We are the United States of America in name only.
In reality, we hate each other.
And those who traffick in hate are far more popular than the few of us still calling for love, mercy, and compassion.
When I post a message on social media calling for love, compassion, or civility, it gets hardly any attention. And yet someone else — even if they have fewer followers — can post something that mocks or attacks a politician or celebrity, and they’ll get loads of likes or comments.
It isn’t just me. It’s this way for many of my friends on social media as well.
When it comes to social media, hate is quite simply more popular than love.
I’m beginning to feel that, at least when it comes to politics, the same is true for Medium. And that saddens me.
In my now fifty-one years of life, I’ve never been so discouraged about the future of this country than I am now.
I really do believe we are watching our country die before our very eyes.
And we are a party to that death.
Think I’m overstating it?
Ask yourself this question:
Can a nation that hates itself survive?
There is no question that certain politicians in recent years haven’t helped much or made things worse. But it’s too easy for us to blame politicians. If we want to know the real problem with America, we must look in the mirror.
We are losing (or giving up) the patience and skills needed for reason and critical thinking. We prefer reacting rather than listening. And we would rather hate those on the “other” side than engage them.
Part of the problem is that politicians, parties, commentators, pundits, and news outlets (mainstream or alternative) need attention in order to get traction and sustain themselves economically.
Getting that attention, and standing out amidst all the noise, requires appealing to people’s emotions.
And with the explosion of the Internet and social media in the last twenty years, the “noise” has become a monster that continually feeds itself with more noise.
As Ryan Holiday puts it in his eye-opening book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator:
The economics of the Internet created a twisted set of incentives that make traffic more important — and more profitable — than the truth.
In his excellent book Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt, Arthur Brooks writes:
Today, our public discourse is shockingly hyperbolic in ascribing historically murderous ideologies to the tens of millions of ordinary Americans with whom we strongly disagree. Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s hate speech or the person saying it is a deviant.
The manipulation extends even to our personal relationships. As Brooks writes:
Americans have been manipulated and bullied into thinking that we have to choose between strong beliefs and close relationships.
For the last four years, those of us who would raise concerns about the state of political or social discourse would be met with comments along the lines of “It’s Trump’s fault.”
Okay, let’s agree that Donald Trump was not a voice of calm, reason, grace, and love these last four years. Let’s agree that Trump’s style of politics did not help with the quality of public discourse.
But Donald Trump is now out of office. So…
Can we now ask ourselves: Where to from here?
When I glance at the political “discussions” on Twitter or on Facebook or read even some of the political pieces here on Medium, I don’t see a great move toward love, civility, and decency.
In fact, we’re now cheering and celebrating the death of pundits and politicians we don’t agree with.
God help us.
Americans Should Listen to George Washington Before It’s Too Late
“Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections.”
If we’re going to see more compassion, civility, and grace in American political discourse, that’s going to happen because “We the People” demand it.
And practice it.
Unless and until that happens, our society will continue its decline.
And the nation that Abraham Lincoln declared to be the “last, best hope of earth” will become history’s darkest and saddest tragedy.