about her POV and my POV.  Only later did I learn that she had shared my post on the facebook wall of the “cause,” labeling it as “negative.”  Then the real fireworks began.  By the next evening, people were suggesting that anyone who did not want a bald Barbie should be shot.  Yikes.  Not nice.

Honestly, I’m sick of Barbie.

About a week later, I live facebooked the Golden Globes.  I’ve done this for a couple of years now, first on my own page, but starting last fall, on the MTM facebook page.  In September for the Emmys, I gained 400+ readers to the page over the course of the evening.  When I naively started the same thing with the Golden Globes, I got an earful from more than a few folks about how rude it was that I was blowing up their facebook feeds.

Totally my bad.  I didn’t realize it in the moment, but when I went to my own wall and saw the sheer volume of MTM celebrity snark, yeah, I could totally see their point.  I apologized the next day and most of the readers who left me came back.  I strategized about the Oscars so my readers’ feeds would not be all snark all the time.   When you make a mistake, own it, correct it, apologize, and move on.

Yesterday I shared a fellow blogger’s post about his dislike of Jenny McCarthy and her responsibility for the vaccination rate dropping.  I was coming at it from the POV of being a mom who had a daughter who was severely immunocompromised.  For me, in my experience, unvaccinated children were a very real danger to my already deadly vulnerable girl.

Well, color me stupid, but the gates of hell opened up on my facebook wall. The original post garnered something like ten comments while my share had 150 and counting.  I’ve read every single comment.  Some are heartbreaking.  Some are angry.  Some are mean and nasty.  On both sides of the argument.  The hate and anger expressed when someone has a different POV, a different opinion born of different experiences honestly scares me.

I didn’t like it and promised Mary Tyler Dad I would stop visiting the Barbie wall after shooting came into the equation.  And I don’t like it when the fine folks who keep me company every day on facebook express similar strongly worded comments towards others that don’t share their opinion.

One reader thought it was my responsibility to delete offensive posts to “retain credibility.”  I don’t really know what that means, but I also feel strongly that it’s not my responsbility.  Hate and anger and ugly is part of us, for better or worse.  Me erasing it isn’t going to make it go away.  Me erasing it simply makes me complicit in creating a polarized, damn-what-you-don’t-like kind of world.

I don’t want to live in that world.

I want to live in a world where it’s okay to have different opinions and share those freely without fear of being shot or punched or called four letter names not nearly as nice as nice.   And strong opinions are always welcome.  I am a passionate gal.  There is nothing like a good, heated debate to get my juices flowing.

One of my favorite facebook friends is a boy I went to grade school with.  I haven’t seen this guy since 1983 and truth be told, he was way more popular than I in the land mines of childhood.  When we friended one another a few years ago I was chagrined to see that our politics did not match.  And that we were both very vocal with our politics. But you know what?  We respect one another.  We challenge one another.  We, dare I say, learn from one another. Well, okay, maybe not that far, but we do tolerate and enjoy one another’s POVs.  We both keep it clean.  And while we haven’t swayed the other, I have learned from the guy.  I respect him.

Sometimes the ugliness on the MTM facebook wall gets me down. Something like bald Barbie or vaccines or circumcision comes along and I really step in it.  Some of the time, I know I am being provocative, like with Barbie.  Other times, I have no freaking idea that so many others think differently than myself and in a deeply passionate way.

So in the interest of nice, the respect and simplicity of a more genteel manner, Imma ask each of my facebook readers to keep it nice.  Respect one another.  Keep it clean.  Don’t keep it bland, or sanitized, or muted, but do keep it honorable.

The irony that we as parents are the ones responsible for teaching our kids values, morals, and manners is thick when all of us folks are letting it fly on facebook.  That’s just plain hypocritical.  We can do better.  So feel free to keep me company over on my facebook wall.  I will try to keep you entertained, and stimulated, and thinking, and feeling, and laughing.

You will not always agree with me.  I hope you don’t, cause then I just start feeling like an odd Mother Theresa type (oops — was that offensive?).  When you disagree with me, let me know.  Respectfully.  When I disagree with you, I will do the same,  Respectfully.  Nicely.  I promise that I will learn from you, and you from me.

Doesn’t that sound nice?