Now that some people are reading my blog they’ve asked whether or not I’m going to touch on what they termed “more serious issues.” I consider things like my family and my life and my search for a job plenty serious but I think what they mean by serious is, dare I say it, p o l i t i c a l.
Politics is what has ruined Facebook, in part, for me. Better said, actually, is that Facebook has ruined politics. It’s more than just Facebook though and it is more than just “social media.” It is the comments section of any on-line news story. It is the ability to blog by anyone who signs up (like me.) There used to be a gate-keeper between the whackos and their ideas, now there is none. And now you can say and write just about anything and find someone, somewhere to validate your opinions. This gives people confidence to continue to spew nonsense and, ultimately, get to a point where they actually believe it.
When I first got onto FB, I would engage. I would go after an idea, looking for a debate. A debate, you ask? Yes, I say, a debate. It is an exchange of ideas wherein two people listen to each successive point and then respond in kind. It’s a conversation. It is a back-and-forth.
The only thing that is left now is the back-and-forth. I say something and you respond. Of course, when you respond, you’re generally responding to what you assume I wrote rather than spending any time reading what I actually wrote. You also question my intelligence for writing what you think I wrote. Also, don’t forget to make leaps from what you think I wrote (but, as a reminder, didn’t actually) and assume any number of things about my real motives which, for some reason, I am not willing to reveal in that which you assume I’ve written but, again, haven’t actually.
It’s exhausting. It is also fruitless in that no one is actually exchanging ideas.
Add to this that the people who feel strongly enough to post things about politics on Facebook are likely to come from such an extreme position, either left or right, that their views are really nowhere close to mainstream. They are also probably so entrenched in whatever crazy it is that they believe that trying to talk about will get you nowhere.
I have a couple secret little places where I go to take the crazy temperature.
There is this one fella who posts, on average, four or five things a day. “Articles” from wildly partisan websites pretending to be journalistic are his favorite. He posts these with his own snide comments. Then he comments on his own posts along with this one guy and this woman who, apparently, do nothing but wait every day for him to drop some of this great knowledge their way. It’s downright depressing, particularly when you consider some of the language. (No edits have been made to his bad grammar, spelling, or typing):
“I don’t want anything that Obama represents. So I criticize him and attack him.
“He is the enemy to the America I want. So I fight him.
“This country is his. This is his doing. This is his policies in action. This is Obama’s america and it rots.
“The truth is he is the enemy of this country. Take your pick. He’s malicious or incompetent. I believe he hates what America is (or was 3 years ago) and he out to destroy it”
This is a guy who has a full-time job and a family. This is guy who looks plenty normal and, when I once knew him, was a generally friendly, affable (if not overly bright) person.
Oh yeah, he’s also a guy who thinks that the President of the United States HATES AMERICA AND WANTS TO DESTROY IT. Completely normal, right?
The crazy isn’t limited to the right either. In a discussion a couple years ago, I posited that politicians should look to serve the center and not the ideological extremes. Here, in part, was a response from a very liberal friend.
“The idea that one can work with Republicans is fantasy. Just turn on Fox News and tell me- really- that one can work with these people. For every Dick Lugar there are 10 wackjobs running around calling the President a socialist. Give me a break.”
So there we have it. There are no Republicans, anywhere, at all, that can be worked with. They’re all “wackjobs” which, I think, is spelled “whack job.”
So, I avoid it. I avoid it on Facebook and, I dearly hope, will do my best to avoid it here.
The only time I try to wade in is when I see a debate raging that is all based on false pretense. I can stomach the name-calling, feet-stamping, breath-holding childishness that encompasses most of the “discussions” but boy do I hate it when it is all predicated on a lie.
The last time I did this is when a friend started with the “fact” that 50% of Americans pay no taxes but get refunds. From that point, which no one disputed, an argument raged. All I wanted to do was explain that this “fact” was (in fact) a lie.
I wrote and responded. I rephrased and quoted. I cited sources and linked to studies. It was all to no avail. Not only was no one listening, but they were making that assumption that I was had some deep, dark agenda that I was just waiting to spring on them.
I gave it one last effort:
“The first thing people need to understand is that the 50% to 0% comparisons are non-sensical and purposely designed to create a dramatic impression. It is a people-to-dollar comparison which is essentially invalid. To really have a discussion about relative tax responsibility, it needs to be framed in sensible dollar-to-dollar comparisons.
“Let me try to illustrate what I mean:
“Envision a county of 100 people who collectively earned 100 dollars. If one person earned $99 while the rest split up the remaining $1 and you applied the theoretically “fair” flat tax, I could still say alarmingly that “The top 1% of wage earners is paying 99% of the tax!! The bottom 99% pay just 1%!!” What would obviously be missing from this inflammatory, but completely factual, statement would be the logical piece of information that the bottom 99% may be paying only 1% of the tax but they were also earning just 1% of the money. That is a dollar-to-dollar comparison. It is logical and it is fair. But, if I were the politician trying to ease the tax burden of that one guy making $99, I would certainly wail on about how all those poor people, 99% of the population, are paying just 1% of the tax and isn’t that unfair?”
First, let me apologize. The other reason I don’t write about politics is because it is painfully, dreadfully boring. I nearly fell asleep reading that and I wrote it. Sorry.
Anyway, I went on after that and the whole post was in excess of 1,000 words. I was trying really, really hard to be clear that my only agenda was knowledge. If these folks wanted to debate flat tax versus graduated, have at it, but at least know what you were talking about.
Seconds, literally seconds, after I hit “REPLY” or “POST” or whatever the button is you hit, certainly not nearly enough time to read what I wrote, came a response of:
“Sorry, I missed that, could you repeat? Question Marshall, do you fillibuster the wife when she says she’s serving chicken and you want beef?”
And then he called me condescending. I gave up.
The idea that people seek refuge with those of like mind is not something new. This article from Slate addresses, as the title would suggest, why people believe in propaganda. Even when faced with evidence that contradicts their beliefs, they still believe.
So, no, I won’t be writing much, if anything, about politics here in the Four Father. One thing I have come to firmly believe is that if you want to exact change, you don’t do it from your keyboard. You do it by getting out in your community and volunteering for and with your neighbors. Face it: the life we live is mostly here at home. What happens in Washington, DC is big picture and long term and, frankly, out of our reach. Complaining about it to a bunch of idiot sycophants like my right-wing source or fighting with everyone who disagrees with you like my left-wing source gets you nowhere. It gets me nowhere. It doesn’t do a single thing.
Of course we know that keyboard bravado is easy, particularly when it’s anonymous. I can go on any comment section of any story and call someone a “libtard” or compare him to Hitler. I can call them stupid. I can do this knowing that they’ll never know who I am and there is zero chance of recourse. It is cowardice.
A few weeks ago, I found myself standing at the front of the Lynn City Council chambers speaking out against something in the community with which I disagreed. It takes some degree of courage to stand in front of others and literally give a voice to your opinion. People heard me, some minds were changed, and there were other, dissenting opinions. It was all done politely and it was done respectfully and the only issues that were at stake were here inside this city. But inside this city is where I live; inside this city is where my children go to school and play. Change begins at home and home is where most of the politically-talking denizens of Facebook should keep their crazy. We don’t need it out here in the real world.