On societal evolution…
We ignore politics most of the time and instead pursue happiness by falling in love, starting a home business, making mashups on YouTube, going back to school, bumming around Europe for a year or three, playing fantasy baseball, or tricking out our El Caminos. Through these pursuits we eventually find almost everything that is wonderful and transformative about our modern lives: the Internet, travel, popular (and unpopular) music, the spread of freedom and prosperity around the globe.
Nick Gillespie & Matt Welch, The Declaration of Independents
I’m a bit of a non-conformist. I was raised that way. I’m proud to say that’s one of the few things I’ve not lost along the way in life’s journey. Back to the quote above, one thing I have lost is my zeal for — or even interest in, at this point — politics. I don’t know where or why I lost it, but I have a decent idea.
I’m part of a rare breed. I have a foot in both “old-school” journalism and the world of new media. I grew up seeing business done with a handshake, and have witnessed how so much of it has evolved into a continual formality. The things we thought would help our society evolve — the 24-hour news cycle, blogging, podcasts, the overall concept of everyone having a voice — have really, in many cases, become some of our worst detriments.
News used to be a gathering place, where families would watch the events of the day unfold and process them as a combined unit. Now, stations shout above the din of breaking news alerts and hype to tell us things we all knew hours ago, thanks to the Internet. We don’t really process them, because we’re too busy buried in our phones or some other distraction.
Along with this glut of information comes the right to choose. This is great, because we’re not limited to the three channels our parents had. This is also awful, because it allows us to find those sources that tell us what we want to hear, and cling to them. We live life in an echo chamber, because we can. We take those sources as gospel, because they reinforce our world view.
We then feel compelled to share our world view with others, whether it be in 140-character bursts on Twitter, posts on Facebook, or photos on Instagram or Snapchat. In doing so, we lose a bit of our souls.
The things we’ve managed to see online should make us really take a step back. Libtard. Repugnican. Cheeto Jesus. Tangerine toddler. Hitlery. These are just things that have been said about political candidates or beliefs. Much more — and much worse — is said on a daily basis. All of a sudden, the things we used to celebrate are no longer en vogue. Being different is a bad thing. It’s easier to insult what we don’t understand than to give a damn about why we don’t quite get it.
I’m not saying we all have to hold hands and agree on everything. In fact, I believe the contrary. Agreement is not required. The least we could do, though, is try to realize that differences make us stronger, and stop trying to make our own individual views the law of the land every time we speak, post, blog or whatever else we do.
As an example of that to which I refer, I saw Facebook groups a while back (and I think they’ve since been removed, thank goodness) titled “It Breaks My Heart To Find Out A Cute Girl Is Conservative”, along with its matching liberal counterpart.
You know what’s heartbreaking?
Texas radio play-by-play announcer Craig Way lost his wife, Laurie, to cancer over the weekend. She struggled with the disease for six years. She was 54.
54. That’s way too damned young for a loving wife, a mom, a partner and inspiration to so many to leave us. Laurie’s story is far from uncommon, though, as we continue to lose far too many — even little kids that don’t even have a chance to live the life that we continue to take for granted — far before their time.
People suffer through poverty, job loss, intolerance, or just plain poor runs of luck every day. That is heartbreaking. My aunt has been a devoted wife, friend and caregiver to my uncle for nearly 40 years, and people still try to tear her down — within her race and without — because she’s black and he’s white. That is heartbreaking. We let labels define those in our lives, instead of, as I heard from one of the finest men our land has ever known, judging them by the content of their character. That is heartbreaking.
I am surrounded every day by black people, white people, gay people, straight people, liberal people, conservative people…and through it all, I try like crazy to remember the words of my grandmother.
“There is good in everyone. Find it.”
I don’t know where November will take us. I don’t even know where tomorrow will take us. All I can be responsible for is where I take myself. I’m not walking a perfect path, by any means, but I’ll never stop trying. I hope you won’t, either.