We the People . . . Should Talk Nicer

TRUMP SUPPORTER completely shuts down a room full of Dems with one sentence!” Or “TRUMP’S UNDENIABLE mental problems caught on video for the world to see, he need to go now!
Like crafted memes such as these continues to push the public argument further down the road to Rage Town and is NOT HELPING.  It is not helping individuals’ wellbeing, friendships, family gatherings or our country as a whole.  Even when the discussion is between those on the same side of the argument.  It is toxic and limiting because blame driven discourse enforces the perception of powerlessness.  It makes us less, resentful and ultimately lonely.  Messages of such extreme political insularity is not new.  I’ve read acrid articles about Lincoln in his day.  However, social media’s interruptive repetition of these siloed memes IS NEW, disruptive and damaging.  It is diminishing us by shrinking our definition of “We.”   The great American “We the People”  is being reduced into segregated markets defined by rage.  The great dialogue is simplified and its participants reduced to caricatures of either/or, as in:  Either you support the president or believe in fake news.  Either you believe in America or you been swindled by a confidence man.
I don’t see some great conspiracy or master plan at work, but rather the unexpected social consequence of an algorithm driven media system that pushes traffic and content to identified markets.   Perhaps not unlike the Wall Street flash market crash which occurred when buying software over reacted.
I think the solution is connection online and offline.  Resist sharing, the outrageous example, or undeniable truth which will finally knock some sense into those people who just don’t get it.  Stop it.  Also in conversation try pitching your talk at a different level and tone towards connection. This does not mean agreeing with someone being disagreeable. But rather creating enough space in the talk to allow what is at root to be acknowledged.  I have a hunch anger is often what fear looks in front of others. And when that fear boils to rage is when the body can no longer contain the terror. The screaming man in the red hat is actually saying: I’m afraid that I will fail to provide for my family. I’m afraid that my way of life will no longer have value.  The screaming women in the blue vail is actually saying: I’m afraid I will loose my freedom and my family.  And when I raise my voice at dinner I’m actually saying: I’m afraid you are not who I thought you were.  I’m afraid I my country will fall.
To me the sweetest moment is NOT to win the debate but the shared acknowledgement of our inevitable vulnerability.  It is in that moment I feel the strongest and the proudest.
When I started bartending all those years ago, the old barkeep who first trained me said, “Your regulars come here to feel the warm comfort of sitting next to friends.  Discussions of politics destroy that feeling. Always manage the conversation away from those topics, it is the gift you give your regular customers.”  What works for a beloved neighborhood dive will certainly work for our country.  It is time to heal and move beyond how wrong we all are.

Posted July 22nd, 2017 in Uncategorized.