Sunday, November 18, 2012

Keeping it together

In the immediate aftermath of the election earlier this month, the public’s reaction was something to behold. Obviously, people were going to be excited or disappointed based upon the candidate for which they voted.
I witnessed a lot of regrettable behavior that only validates how polarized we are as a country. I know the stakes are high in a presidential election, and in a sense, it is good that people feel so deeply about it because it shows they care. In recent years, there has been much discussion about voter apathy, so all this emotion can be considered good in that respect.
However, some behavior I witnessed clearly crossed the line. Much of the poor behavior was witnessed through social media like Twitter and Facebook. As good as those resources are, they can be used for bad, and this badness was there for all to see on election night.
Social media can bring out the bad in us if we let it. After all, it is a lot easier to insult somebody if we are not doing it to his face. It’s true that these resources do require a name be put with comments made, but many people definitely let the expletives fly when they do not have to worry about a person in front of them.
People on both sides of the spectrum were in rare form. Some who voted for Romney bemoaned that the president's re-election marked the beginning of the end of America as a super power. Some attempted to tie Obama’s selection to the end times in Biblical prophecy in which world power would be shifted back to the Middle East. It's clear that some of these people view Obama as something more than a man who just wants to serve his country (and not in a good way).
On the other side, some of the president’s supporters reduced Romney to just another rich white guy, but did it in profane ways. His family and religion were attacked in very narrow-minded ways. Like Obama, I believe Romney was a man who just wanted to serve his country, but people had plenty of venom for him, too.
I know a lot of these things were said during the campaign, but the vitriol, profanity and anger were taken to another level on election night. I have refrained from using direct quotes from people to back up my points. However, just a little time spent researching on-line backs up my point.
The obvious question is:  Where do we go from here? This behavior clearly shows our country’s polarization remains deeply entrenched. Our leaders made good faith comments about wanting to work together, but we have heard that all before. We heard the same thing after the 2008 election, and how far did that go?  Not far because the same problem was worse four years later.
We are all going to continue to disagree with each other. However, if the power of our disagreements continues to intensify, we may reach a point of not turning back. Our unity may erode in a substantial way, and our country may become as fragmented as Europe. This possibility keeps me awake at night.
I don't want to believe that can happen, but a lot has changed in my short life. Life has become much more of a blood sport where humility and graciousness have taken a back seat to winning at all costs.
It is tainting our political discourse, and it is wearing moderates like me out. Moderates are usually the ones left to clean up the messes of extremists.  If we vacate the arena of debate, our country may eventually hit rock bottom.

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