For those that don’t know, I used to love politics. Political Science was my major in college. For most of my adult life, I watched the news channels, watched the debates, listened to talk radio and gave my opinion to anyone that would listen. I thought that what I believed was right. I didn’t notice the political divide that was growing in our country.
Then, several years ago, I experienced my first election season in the world of Facebook. What I saw taking place made me sick to my stomach and literally started a slide into a place of darkness and mild depression.
I Witnessed the Political Divide
I got my wake up call when someone attacked me on my own page. I’d posted a video that I felt “informed” the public about a candidate, and someone came back at me.
Call me crazy, but it was a realization that not everyone agreed with my opinion, saw things my way, understood where I was coming from or cared about what I thought or that I would actually be able to change anyone’s mind by posting anything at all.
It caused a small scuffle with a person that I adored. We were suddenly upset with one another over a stupid post on Facebook. I also realized that when I attacked the candidate, I was basically calling/labeling all of their followers the same.
If You Label One, You Label All
I would NEVER walk up to someone and call them an idiot, tell them they’re uneducated or heartless or evil – but I realized that when I said those things about a candidate, or a person’s (or a lot of people’s) beliefs, I was saying that about my friend as well. If I was labeling or calling the candidate a name, then anyone who lined up with that person, then wore that label/name as well.
What I saw on Facebook, and what I myself did on Facebook, caused me to pay more attention to what I was seeing on my live stream, on those 24 hour news channels, and what I was hearing on talk radio. What did I start to see and hear?
Hate. Division. A political divide that was seeping through our country.
I realized that we’ve come to a point where we (and by “we”, I mean the collective) can’t just disagree with a different point of view.
Why can’t we just agree to disagree?
We have come to to the point of hating the other side. Everything is “us” vs “them”. Everything we think is “right” and all they think is “wrong” and in my opinion, it brings out the worst in all of us. It’s gotten us to a place of a nation divided.
I see “friends” (from all backgrounds, beliefs and politics) on Facebook talk about how people of the opposite side are sheep, ignorant, stupid, not-educated, heartless, evil, liars… I could go on and on but I’m sure you’ve seen it all too. And in my opinion, Twitter is far worse. It’s amazing the venom that can be spewed in 140 characters or less.
It makes me sad, and scares me, that we as a people so easily turn against one another. That we so easily demonize those that disagree with us and that when we are surrounded by others who are “on our side”, we get more and more bold. More energized, even more livid.
Add the shield of Facebook or Twitter and there’s practically no holding back. When hidden behind a computer screen, people will say just about anything.
We allow being behind a computer to embolden our angry words.
I miss the first days after 911 where we all came together and found common ground rather than looked for differences and held them against each other.
I’m a Christian. I’m used to being labeled. I get it all the time, even from some of my own relatives. I live in a fantasy world. I’m weak. A sheep. A mindless fool. Judgmental. Hypocritical. You name it, I’ve heard it.
Has anyone said those things to me directly? No. And if they do, they are talking in “generalities” and of course (cough, cough) talking about other Christians, not me. They may say it about Christians in the plural but that means they’re saying it about me, the individual. Same thing goes for any other label or group.
I’ve done it. We all have.
Labels suck because they force a political divide.
In research for a novel, I’ve been studying the WWII and Rwandan Holocausts. In both, people of different backgrounds/beliefs lived side by side, went about their day and were at peace with one another. They were friends and co-workers, but for generations there was an underlying current of dislike and distrust of the other.
A small fire sat waiting, unrealized to most, and then someone rose up that set that small fire ablaze. Neighbor turned against neighbor and many didn’t even know why they did it.
When I read quotes from those that took part in the killing of others, they justify it away by saying they’d heard so much bad about the “other side” that it seemed like the right thing to do. And it was easy to do. Those that didn’t actually take part in killing, but stood back and let it happen, felt powerless to stop it or didn’t feel compelled to try.
Millions of Jews (and others) were killed in Europe in a matter of a few years. A million were killed in Rwanda in only 90 days. All people that lived in peace and side by side…
… until the spark ignited.
Have we individually gotten to a place where we despise someone who sees the world differently? If so, how will we act corporately if our flames are fanned? Add twenty-years of this growing divide, general distrust, and dislike of the “other side”. Where will we be?
Based on what I see in my Twitter and Facebook feed, I’m scared to find out.
We are divided.
We as a people despise those that are different. We’ve come to a place of good vs. evil, and people believe that their side is all good and the other is all bad.
So, with all of the news stories out there right now if I’m asked why I don’t post my opinion on Facebook or Twitter – that’s why. I’m not scared of what people will think of me. It’s just depressing enough to see the discord on my live feed, I don’t need to ignite something on my own page or post. And quite honestly, I’ve just taken the same role I will take as a licensed counselor – my job is not to judge. My job is not to express my opinion. My job is to love.
I pray for the leaders of our country and whoever will be our President in the coming years, I will also pray for our citizens. We all need it.