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Can We Ever Drop the Political Anger?

The level of political anger on social media seems to get worse every election year: more intense, more rabid, more hateful.

Are we better than this?

Some days I’m not so sure.

Just the other day on Facebook, I saw someone in my friends list complain about a portion of the Democratic Party’s platform and he ended his Facebook rant by saying he has the “utmost contempt” for the platform and anyone who supports it.

And, lest you think I’m picking sides, allow me to point out that the same day, another Facebook friend suggested that if you’re voting for Trump, you should immediately unfriend him, as he has “lost all respect for you as a human being.”

People in my friends list are on all sides of the political spectrum.

There are people who are more conservative than I’ll ever be. There are people who are more liberal than I’ll ever be.

There are a handful of Libertarians and probably a Socialist or two, for all I know. (Not everyone, in case you haven’t noticed, choose to talk about their politics all the time.)

I’m middle of the road.

I’m conservative on some things, a fact that annoys my liberal friends.

I’m liberal on other things, a fact that annoys my conservative friends.

I apparently annoy those of the Libertarian ilk no matter what I think, so I try to give them a wider berth in an election year. It’s just not worth it.

We seem to have lost the ability to actually have conversations.

The beauty of social media is that everyone has the chance to have their opinions heard.

The problem with social media is that people are more interested in being heard than listening.

Now it’s about shouting matches, exchanges of the bitterest vitriol we can muster. There’s a constant flinging of talking points that never hit their mark because each person involved is too busy typing up the next one to actually read the one they just received.

They’re certainly too busy, even if they manage to read one, to actually give it any true consideration.

They want it their way. Their way or no way. (That seems to have become the unofficial slogan of both political parties.)

Maybe it’s always been this way in this country. I’d like to believe there might be a day when we can all come together as Americans and set party aside for a while.

But as I recall, the last time that happened (and it happened for too short a time), it took the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, to facilitate that.

That’s much too high a price to pay for unity in my book.

I don’t think the same way you do about everything.

I was brought up to believe that’s one of the things that makes this country great.

I was taught from an early age that we should listen to people, listen to other points of view, and be aware of the fact that no one person, no one group, and no one political party has all of the answers. If one side had all of the answers, there’d never have been a need for the other side, would there?

As such, I don’t have the “utmost contempt” for people who think differently than I do. I don’t even carry the “utmost contempt” for people who hold me in the utmost contempt.

I still respect people who think differently than I do. I even respect people who demonstrate that they have little to no respect for me.

I call that, among other things, being a Christian.

I do wonder why those people haven’t unfriended me, granted, but I don’t return their contempt.

Instead, I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt, to look beyond the political anger, to try to remember there’s a person behind the all that inexplicable, unreasonable hostility.

If your political persuasion encourages contempt of your opponents rather than conversation, there might be something wrong with your political persuasion, not your opponent’s.

Maybe you need to consider taking a break from Facebook…maybe until Thanksgiving or so.

2 Comments

  1. TedtheThird  Ted, it is very frustrating for those of us who are trying to see both sides of a picture and allow our own minds to judge what the proper position should be. Too few people do that these days: they follow the same old talking points, yet oddly enough, some of them fail miserably at explaining their positions when they’re face-to-face because they don’t have their handy internet-based list of talking points in front of them.
    I will say there’s no “added” pressure for the reader to fact-check. That pressure — the same amount, in the same responsibility — has always been there. But I do concede that the fact that so many more voices do make it more difficult to do so.
    Those of us who work in the media get far more criticism from people who assume these other voices are “more correct” or “less biased,” but we continue to do what we do because we are out to report the truth, not what we “want” you to think.

  2. The problem as I see it is we can’t even agree on the facts any more. Before everyone had a blog or a Facebook page, you had to get vetted on some level to be able to be read. Now anyone can be read and while that’s great in some ways, it puts additional responsibility on the reader to look at each source and decide how much weight to give that that writer’s words. I’d like to believe that sense those earlier writers knew their words were the only ones out there, they tried harder to make sure the played it down the middle. Now, we have entire news stations that are fairly blatant in their acknowledgement that they report everything through one philosophical lens or the other. Maybe it was always like that and I’m just being nostalgic, I don’t know.

    The Internet also gives us the ability to curate our news feeds so we can choose to only get our facts from the certain networks, individuals or websites. We like to read things that agree with our own positions and unfollow or unfriend people or sources that don’t often at their rather forceful suggestion. Pretty much any major political controversy would serve as a great case study for this.

    Facts are the basis for conversation. They are the agreed premise from which we argue. Basically, it feels like I’m trying to have a discussion to figure out if I should pack an umbrella or not and we can’t even agree on what color the sky or the clouds are. It’s impossible to have real dialog we simply dismiss other views out of hand as not being ‘fact checked’ or being perversions of the ‘truth’. It’s frustrating as someone who is trying to have empathy for both points of view so that even if I don’t end of agreeing with someone, I at least understand what motivates their position.

    I tend to be an optimist and believe the best in people. I believe, mostly on good faith, that each party is truly doing what they feel is best for the country. They just have some very different ideas of what exactly is best for the country and how exactly to get there.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.