Janey, you not-so-ignorant...: a Point/Counterpoint Pontification

We have met the enemy and they is us.
~ Pogo

Muse. Muse. Muse.

Ponder. Ponder. Ponder.

That recent road trip I took, with its two days of 10+ hours solo time behind the wheel, gave me a lot of inside-my-head time. I’ve been mulling, nay marinating, on something for quite a while now.

You know, it’s kind of a weird time here in the old U S of A. There’s a lot going on. A lot.

Everyone has an opinion. Which is great. It’s what this country was built on. Although I am dean of the school of thought that says you only get to voice said opinion if you vote, but that’s another rant for another time.

However (of course, with any rant worth its salt, there’s always a “however”) … the way these opinions are being expressed isn’t great, at least from where I’m sitting.

We are, y’all, a nation divided at the moment.

Left. Right.

Liberal. Conservative.

Republican. Democrat.

MSNBC. Fox News.

The Great Divide runs right down the middle of the Canyon of Ideology. And it’s getting wider and wider with each passing day and with each refreshing of your Twitter feed and your Facebook timeline.

Civilization is a method of living and an attitude of equal respect for all people.
~ Jane Addams

I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.
~ Jackie Robinson

As a reasonably aware person – I try to keep up with the antics of the world around me as much as my crazy life will allow – I know that politics as usual these days is an intense place to be. The immediacy of the way we communicate allows voices to be heard, information to be shared, action to be taken – in the blink of an eye. All with passion. Which is both good and bad.

What’s missing, as I see it, from this scenario?

Respect. And listening. Not just hearing -- but listening. They are not the same thing, you know...

There's a behavioral meme I would run with my Children's Choir Urchins, back when I was directing, at least three times during a rehearsal period – I'd call it a Gimme Five. When Miss Janey said “Gimme Five”, that means she wanted looking eyes, listening ears, quiet mouths, hands to yourself, feet on the floor.

We could all use a Gimme Five moment, y'all. Tout de suite.

Because right now, we’re mired in the muck of disrespect. Closed-mindedness. Single focus. And not hearing anything but what we want to hear – which is most likely a parroting of our own personal views.

Birds of a feather are flocking together. And forming big, squawking, virtual gangs.

It’s not getting us anywhere. Anywhere productive, anyhow.

It’s been about talk. Not so much about action.

Vitriolic language is bantered about to make points. It’s become sport.

Guess what?

Incendiary language doesn’t put food on a table.

Snarky 140 character blips don’t help a family facing a mountain of medical bills and a moat of insurance issues

Divisive comments don’t get that guy off the unemployment line and onto the route to having a job. And feeling good about himself.

Writing IN ALL CAPS won't provide the solution to the volatile issue that is gun control in our country.

Constant criticism and piling on with those of your ideological ilk -- and the incessant sharing of media advocating your position -- won't change minds.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words take up residence. Bones heal. Takes a lot more to evict words that hurt or sting.

Lest you think I’m merely pontificating from up here on my soapbox… I’m not innocent. I own my culpability in this one. I can wield my tongue with a sharp snarkiness that points and pokes. I have opinions -- just ask me.

But as I watch the war of words and worlds escalate on social media between ideological opposites every time there's an incident which leads to a tragedy which raises questions about laws and government, it becomes obvious that this nonsense doesn't help the situation. At all. And so I vowed to curb it. Reel it in. Cut the biased rhetoric.

It’s damaging. It’s ridiculous.

Most of all -- it’s not productive.

And above all, I’m about things that are productive.

Anonymity has made people bold when it comes to opinion sharing. Hiding behind a screen name and then blasting horrible, horrible rhetoric has become commonplace. I have had to stop reading the comments on many online articles because they make my blood pressure rise.

Somewhere, somehow, in a world when we know about news almost before it happens and the court of public opinion is fluid and viral and fickle -- we’ve lost sight of what matters.

Making a positive difference.

The art of compromise.

The impact of collaboration.




When did life become one giant pissing match? How on earth is that constructive or productive? Seriously.

The seduction of a soundbite or a re-tweet is palpable. And like it or not, pundits have solidified their place in our society where processing news filtered through ideological cheesecloth is a national pastime. However, said pundits have a tendency to become the news themselves (Mr. Olbermann and Ms. Coulter, I’m looking at both of you…) further muddling the real issues.

When all is said and done, the one thing that cannot be disputed (and should NEVER be disputed. Ahem.) is that everyone, in his or her own way, loves this country. Just as it’s no one’s place to pass judgment on whether another person is religious-enough, it’s no one’s place to judge whether another person is patriotic-enough.

And PS: all those folks who look at things differently than you – they are not bad people. They are not stereotypes. They are individuals. Part of the whole. And they should be respected and treated as such.

Recently, I spent an afternoon driving through the tidewater region of Virginia. An area rich with American history. A place where sweat was dropped to form this country and blood was shed to preserve its unity. While I was overcome with the beauty of the road down which we were driving (and totally geeked out when we crossed the James River) I couldn't help but think about what had transpired in that place. So much physical activity that made a difference.

This land really is our land, my fellow Americans – from California to the New York Island. It belongs to all of us, regardless of our ideology. Working together, civilly engaging in discourse, to make it the best place it can be would do more to honor the intent and action of our founding fathers than any amount of spewn rhetoric could dream of doing.

I’m ready. Are you?

So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate...

...Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us...

...And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

~ President John F. Kennedy

1 comment:

Karin said...