In the age of perpetual media, one has to be in a soundless sleep to avoid the saturation of news and opinions. In light of this acceleration of technology in a post- modern society I have found that many citizens are reflecting the divisive political tactics taken by media demagogues both progressive and conservative. We have become media acolytes and this underlying paradigm shift is self-evident in the manner we treat one another in our daily lives.
This entertaining reflection of division was demonstrated perfectly on my Facebook wall upon the release of the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death. Many assigned praise to former President George W. Bush. Just as many lauded President Obama for “getting the job done.” Some were sensitive enough to honor our brothers and sisters overseas for their service to the United States. Then a strange sociological twist occurred within a few days. My more progressive friends began circulating a Martin Luther King quote making the point that no one should celebrate a death. My conservative friends began pointing fingers and claiming that the progressive’s were not genuine patriots, one in particular saying; “I would have pulled the trigger myself”.
These individual reactions are quintessential of the current trend of sound-byte politics. We only receive a spoonful of the actual informational meal and due to professional demands move quickly forward with a formed opinion. The manner the consistent news cycle disseminates information is detrimental to the cohesiveness of our society. A singular manipulated sound-byte can act as a catalyst for a passionate and well-meant argument, that in the end leave two individuals with a chasm in their relationship. Some even prefer the more passive aggressive modern approach of ranting or un-friending on Facebook. We each have an individual responsibility to ourselves and to others to understand like Paul Harvey says, “the rest of the story.”
Most of us find ourselves perpetually drenched in media, desperately wading through,hoping we’ll somehow come upon shore having created a better life. Yet the process to get there has become incredibly divisive, vengeful and unsympathetic to one another. This can very well be characterized by the “birther” contention that arose under President Obama’s presidency by conservatives and the ”stupid” jokes hurled at President Bush by liberals. In focusing on these factious views, we have made little strides to correct the social, economic or environmental discord that has befallen us within these past few years. With all of these problems we still find sport in placing blame and chucking insults rather than working towards credible and widespread beneficial change that will move us towards a goal for the greater good.
On a local level here in Utah, this type of vitriolic attitude has been seen by both Democrats and Republicans. Both posturing or fabricating situations to promote an agenda, and Republicans have gone as far breaking Reagan’s “Eleventh commandment” ‘thou shall not speak ill of other Republicans’. All of this has caused political in-fighting, territorial grabs by activists, and a general and egregious disregard of each other’s humanity. It is as if we have all secured a focus so solidly on a goal that it has become impossible to see past our respective principled rigidity to compromise, or more optimally to create an environment of understanding and good-will while at the same time remaining convicted.
There are very few of us that are genuinely “bad” people. There are opportunists, there are the vengeful, the self-interested, the vain… but absolutely none of these independent qualities quantify a thoroughly “bad” person. What does constitute a bad person is someone that is violent or forces someone to do something against their will. Now that we understand that few of us are bad then why in politics do we treat each other so badly?
How did we each become so tethered to mass media, that we began reflecting the divisive behavior of media icons and politicians towards one another? I was shocked to the core, when I overheard a vocal activist belittle the civil disobedience tactic of this well-known activist. There were hopes by this activist, that the other activist would be given a steep jail sentence and proceeded to protest at his trial in order to see a greater punishment handed towards this person. Now to be clear. I am not warm to the idea of what this individual did, but he is a feeling human being who I have trouble believing wanted to sacrifice the joys of being a free human and be subjected to incarceration for the sake of garnering attention.
I am still taken aback by the efforts and vocal demonizing of us activist/politicos engage in. I am still shaken by the psychological violence easily unleashed on one another by such innocent things as having a divergent position or method. Rather than taking the more harmonious path of respecting one another and coming together to thoroughly discuss issues and foster one another’s intelligence. We find it easier to follow suit with radicals such as Glenn Beck and openly disagree and attempt to change a mind then if we are unsuccessful we discount one another and move on with the mentality that everyone in the world that doesn’t agree with our personal position is “crazy.” Attitudes such as this damage the soul of our country and are taking us into a spiral of negativity that will serve no one. Furthermore if we continue on this path we will not only continue in this era of erraticism but so will our children.
The media, at least, has an excuse. They need to protect their jobs by raking in the ratings to ensure the flow of capital. You and I have no excuse…and I dare say we have a responsibility to our society, to create a more gentle, kind and understanding environment in spite of oppositional ideologies over the state of political affairs in our nation and the world. This example we set will resonate locally and globally. I embolden you to follow suit and treat your fellow divergent thinker with the upmost respect and understanding, without losing yourself in the process.