When did we stop being nice to each other? When did it become OK to turn a disagreement into an insult?
For a long time, I thought the problem was the internet – the anonymity, the ability to make comments to someone without having to witness the affect those statements might have on someone else. And, it is true. The digital age has, at least in part, ushered in an era where civility and kindness can sometimes take a backseat to the power of an individual’s personality, their right to free speech or their commitment to “telling the truth.”
I’m not saying people don’t have a right to express their opinion or that fact should be supplanted by fiction in the name of kindness. Unfortunately, however, that’s really not what happens in a lot of cases, is it? In the name of these things – such a lofty ambition, actually – it’s become commonplace for rumor to be called “fact” and for nastiness to be considered “truth.”
It’s not just here, of course. If anything, this presidential election has brought out what I consider to be some of the worst behavior I’ve ever witnessed. Putting the candidates themselves aside (and, let’s face it, the problem starts there in a couple of pointed cases), some political supporters use their presence on social media as a weapon. They’re not there to debate or convince; they want to insult, to wound. Calling people who don’t agree with you “stupid,” insulting plays on names, vulgarities – none of these engender an open discussion or a chance to perhaps illuminate someone to your point of view. I can’t believe anyone would believe they would, and I don’t think that’s their intent.
Candidates and talking media heads speak about how “angry” people are. Is it anger or is it fear? Is it both? Because there must be something for people – many of whom so openly discuss their Christian beliefs – to then, seemingly at a drop of a hat, express such hatred for someone based on an opposing political stance or way of life.
Sadly, the media is as guilty as anyone – maybe even more – of this. And, we should know better. While it’s our job to report and allow our audience to come to their own conclusions, too many times this isn’t the case. Either through blatantly biased or selective coverage, the “truth” is skewed because it is rumor, not fact, being presented – although that is not obvious. Even in the editorial pages, “journalists” abuse their platform by taking potshots at others. How is it professional to basically call a public official “asinine?” I may not agree with that person’s views, but who am I to call names? And, how does that help my readership – or anyone else, for that matter?
I’m not suggesting we all sit around the campfire singing “Kumbaya,” but there has to be something different, some way better, we can express our opinions. Whether it’s someone we don’t even know on Facebook, a friend of a different political persuasion or a public official, it is not right to belittle or demean someone, no matter how much we might disagree with them.
There is a lot of talk about our rights – to bear arms, to free speech, to worship. Yet, many of the abusive statements I read, expressed in the name of “freedom,” actually tread on others’ freedoms, by bullying that person into either capitulating to a certain viewpoint or just walking away. I absolutely believe in the rights granted to us under our Constitution – but, to me, those rights include not being bullied. I might not agree with you, but it’s not my place to put you down.
It’s time we all take a good, long look at ourselves and decide that while we might not agree, we can express our differences with respect. I think our community, our country and even the world in general would be much better for it.