I see it on the faces and in the body language of friends, family and strangers. Exhaustion about the current state of our politics. Frustration that no one seems willing to step up and make difficult decisions that could improve the lives of so many. Confusion about what it will take for the vitriol to dissipate.
I also see it on the mug staring back at me in the mirror.
Our beloved United States of America is divided like I’ve never seen, and I worry about the prospect of another civil war, whatever shape that might take. I recall an acquaintance in Virginia telling me several years ago that “I know you’re from the North, but I need y’all to know it’s 1-0 and it’s only halftime.” We both laughed, although my insides cowered. I’m not sure how much I’d laugh if I heard that today.
In recent days, an old friend gave me flak for ordering a Bud Light because of an obscure ad from Anheuser Busch that featured a trans person. I never saw the ad and couldn’t name the featured person that caused so much strife. I’m guessing my buddy didn’t see it either and was reacting to a movement perpetrated by people threatened by others who are different. Caught completely off-guard, I told him I wish we’d worry about something real like poverty or children with cancer or the lack of mental health treatment or the rising number of violent deaths in our cities. You know, like what happened in Jacksonville on Saturday.
Like so many of you, I’m a news junkie, although “news” has been redefined in recent years as opinion-based information that targets a specific audience. It’s all about clicks and likes and riling up whoever your “base” is. We need to dig long and hard to find the objective reporting of events. Maybe news people in the ‘60s and ‘70s were as biased as today’s talking heads but it sure seemed like the Walter Cronkites and David Brinkleys of the world told us the truth. Today, “truth” is defined as information that dovetails nicely with our beliefs, and we all tend to stay in the lane that makes us the most comfortable.
I look back at the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine as the top of the slippery slope of biased news coverage, and the explosion of social media and incredible influx of corporate money have altered our political and media landscape forever. In my opinion, the result has been the normalization of hate speech and the subsequent fear has driven gun sales to all-time highs. We choose our leaders based on who can be the most brash. The last time I looked, spewing opinions at an elevated decibel level and with more fervor doesn’t make the opinions any more correct.
I really don’t want to lose friends and family members over political disagreements, but it’s almost inevitable since our national discourse is so rooted in anger. What has caused neighbors to turn on neighbors or lifelong friends to disassociate with each other? And is it really worth it?
Enough hatred. Please?