You would have to be completely disconnected to not have noticed the tone of political discourse in American society. I find that the charm that social media once had, the vacuous nature of most of the posts with kittens and puppies and other little insubstantial minutiae, has been almost completely replaced by mostly hate-filled rhetoric originating from every possible perspective. Quite frankly, I don’t spend nearly as much time on social media these days, and I have severely restricted what I see in my various news feeds.
At first, most of us would doubtless say that only those with views that differ from theirs are anger-filled and inappropriate. Closer and unbiased examination will soon reveal that there is no shortage of anger on any side of the discussions. What’s more, that kind of anger has a long and broad history when people discuss differing values. Consider, for example, the history of religious disagreements. Attend a Cubs vs. White Sox baseball game. Ask any Brit or Frenchman how they feel about each other. The list really goes on and on. Why?
It happens because we are afraid, and people who are afraid become angry. Angry people pay very little attention to what is going on and are easily manipulated and distracted. In order to feel safe, they need to identify an enemy they can “prove” is wrong so they can know they are “right,” but such designations are mostly arbitrary. We become most easily afraid and angry when the place in which we find our primary meaning seems to be threatened. Mind you, the threat doesn’t have to be real, only perceived.
So I ask you, where do you find your meaning? If you find your meaning in politics, I have to tell you that your meaning is both too small and built on a very shaky foundation. If you find your meaning in being right, your cause is hopeless because nobody is right all the time. If we are ever going to move beyond anger and fighting that accomplishes nothing, each of us will have to decide what gives our life meaning AND pay attention to what impacts that meaning.
Many of us are spending way too much time and effort working on projects that, in the final analysis, simply don’t matter. That means our life will have little meaning, and fear and anger are close behind. Once fear and anger take over, nothing gets accomplished. Nobody’s children ever fondly remembered their parents for being absent trying to save the world. Find your meaning. I can virtually guarantee it’s in your own back yard.