My cousin, a moderate who leans slightly left, and I, a conservative who leans slightly libertarian, were discussing the Orlando terrorist attack on Facebook yesterday. I’ve stopped discussing pretty much anything important on Facebook–especially politics–and stick to sharing cute kitten videos and silly family photos. I have to watch my blood pressure and as most people have discovered in recent years, arguing on Facebook is just another distraction that keeps the real issue buried in emotion and misinformation.
I do read the ensuing insanity in the comments section on big “news” stories when I have a few minutes that I’m willing to sacrifice with no discernible payoff. Even then I’ve come to keeping my hand on the mouse so I can quickly scroll away as soon as my teeth start clenching and the muscles in my upper lip start contracting. As my Texas friend says, the juice ain’t worth the squeeze.
My cousin and I often ask each other for insight into various controversial topics and that discussion invariably sheds light for me about alternative viewpoints. It’s a modified safe place, if you will, with an open invitation to share our beliefs. We aren’t often on the same side of an issue but discussing it does not devolve into name calling and violent threats. We don’t get our feelings hurt. We remain who we are. Grownups. Friends. Rational people who respect difference. Americans, not ashamed to salute our flag.
I would not have chimed in at all on my cousin’s post about assault rifles but I know that she respects my opinion as much as I do hers and I saw that she was supporting the misinformation so common in the knee-jerk “news” reports of the liberal MSM.
Cousin: … but why would someone buy a gun that can fire so many rounds so quickly? What’s the purpose? A gun that you would carry as self-defense would kill one or two people before the others would jump or kill you.
Me: …This gun does not fire any differently than my hunting rifle.. one bullet at a time. The AR15 is not automatic.
Cousin: What’s the solution my cousin?
I don’t know the solution. I’m not even sure we are mired in as much chaos as the MSM would have us believe but it’s hard not to buy into the theory that we are constantly on the brink of a total national meltdown*. A 24/7 news cycle drives up the collective blood pressure and keeps people at odds — on a tipping point of exhaustion and fear and we’d do anything, anything at all to maintain our grip on this way of life we’ve come to believe we’re entitled, even as we see it slipping away. The teeth gnashing and lip curling are a shared response to constant media reports of a systematic implosion.
A tragedy like the shooting in Orlando begins to feel like the inevitable climax of a long building crescendo, driven by the relentless white noise of digital media news. The natural sequence after an explosive climax is calm. A soothing de-escalation of the tension. Now is the time for quiet reflection. Assess the damage. Grieve the loss. Nurse the wounded. At some point we must step away from the devastation and size up the enemy. Disaster after bloody disaster suggests that the timing of this attack was no accident. Our enemy is smart, conniving, and stealthy. We must begin now to protect our soft centers, shake off the luxury and burden of emotion and build a stronger shelter around our vulnerability. We can only do this adequately if we know the opponent. The enemy is not a can of fuel or a bag of fertilizer or a rifle, automatic or otherwise. It’s not a crock pot or a backpack or an airplane. These are just tools. The enemy is much bigger and smarter than an AR-15.
I don’t have the answers. I do what I can to keep my emotions in check and stay objective. I challenge my own beliefs in that safe place where my cousin and other rational voices supply alternative viewpoints for me. My Facebook response was simple and inadequate. The discussion remains open.
Cousin: What’s the solution my cousin?
Me: I wish I were smart enough to know. I do know that until we wrest control of the narrative from the ghouls in the media we will never advance towards the solution. People are so busy and so lazy and so easily led, the tripe that passes for news continues to cloud the truth. News has blended into a form of entertainment. We are so excited at the delivery of “gotcha” style news that we fail to absorb the facts–if they are revealed, that is, and they rarely are (ie…”omg assault rifles!!”) I stay away from news sites and “news” blogs that are openly biased…sites like Occupy democrats, redstate.com and especially change.org and the conservative counterpart. They feed into the chaos… twist the facts to suit the reader in order to attract more traffic to the site. That’s not news… that’s selling hate and inciting violence for money.
Sadly, the mainstream media has failed us and finding the truth takes a lot of work and time that most people are not willing to spend. We’ve allowed the narrative to convince us that patriotism is a bad thing because it means we are proud of our Country even though terrible mistakes have been made—that we don’t have a right to think of America as exceptional any more, that we should feel guilty and terrible and bow our heads in shame. But we are exceptional. We’re generous and hard-working and kind. Still, the media produces “news” that illustrates the most extreme beliefs and we become enraged and we hate those extreme people but most people are not like that. Most Christians do not believe that liberals want to dismantle human babies in the womb or that gays are evil sinners ruining life for the children. Most liberals do not believe that conservatives hate children and puppies and Mexicans but love war and money above all else. But that’s not what we see streaming on our news feeds 24/7. We see bible thumpers prophesying that the end is near because of trans men in the girl’s bathroom. We see liberals demanding that we all suddenly open our arms to Aunt Bob in the bathroom or abort babies with a scalpel. Those stories don’t represent most of us but they attract readers like flys on shit. Because we want to be entertained…above all else.
It all makes me tired. We are under attack from the extremists in the Middle East but God forbid we name that evil thing. We are under attack from the “news” media but it’s all just so much more entertaining than the truth. I don’t hate you for not thinking like I do but you’d never know it from watching a typical news-feed. I’m conservative, after all. I must be burning crosses in your yard or it’s not entertaining enough. People are stupid. And lazy. They just read bullshit and believe it like it’s some kind of magical fairy tale. That’s why Trump is so “yuge.” He has thumbed his nose at the media and they have excoriated him for it. He doesn’t apologize and the media is twisted into knots over it. He’s clumsy and big-mouthed and says things that hurt people’s feelings and the liberal media has gone insane. They hone in on his clumsy wording and adolescent statements and represent him as a stooge and he makes it easy—to be sure. But, he is not an evil guy. You’d never know that unless you dug a little deeper. But it’s too much fun to hold him up as the epitome of everything hated about Republicans.
Above all else, we must not hurt people’s feelings—even if they would like to kill us. Our opinions are precious and sacred. No one must disagree or it hurts our feelings. The fringe elements are touted as the representatives of our different opinions but that’s a false narrative. The majority are not really like that and when we see it displayed day in and day out we start to believe it is true and we either run for cover or we fight over something we don’t even understand or believe.
All this is simpleton stuff. The solutions are beyond my pay grade. I try to be objective. I try to avoid being spoon fed a false narrative and it’s not easy. I try not to be knee-jerk and spread false stories to support my beliefs. I don’t know the answer.
*The strategy of forcing political change through orchestrated crisis. The “Cloward-Piven Strategy” seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse. …