by Daisy Luther
If you were to read about the United States of America from someplace else, you’d probably think it was a nation full of people who are gearing up to go to war. Anyone would think the same thing from what they saw in the media. You would see hysterical rage fueling terrible acts. You’d see the intense hatred between people who belong to different political parties. You’d believe this is nationwide.
But it’s not. Sure, there’s some tension if you talk politics, but in most places, it isn’t crazy in a life-threatening kind of way. Mostly, it’s pretty friendly.
But this isn’t the America of the media.
When I went through the news today to search for a writing topic, it was like being hit with a wall of despair. Parts of the country are truly in bad shape. The venomous hatred is like nothing I’ve ever seen in this nation.
There are absolutely pockets of rage – violent enclaves studded with people who are nothing more than domestic terrorists. Full-on fascists who unironically call themselves anti-fascists.
In Portland yesterday, some people in masks (and some who brazenly went without them) took over a major intersection and “directed” traffic, shouting obscenities and racial slurs toward white drivers. An elderly man became fearful and drove through them. They chased him down and began striking his vehicle with batons and rocks. AN OLD MAN. They were within minutes of beating him, according to reports. Meanwhile, the police “monitored” the situation from a distance, allowing the mob free reign. (Read more at Zero Hedge.) Near Portland, arsonists actually set fire to a truck bearing a couple of pro-Trump stickers.
In Kentucky, Senator Rand Paul’s wife sleeps with a gun. Fear is now a constant companion for her. She wrote an open letter to Senator Corey Booker that was published on CNN, calling him out for urging people to “get up in Congresspeoples’ faces.” Booker isn’t the only member of Congress who is inciting violence, either. Judicial Watch has filed an ethics complaint against Representative Maxine Waters for “inciting violence and assaults on the Trump Cabinet.”
It goes on and on. A writer for The Late Show tweeted “I’m just glad we ruined Brett Kavanaugh’s life.” A special education teacher in Minneapolis tweeted, “So whose [sic] gonna take one for the team and kill Kavanaugh?” An executive from Google tweeted, “You are finished, @GOP. You polished the final nail for your own coffins. F–K. YOU. ALL. TO. HELL.” And these are just this week. Wow, and we thought Trump’s tweets were a bit over the top.
Lest it seem one-sided, there’s a whole language that angry conservatives use to insult liberals on Twitter. Twitter is a verbal war zone and there aren’t a lot of people taking the high road there.
Over the past year, we’ve seen violence at a Unite the Right rallies, notably the one in Charlottesville, Virginia that left a woman dead when a car drove into a crowd.
It’s impossible to find truly unbiased links for all of these and that leads me to my point.
It isn’t like this in everyday America. The media is painting an ugly picture and putting that picture everywhere so it seems like this is our reality.
Rage is not the reality for most of us.
Here’s the America I’ve seen.
A couple of days ago, my neighbors were grilling and we chit-chatted over the fence. They shared some delicious southern barbecue with us, and I passed on some of the last, delicious late tomatoes to them. They had a Hillary Clinton sign in their yard when we moved in, but they still caught our dog Bella and brought her home when she escaped over the fence for a little walkabout.
We helped the neighbors on the other side of our house when the husband had a heart attack last year. We couldn’t do much, but we went over while they were waiting for the ambulance and took care of their pets during the hospital stay. Later, the wife brought us a cake. I have no idea for whom they voted and I don’t care. It was a delicious cake.
My landlady has bumper stickers all over her car with which I disagree. Some of them make me cringe internally, but I don’t feel obligated to point out her errors in critical thinking. I gave her a nice plant to thank her for letting us move in and she gave us a couple of pumpkins for the front porch. She brings dog biscuits for our pets every time she swings by to do a repair or collect the rent.
When I was in California, I was a part of the warmest network of homesteaders you can imagine. When there were wildfires, they opened up their fields and barns to others fleeing the flames with their livestock. We got together monthly to learn new skills and all “paid” the teacher with a homemade or homegrown goodie. When one homesteader broke her leg, we all took turns looking after her livestock until she recovered.
This is the America that I see. Neighbors being kind to neighbors. Communities that care about one another. People who don’t want to participate in the hysterical rage that we’re seeing all over the media.
I see an America that pulls together.
In times of trouble, our communities are there for one another. We do this without government intervention and media urging.
There’s the Cajun Navy, which formed after a bunch of guys who fish and hunt banded together and then went and rescued people who needed rescuing. There are the people in Hawaii who saw that the government wasn’t doing anything to help people displaced by a volcano, so they stepped in and built a tiny house community for their homeless neighbors.
There was the guy in Puerto Rico who bought a utility truck with his neighbors and restored power to their neighborhood himself. After Hurricane Harvey in Texas, there were stories of community that would melt even the coldest heart. And remember how practically the whole internet stepped in to support the woman who got in trouble for rescuing abandoned dogs and cats after Hurricane Florence?
We can and do pull together during hard times. And when those hard times happen, it doesn’t matter who somebody voted for or what they said on Twitter. That rage doesn’t matter anymore.
A few ways to have a less outraged day
First of all, I refuse to connect with any of my neighbors on social media. I won’t look up old friends there either. I just don’t need to know their deeply held political convictions that may or may not be ridiculous enough that I’d feel differently about them.
I know how kindly they treat stray cats. I know they share the extra apples from their tree with the rest of us. I know how cute the kitchen is of the woman with the apple tree because I spent a pleasant afternoon in there teaching her how to can applesauce. These are the things that matter.
I only use social media for business purposes, to help people who want to be better prepared, and to tell funny stories or share pictures of my cat, if I’m being honest. I can’t be bothered to get into arguments on there. When in history has anyone ever totally reversed their deeply held opinion on anything because someone on Facebook ALL-CAPPED the “truth” at them?
I don’t talk about politics and religion. Remember the days when this was the norm? When it was considered discourteous, particularly at the dinner table or at family functions? It was absolutely not done at the workplace either. Maybe instead of avoiding the topics, we should have learned to have these discussions civilly, but that ship has sailed. It’s now truly impossible for most people.
Over in my Facebook group, these topics are completely off-limits too. People get a warning when they post something political, and then if they continue to do so, they’re out of the group. That’s because we’re a community. We learn from each other and we celebrate our similarities. The hot-button issues don’t add to our conversations. Instead, they make people angry. Insults start to fly. People leave – good people. We don’t need that stuff. We need the exchange of information.
I believe these topics that will cause nothing but strife and alienation should be pushed back into places where they’re appropriate instead of front and center of all media publications, all social events, all online forums. Is the fact that I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat really pertinent to my ability to teach you how to prepare for a power outage? Do my stepfather’s deeply held beliefs – ones with which I strongly disagree – actually change the fact that he is a wonderful, generous soul? Of course not. I focus on his kindness, not his cringe-worthy opinions. I know that arguing with him would be pointless – he’s not going to change his mind. And I like having a pleasant relationship with him.
These opinions we’re all so currently worked about?
They’re mere asides, personal tastes, like preferring whiskey instead of vodka over the ice in your highball glass.
These political arguments?
They don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
If the SHTF tomorrow, you’d no longer care who the people surrounding you voted for in some rigged election. (I’m not talking about Russians. I’m talking about the fact that our entire system is corrupted.)
You would care about whether you could trust them to have your back. You’d care about whether they were willing to trade their eggs for your tomatoes. You’d care about how you could work together to keep your families safer.
Stop letting social media draw you into fights that are not your fights. It isn’t your responsibility to tell someone they’re wrong.
Stop letting the media make you feel like you’re under siege. While there are definitely some pockets of political violence here in the US, these pockets do not represent the majority of us.
Stop taking part in the rage
Sure, you can personally dislike things done by the President or by some member of Congress on the “other side of the aisle.” But stop thinking each one is a personal attack. These are just politicians politicking.
And they’re really be politicking in the next little while. They want to stir us all up into a frenzy as they try to motivate people to get out there and vote to put their corrupt heinies back in their comfortable seats on Capitol Hill. “It’s the most important election of our lifetime,” they’ll say.
Yeah. Just like the last election and the election before that.
Just like this recent clusterf*ck of a SCOTUS confirmation and the SCOTUS nomination before that.
They – the politicians, the media, the rich people pulling the strings, and industries like Big Tech and Big Pharm – want us at each other’s throats. It supports them. It confirms the veracity of their whims. It puts money in their pockets and power in their hands. Divided we fall and these are the people who want that to happen.
Every single one of us is being manipulated. We’re being turned against one another. We are being ripped apart for the benefit of those who love power.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
We are better than this.