I know some conservative people who think that all (or most) liberals are evil people, intent on destroying America as we know it. I know some liberals who think that all (or most) conservatives are evil people, intent on destroying America as we know it.
Recently, spurred by a Facebook post, I took a moment to catch my breath and ask myself a question: Do I really believe that there are millions of Americans who mean harm to millions of others?
That thought-provoking question led to another. Is it possible that all of us — the liberals and the conservatives and everyone else who is politically engaged and who hold strong opinions — are falling into a trap set by people who would like nothing better than to see this country torn asunder?
Because that’s exactly what’s happening to us. We are being ripped apart at the seams. It’s bad enough that we are squabbling among ourselves online, but now we’re not even speaking to each other, at least not civilly.
As a youth I read in history books that during the civil war neighbor rose up against neighbor, and brother fought against brother. At the time, I found it nearly impossible to imagine how such a situation could have arisen in this land of freedom and plenty. I no longer wonder. I’m seeing it play out every day on television, on social media, and in my neighborhood. It’s terrifying and deeply saddening.
I have this crazy theory that we are not truly as divided as we seem to be. That the American Dream is still alive. That hard work, playing by the rules, pursuing life, liberty, and happiness, and watching our children prosper beyond our own success is still an attainable goal for most American families. And that as a nation, we have the capability to ensure that that dream is attainable by every American– regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, geographic location, or any other limiting factor. Most importantly, I believe that the vast majority of us still share these common values and goals for ourselves and our progeny.
So why do we bear such venomous attitudes toward our fellow Americans?
It’s now been fairly well documented that foreign interests, including Russia, have been meddling in our electoral process, mostly (so far) limited to using social media to spread false information. Most on the left assume that the Russians favor the Republicans. That may have been true for the 2016 election, but I think their true agenda is to sow confusion and mistrust among us. To cause us to doubt our most sacred institutions of government and media. To divide communities and families. To turn brother against brother.
So what do we have then? We have millions of American of all political stripes engaged in a mercenary war. We’re fighting each other, spurred on by foreign interests who truly do want to see our institutions destroyed. And we’re the unwitting pawns.
And for what? Does anyone truly believe that posting a meme blasting the other party will change anyone’s mind? That it will somehow “rally the troops” to action? That it will have any effect at all, other than to further fan the flames of fury?
As of today, I resign from the war. I am going stop forwarding all political memes. I’m going to start reporting to Facebook memes or articles that contain hate speech, false information, or that are otherwise counter-productive to civil discourse. I will unfollow or unfriend the worst offenders.
This is not to say that I will be silent. I will make my voice heard. But I will no longer take part in this war of “fake news” and hate-filled rhetoric that is ripping my country apart. I believe there is a better way, and I’m going to be writing about that soon.