“We’re trying to elect a new president. Let’s not turn that into a reality TV show.” ~ Former Secretary of State Colin Powell
This is not, and never will be, a blog about politics. But I overheard the above comment the other day, and I felt compelled to write about it.
I couldn’t have said what’s been bothering me lately any better myself. Not just when it comes to the Republican party presidential candidates’ mud-slinging fest thinly disguised as debates and campaign speeches—no, this isn’t just about the size of one’s hands, how much one perspires, or whether or not it’s politically correct for a candidate to use a name-calling term that gets bleeped on TV or *****’d in print.
No, the rantings of these—ahem—“gentlemen” are simply an exacerbation of what I’ve seen is an increasingly disturbing trend in American culture.
We have become a nation of increasingly mean-spirited, rude, obnoxious bullies. At least that’s what is getting played out in the news and, quite often it seems, in my personal experience.
And in my opinion it all boils down to one thing: a lack of respect. For our planet. For differing opinions. For each other.
I see this lack of respect in the garbage that lines so many of our highways or skitters in the breeze across city street corners.
I see it in comments on media websites, where people wrap themselves in anonymity and the American flag and hurl insults at anyone who dares post an opposing viewpoint.
Similarly, I see it in replies on Facebook, where contempt and aspersion often supplant thoughtful discourse.
This lack of respect plays out when hecklers refuse to let political candidates speak, protesters picket soldiers’ funerals, and frat boys think it’s hilarious to sexually abuse inebriated co-eds, and actually videotape the experience.
I could go on and on with examples, but that’s really not the point of this post.
Because, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I truly believe that the majority of Americans are inherently good—that we hold doors open for each other, are quick to open our wallets to support a victim or a cause, find pleasure when we remember to do little random acts of kindness towards one another, and root for underdogs, especially when their nemeses are bullies.
I believe that the majority of us really wish we knew how to solve our country’s complex social issues, from homelessness to addictions, domestic violence to gun violence, animal cruelty to “–isms” of all kinds.
It’s just that we don’t know how. Or those issues simply overwhelm us. Or we’re not sure where to start, or which one to tackle first with our limited time, energy and financial resources.
But here’s the thing: simply knowing and believing that we comprise the majority is a start.
Then taking that belief in the basic decency of the majority, and using that belief to fuel us, to strengthen us, and to not let the bullies get us down. To show each other, and our world, just how much that acting out of caring and respect can do.
From that source of strength, that conviction that there are more of us than them, we can use our talents and limited resources to create positive ripples in our society—ripples that can turn into waves of progress, enthusiasm, perseverance and success. We can feed off of and strengthen each other, rather than let the bottom feeders continue to drain us.
Interestingly enough, in a prior post, I wrote, “Indeed, I’m no Pollyanna.” And maybe that’s true. Or maybe that character has gotten a bad rap over the years, has come off as shallow, a lightweight. Now I think that it can’t hurt to inject some of that character’s indomitable optimism into my actions and outlook. It certainly feels better, lighter, than the alternative.
And while the mainstream media continues to focus on what is wrong with this country, we can take our stories to the internet—through social media, YouTube, our blogs, and new online platforms that seem to be springing up on a daily basis. Through these channels we can show the world what the majority of Americans are really like.
So what do you think? Do you think I’m being naïve here, to believe what the collective good can accomplish if we put our hearts, minds and talents into it? Or do you, too, think that it’s not only possible, but entirely doable—and if so, how?
I would love to hear your comments and opinions on this particular post, as I feel it’s the most important one I’ve written since I kicked off this blog in January.
In the meantime, I wish you a fantastic day and week.