I screwed up last week. I broke a promise to myself, and paid for it with a rotten day. What did I do? I broke down and got into a POLITICAL discussion on Facebook.
God, but I hate those things. And I didn’t used to. Y’see, I’m old-school enough to believe this Republic was built by a bunch of smart people who argued a lot, then pulled together and built an experiment that now has outlasted almost every other form of government on earth. Hamilton and Burr were outliers – the ones who shot each other were the exception. Not any more, in a figurative sense.
Political discussions USED to be fun. The ground rules were simple; you stayed friends when it was over. I’ve had friends over the years ranging from Bill Kuntzler, the Chicago 7 attorney, to Bill Dyke, who ended up running for Vice President under George Wallace. I thought they were both full of beans, but found them both fascinating people to engage, because they were smart, even though wrong. And when we were done arguing, we could still hang out.
Today, political discussions end up as death matches. Maybe it’s the choice in news outlets, where we can find one channel that just feeds us stuff we agree with and nothing that doesn’t “validate” what we already think we know. Maybe it’s just the atmosphere of the times, where we may be becoming a nation of warring “tribes” who hate each other just because – well, BECAUSE. And because of that, I promised myself I’d steer clear of politics on Social Media.
Anyway, a friend’s post popped up on my Facebook feed that struck me as a mite picky, and I threw up a note saying so. The original poster is someone I’ve gotten to know fairly well, but another fellow jumped in, disagreeing – courteously, it felt, so I responded. After a few back-and-forths, it started to feel uncomfortable, so I checked the “new guy’s” Facebook feed. The chap evidently didn’t have a single thought in his mind other than one side of the political divide. Nothing but reposts, many from loony-tune sites I’d never heard of (and I’m reasonably well-read on web sources from both sides of the divide). No comments on the weather, dogs, cats, Uncle Joe’s hernia, or any of the stupid little things people share on Facebook, ad nauseum. Politics – and partisan propaganda politics, at that. I excused myself from the conversation, wished the fellow well and left. The next day, my feed has a bunch of notifications that’s I’ve been “tagged” in other exchanges. The chap was TROLLING me.
Which “side” of the divide this guy fell on isn’t the point. There are ample sources of loony opinion pieces out to fill any pro-Trump or anti-Trump social media addict’s time line. But might I suggest a little self-assessment for a moment? If your social media life consists of little more than reposting opinion pieces from news sites, parroting them and trying to start flame wars with strangers, consider broadening your horizons. Take a picture of your dog. Wish your gerbil a Happy Birthday. You could even show us what you had for breakfast, annoying as that can be. But say SOMETHING that indicates you have a life beyond the Neanderthal club-swinging that passes for political discussion today.
Trust me, most of us would rather hear about your breakfast.