Unless you have been living under a rock, in which case I am more than slightly jealous, you are likely aware that this election year is shaping up to be all the drama of old school WWF and new school Reality TV, with a side of espionage and a few episodes of NCIS, Beltway Edition, thrown in for good measure.
In short, we are really stinkin’ it up America. Like, nasty, left to rot in the scorching heat for 72 straight hours after a day long concert, porta potty stank. Like, stanky porta potties that just want to run away from it all themselves. From top to bottom and everyone in between, this year seems to be drawing out the worst in all of us. It feels unstable, embarrassing, scary, and downright toxic.
Is this really all we have to offer? Is this really what we are all about?
I don’t know about you, but I have had E-FLIPPIN-NUFF of the toxicity and negativity and shame tactics and misdirected anger and holier/smarter/saner/more righter than thou attitudes. Newsflash: none of us are running for office and while we may have opinions and beliefs, so does everyone else. And you may not like it, but everyone is entitled to their OWN opinions and beliefs.
Can we all just deal with that reality and quit hurting each other? Sharing a credible source news article, factual information, lighthearted comedy, or personal opinion is one thing, but using our own platforms to shame and blame others who think differently, hold differing beliefs, or live out their passions in their own ways (like, not exactly the way you think they should) is childish and hurtful, and is destroying real life relationships.
Relationships. And real people. Like, you know, those things that will always and forever be necessary to affect real change.
As many of our mothers used to tell us, “Get out of my house and go play! Take the noise, take the bickering, take the drama, take it all outta my house and go figure it out…on your own. Now! And don’t come home until dinnertime.” Ciao
It’s like so many of us have become the grownup version of our toddler selves. And it is not ok. And it is not helpful. And I’m going to take my toys now and go home. (Not really, but you get the point.)
Now, some folks are better than others about tuning out the discussions and the negativity, and carrying on with life as usual. However, many of us have at one time or another gotten sucked in to the drama, sucked in to a discussion-turned-debate, or worse, sucked in to an online argument with a perfect stranger over something that no online argument will ever fix or change. When this happens, we usually walk away feeling yucky.
It got me thinking: What’s the point? What’s the purpose? Why can it be so easy to get sucked in when we know it rarely turns out well? When we know no one’s opinion is actually going to change here? And while most of us are passionate about certain things, ranging from politics and religion to cats (not me) and Pinterst recipes, I am not so sure social media is the best place to play out our political passions. Because there is always going to be someone who is equally passionate in the opposing camp. Then what?
Like y’all, I have plenty of opinions. And I like to share them in good company, even when the topic is controversial or confusing. I love to talk politics, religion, philosophy, culture, faith, etc. It’s how we learn and grow. But I personally believe some passions are best played out with real people, in real communities, with real organization, mutual respect, and real purpose. And sometimes the purpose is simply relationship. Because I care about you, I want to hear what matters to you. Because you care about me, you’ll want to hear what matters to me too. Void of relationship and proximity, things unravel quite easily.
While I certainly have an opinion, truth be told, be it Hillary, Trump, or Johnson this November, NONE are going to solve your problems or mine. None will be the fix to what ails our nation. They can’t. When’s the last time you found the President of the United States in your own community, helping to make things better?
Truth be told, we all had a part in creating our current social, cultural, and political problems. Whether through passivity or active involvement, we evolved our own nation to this point. Likewise, problem solving is going to have to come from each of us. We are going to have to care-about each other and about positive change.
Problem solving will happen by working together. Despite our differences. Problem solving is going to come through relationships and collaboration. Through bridge building. Through our own communities. Through going to meet the other where he or she is. Because we aren’t going to solve anything by creating more divisions. We are certainly not going to solve anything by hurling insults online or in person. We are not going to solve anything by negating another’s experience or reality. And we are not going to solve anything by speaking at, rather than with, people.
Relationships matter. You matter. And whether or not I agree with your vote, I can still love you and desire to do life with you. Because we wouldn’t be friends if we didn’t have a shared interest or two. And I do not ever want a difference or opinion or political persuasion to destroy a real life friendship. What would be the point? We need each other to help build a country where our children and grandchildren can thrive.
Also, the next time you are tempted to feed the trolls or argue with friend or complete stranger online, ask yourself these two questions: What am I trying to achieve here? What am I going to achieve here? If it is highly unlikely that you are going to achieve your purpose, why bother? Use your energy elsewhere, in a place where real progress can be made.
America, 2016: we are all part of the problem and we are all part of the solution. Yelling at each other fixes nothing. Are you ready to get outta the house, stop the bickering, and start the actual problem solving? Personally, I desire to be more of the solution than the problem. What about you?