I posted this on Facebook a year ago…it’s still true…
This is long and probably contains a lot of grammatical errors, so you may need to pop a Ritalin, drink that soy latte, or do whatever it is that you do when you need to focus on reading something made up of more than 140 characters. There is not a TL/DR version.
Sometime over the last ten years, it seems that the activity of productive conversation between people that hold opposing opinions has gone the way of VHS tapes or Anthony Weiner’s political career. They pop up now and again, but end up being cast aside for the types of “conversation” that we “enjoy” nowadays.
Now, I am relatively young, but even I remember a time where two people with very opposite opinions could have a discussion and not call the opposing party a bigot (insert your own “ist” or “ism”) for no other reason than they had a differing opinion. Maybe I was too young to remember things in a more negative light, maybe I grew up in a place where discussions between opposing viewpoints was more acceptable (which I doubt, seeing as I grew up in the shadow of that city that was once a swamp…and now just seems to be a city where activities befitting of a swamp occur), or maybe I have just become more aware of the world we live in. In my humble opinion, people just don’t know how to have adult discussions anymore.
So what brought us here and how do we get out of here? Well, I spent most of my adult life in the military and I only went to school because I wanted to get my commission in the US Army instead of getting my PhD in Sociology, and, contrary to what my mother says, I am not a genius (just kidding she has never said that). However, the good news is for non-MENSA members such as myself, this doesn’t take a rocket doctor to figure out.
So, why, pray tell have discussions devolved in to something so disgusting and mind blowingly void of actual intellectual discourse? I have a meme for that. Actually, I don’t and neither do you. And if you try and produce one I will happily discuss with you why what you just did is feeding this beast of ignorance and further dividing us, whilst still not answering that question. So, before you go to memegenerator.com with that awkward photo of Ted Cruz, starving Syrians, or whatever the topic at hand is and create your AMAZING LOLcat breakdown of how simple it is to understand why mansplaining fuels global warming…please hear me out…
We live in a world where knowledge is more readily available at the tap of a few fingers than any time in the history of the world combined. Yet, we can’t have a freaking discussion utilizing facts about ____ without it turning in to a depressing version of “Who’s on First” mixed with a little “I know you are, but what am I?” Why? Whose fault is it? Well in short…yours, mine, everyone hiding in their “safe space,” and everyone in between. To dig down a little deeper here are some additional culprits:
We grew up hearing how we are all special; we are all different. No fingerprint is the same, just like no two of us are the same (Which most people would agree is a good thing for the most part. We don’t need two Justin Biebers or Josh Hills running around). Apparently, a lot of people took that little tidbit of knowledge and bastardized the hell out of it. Yes, we are all different. Yes, we are all super special. BUT, being different does not mean that everyone has to appreciate how different and special you are. The fact that you have to tell people that are old enough to have graduated from 6th grade this (which by the way, having a graduation ceremony for every grade is dumb), is pretty damn sad. I understand kids will be kids, but this isn’t just about kids. We have 40 year old “adults” that flip out if you don’t recognize that their opinion is the only right one, and even if they aren’t factually or intellectually correct, that is moot, because that is their opinion and you must respect it, and disagreement equates to disrespect, and disrespect makes you a he man woman hater…ya damned misogynist. The bigger issue is that when you give these people an inch, they take a mile, your job, your business, your money, and anything else they can call for on social media (and sometimes the courts). I mean we have petulant children at Yale, a bastion of academia and intellect protesting and calling for a “pound of flesh over” the possibility that Halloween costumes could be worn by other students and they just can’t handle the feels they get with that unthinkable possibility. They are protesting over something that COULD POSSIBLY happen. Even if people were wearing costumes that they offended their delicate sensibilities; that still doesn’t give them the moral high ground to try and ban all things that cause them to be a sad panda.
You have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You do not have the right to go through life without being offended.
The Meme Generation:
The “Meme Generation” (I just coined that…consider it copyrighted, that’s how that works right?), which does not just include those evil and lazy millennials, but pretty much anyone that actually knows what a MEME is (This doesn’t include my grandmother, who I won’t mention by name, because she thinks that her info isn’t on the internet yet and safe from the Chinese). This group of people has been led to believe that 99.999% of the issues can be summarized in 140 characters, facts can be thrown out if you don’t agree with them, and if something hurts your feelings that argument is voided and the person spewing those “hurtful words” is a ____ist (you seeing a trend here?). When this happens, they believe it to be their duty to go and tell the world.
I have to take periodic breaks from social media, specifically Facebook because of these people. This is especially true during times of OUTRAGE over the most recent issue that gets people all rabble rabbled up. I find Twitter is a little better, if for no other reason it is easier to accept idiocy and ignorance from people that you don’t really know in real life. On a daily basis I see some meme that attempts to over simplify a VERY complex issue. The key word here being “attempts,” because 99.9999% of the time, no matter how many people respond with “ALL THIS!,” “It’s that simple,” “OMG that’s on fleek” (I don’t know what that word means), etc., they are failed attempts. For instance, no you can’t summarize why guns should be illegal by putting up a meme that states something like “Kinder Eggs are illegal in the US, but guns aren’t!, That’s TOTALLY WRONG!!” Why doesn’t that meme make a strong argument? Well, to put it bluntly, because it is dumb. I don’t care how many people hit that like button, it is dumb. Basically…you cannot boil down a VERY nuanced issue in to some black and white one that fits on a picture of a piece of delicious German chocolate with a toy on the inside. I mean you can…but that is intellectually lazy and not a very good way of supporting your stance on the issue.
Charlatans, Grifters, and Demagogues:
There are liars, thieves, and cronies that land on every inch of the political spectrum. We all know that the vast majority of politicians have one goal. That goal is to get re-elected. Most lie and tell you what they think you want to hear. I assume most of us know that (Although, apparently some people actually believe that just because a crazy old white guy says something will be free…that somehow that means no one will have to pay for it). So, let’s delve in to the other players in this game of divide and then divide some more. Social Justice Warriors, Political Activists, Community Organizers, Lobbyists, and that crazy guy on the corner with the sign yelling about how the Kochs are trying to eat your children are all charlatans, grifters, and demagogues. Let me add the caveat that some…SOME people that do this type of work are truly working to better this country and humanity as a whole. Some of these people are making positive contributions to society, these statements do not include those people. BUT a whole lot of people in these lines of “work” are trying to do nothing more than gain notoriety (be it 15 minutes of fame, money, or both) and/or inject a divisive force in to an already divided country. These are people/groups/organizations like DeRay McKesson, Occupy, Shaun King, Al Sharpton, Ann Coulter, Southern Poverty Law Center, Mikey Weinstein, Salon, Moms Demand Action, Code Pink, Michael Savage, etc. They gin up fear, anger, and then some more fear and anger to rile up their base. They try and convince you that all Republicans hate the poor and black people and all Democrats want to take all your freedoms and turn this country in to Soviet Russia. Are there racists, xenophobes, sexists, Communists, etc.? Certainly there are, but the vast majority of the population are none of the above. But facts and reality be damned! They have some fear to monger and you won’t stop them…you racist/teabagger/xenophobe/socialist/fascist/communist/racist/sexist/etc.
These people are part of the reason we can’t have adult conversations. You want to have a productive discussion regarding how we can heal the wounds caused by centuries of racism? I am a conservative white guy from the South and I would love to have that conversation too! However, we can’t because you can’t have an adult conversation when it is always someone else’s fault. These people will not allow any responsibility to be attributed to their base or their side of there “cause.” The sad truth is that none of these people actually want to fix anything. That is bad for business. So, they will continue to spew false narratives and hyperbole to the sheep that lap it up, because daddy needs turmoil to stay in the spotlight, keep that power, and to pay for that lifestyle. We have all enabled them. We continue to enable them. We need to stop enabling them.
The Media and the Interwebs:
If the media states something, it is obviously true. Just like if it is on the internet, it has to be true. It’s in the Geneva Convention…or something. Spoiler: The media (in all forms) both makes honest mistakes and twists things to meet their agenda. The internet…the freakin internet…I know that you really like reading stuff like InfoWars and the DailyKos…but things posted on the internet are often times not true…especially on sites like those. Thomas Jefferson warned us about believing everything we read on the internet years ago.
Here’s the thing…news put out by Fox News (by the way not every Republican/Conservative watches the FNC and your “sick burn” is tired…be more original), CNN, MSNBC, etc. should all be verified and not believed just because they said so. The news that the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. should all be verified and not believed just because they said so. It is also important to realize that Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity, Nancy Grace, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, etc. are not news people. The Daily Show is not news. These are all for entertainment. They are opinion shows. They are even more drenched in narrative than the news. I am sure most of you know this, but sadly many still think that Vox article is totally right (even with its 3924th revision). Also, those chain emails that your Aunt Mildred sends…probably not completely true.
The internet has changed the world we live in. A lot of that change has been a great thing. However, some of it has been horrible. People can now spread falsities at lightning speed. They can hide behind their computer as the furiously tell you that you should go die in a fire because you disagree with them. Social media is a blessing and a curse. Instead of applying some common decency or logic before spouting off…people send stupid out 140 characters at a time. Go try and have a productive discussion with someone on a hot button issue on Twitter and see how long it takes before a hundred eggs come with their virtual pitchforks to vanquish you.
Facts are hurtful, therefore irrelevant:
I have always believed that if facts hurt your feelings or offend you, than that is your issue and not mine. I stick by that. Now I am not condoning going up to some overweight or poor person to tell them how fat or poor they are. This is not a call to be spiteful or mean. However, people nowadays frequently pull the ____ card when faced with factual statements that make them uncomfortable or angry or hurt.
Sometimes the truth is painful. However, if we can’t face the facts and then come together to try remedy the situation we will never make true progress. Here are some facts that will get people all riled up… White people – there is some merit to the idea that white people have been afforded some advantages over people of color due to their skin color. Black people – The issues of broken homes, the never ending prison cycle, and poverty are not only white peoples’ fault…you bear responsibility as well. But you can’t say those things. Why? Because discussions can’t involve accepting blame. It doesn’t matter if that blame is factual. You must dig in your heels and fight the “opposition” at all costs. Let’s be honest, we have all done this. I have done this. Stop it. Stop it right now. We have to end this mentality. Getting to the root cause is often times not only uncomfortable, but often times daunting.
The solution…well kind of:
So what do we do? How do we fix this? I am not smart enough to answer that. However, I do know that we live in a world where a leading candidate for the President of the UNITED States, when asked what enemy are you most proud of making, stated that they are most proud of having an entire political party (which approximately half of the US population are a part of) as their enemy. She was applauded. Let that sink in. That perfectly captures where we are as a country, as a people, as a civilization. People are applauded for being proud of viewing half of the population, which they want to be voted in to lead as their enemy. We can’t progress like this. We can’t exist like this. We need to stop viewing anyone who has a different viewpoint as an enemy. We need to stop being offended by differing viewpoints. We need to stop believing that cognitive dissonance is blasphemy and instead view it as a positive. We need to stop pointing fingers and propping up those that only want to exploit us by further dividing us. We need to stop seeking “safe spaces” and instead seek spaces outside of our comfort zones that enable us to learn, grow, and figure out actual solutions. That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree or even call out people for saying something ignorant or stupid…YOU SHOULD do that…just make sure they are actually saying something ignorant or stupid and you can explain that to them.
We are all special. We are all different. However, we are all stuck with one another and we need to figure out a constructive way to not only coexist, but to thrive as a country. Stop being offended. Stop fostering an environment of divisiveness. Grow up and act like an adult.