We need to talk.
We really, really need to talk.
I don’t just mean about specific issues like democratic (small “d”) values or the moral implications of supporting certain politicians but, in general — we need to talk.
It is clear to me, as I’m sure it is to many, that Americans are fully enmeshed in a fractured landscape of facts and narratives. If you watch MSNBC, you are living on an entirely different planet than someone who is watching Fox. If you read the Washington Post, you are living on an entirely different planet than someone who is reading Facebook news.
And, really, this isn’t about political ideology. This isn’t about which team you’re on, or Trump, or how you think that immigration or healthcare should ultimately be handled. It’s not even really about the news. This is about something far simpler and yet infinitely more complex: trust.
Today, the societal erosion most visible to me lies in the endemic, almost ubiquitous second-guessing of the motives of others. Including the accusatory “you/they” statements which are so rampant in our culture — the origin of which, I think, is natural, but the intensity and breadth of which has been exacerbated by the installation of a social media environment for which none of us was prepared.
Humans’ ability to innovate has outstripped nature’s ability to evolutionarily compensate and the consequences are real. People are mean; we are mean. It is not in everyone’s nature to measure the weight of their words before throwing them out there, weaponizing them.
Consider the ugly, callous message of hate that Cindy McCain received about her husband, the late John McCain, and her daughter, Meghan, following the president’s recent criticism of the former Arizona senator. The woman who sent that message, beyond disparaging someone’s deceased loved one, stated that she hoped that Cindy McCain’s daughter choked on a hamburger (yes, choked), throwing some body-shaming language in there for good measure.
And I have to ask: Why?
I would hazard a guess that this woman would not be happy receiving such messages about herself or her own family. And, really, what is the point of saying such things? What is the outcome that people like her are trying to elicit? To feel as if they have some measure of power, because they can be vicious and get away with it? To express their own discontent in life generally? Do they do it just because they can? Because it’s easy?
In the end, we are only fighting with ourselves.
Listen: Be above that primal impulse to lash out. Push back against the inclination to instantly doubt the motives of those not in your camp. You are better. We are better. The only way any of this works — the United States, the world, civilization as we know it — is if we work together. Cohesively. Toward some shared sense of survival through cooperation. I want you to be okay. Honestly, I want you, whoever you are, to be happy and safe and whole. Because we can think and believe different things and still strive for the best in all of us, showing compassion, always, for others.
We don’t need to play these trolling games. Politics is already a game. And as things stand currently, we’re all losers.
Rachel Carr, Salt Lake City, works in health care and writes grants for a non-profit arts education program.