Monday, March 24, 2008

Longing for the way we were

It’s been six days since I’ve posted, and five of the six were bad days. There have been times in the past when I couldn’t think of much to write about, but lately the problem has been that I had too much to say. I was afraid that if I began to write what I was thinking, the words would pour out of me so fast I wouldn’t be able to hold any of them back, even the ones I wouldn’t normally say in polite company.

Fortunately, I spent a wonderful Easter with my family, and that was enough to mellow me out a little bit. It was a resurrection of my spirit, in a way.

What had me so riled up was politics. I’m so invested in this presidential race that you’d think one of my children was running for office. I’ve spent hours and hours watching TV, trying to broaden my understanding of all the candidates’ points of view, and then more hours online, researching the truth behind all the “he said/she said” stuff. When I’ve seen inflammatory snippets of speeches, I’ve gone in search of text and videos to view those snippets in context, and I’ve been appalled that so many so-called “journalists” have been willing to pull a contentious word or phrase out of an otherwise sensible speech and leave it to stand out there on it’s own, a sound bite to stir controversy.

I understand about ratings. Even though it angers me to listen to certain reporters’ more unconscionable (read “twisted”) interpretations of a candidate’s actions or remarks, even though I think some of them take perverse pleasure in disseminating misinformation, I get it. In this day and age, newscasters are motivated more by the ratings than they are by the truth. Where’s Walter Cronkite when we need him?

That complaint notwithstanding, it wasn’t even biased news reporting that upset me so much last week. What really shook me was reading some of the online comments left on political websites by “average American” supporters of all three major candidates. I can’t recall the last time I’ve been exposed to so much vile, vitriolic language, so much hate speech, so much meanness, nastiness and, yes, ignorance.

Where do all these people come from? Do they live under rocks? I don’t want to know people who would write such hateful things, and it scares me to think people like that walk freely among us. It seems to me that if someone is bright enough to use a computer to spew hatred onto the Internet (much of it badly spelled, by the way), they ought to have sense enough to search out the whole story before they contaminate cyberspace with their animosity.

I’ll tell you what: I’m really glad to be an American. There’s never been anywhere else on earth I’ve wanted to live. But proud? Well, yeah, of course I’m proud – just not as proud as I used to be.

Somewhere along the way, our message has changed, a change that's even reflected in our music. In the early ‘80s, we listened to the radio and heard words like, “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.” More recently, the attitude we’ve projected to the world has been, “We’ll put a boot in your a$$, it’s the American way.” When did that change happen, exactly?

I know there’s nothing “average” about my regular readers, but I need to hear from you. Please reassure me that the kind of hostility I've described is not representative of the “average” Americans you know.


  1. This reminds me of a thought I had not long ago-up till about the '90s, songs used to be about love and stuff like that and suddenly it went to "kill the bitches" or whatever, and calling sex "booty". I'm sure sociologists have been noticing this angry turnaround, I wonder if anyone wrote a book about it?

    I hope decent people speak out about the name-calling and vitriol. Good people keeping silent is what allowed Germany to get so far in their genocide in WWII. We need to be brave and stand up for what's right. However, the world is a different place now, people are quicker to use violence against those who disagree with their thinking. It's really sad, but I know there are good people out there. There's something about an election that brings out the worst in people.

  2. Janet, I think decent people *are* speaking out, but I'm afraid there aren't enough of us to convince the venomous ones that their behavior is wrong. IMO, it's their sense of supremacy and self-righteousness that's at the root of the problem.

    I'm hoping that the number of vitriolic people has remained proportionately constant through the years, and that we just weren't exposed to them until the Internet made it easy for them to show themselves to the world.

  3. I wish I could say something reassuring, but I have noticed the same thing you have. All I can guess is that people are angry. Things are just not the way they should be in so many ways, and it makes people feel helpless and hopeless. I have to believe that we have "bottomed out" and that things will get better. They will, won't they?

  4. Well, Betty, I hope we've bottomed out. That would at least explain the increased encounters with bottom-feeders and pond scum.

  5. Velvet, I almost wrote something along the lines of how spoiled we are as a country. Your post is the very reason I HATE politics! I cannot stand the name calling, he said / she said crap. I've always felt I had to search out the truth on my own. Most media leans too far to the left for me. Fox leans too far to the right. The pressure to fit in where you work is great for "reporters" on that level.

    I really don't like any of the candidates left in the race and once again, I find myself underwhelmed at my choices. I always feel like I'm choosing the lesser of two evils instead of looking a one person who can truly lead us.

    That being said, what both of the Dem forerunners have had to tolerate recently makes me ashamed to be an American. Men showing up and screaming at Hillary to iron their shirts??? Really! I'd like to iron their shirts! [with them in it!]

    And Barack being attacked for being too black / too white / wrong religious leader , etc. etc. etc.

    I so just wish we could talk about what MATTERS!

    ...sorry for getting on the soapbox! Wonderful, insightful post.

  6. This is one of the reasons we live up on the side of a mountain...I just don't like most people anymore. I think one of the things that disturbs me the most is the unconscious racism that comes out in casual conversation from people who *believe* they aren't racist. I also try to avoid most things on the TV news except the weather because I know it will be biased. Carmon

  7. oh, yes, I think the Internet has brought out a lot of those vitriolic people out of the woodwork. They can say things they wouldn't want overheard in a restaurant, and hide behind false names. Pre-Internet, the only people who had to suffer through obnoxious rantings were the family and friends, who were probably too afraid to say anything lest they provoke the ranter even more.

    There's a lot of good about the Internet, and a lot of bad, too. We can't let a few rotten apples spoil the whole tree.

  8. CreekHiker, I hate it, too. That's why it's hard for me to believe I'm as wrapped up in it as I am this year.

    I know what you mean about voting for the lesser of two evils; that's what I felt I was doing in 2000 and 2004. I think I lean further to the left than you do, because this year I actually like all three candidates. Or at least I did, until all the nasty nitpicking started.

    Carmon, I totally understand your comment. In fact, this is one of the reasons I envy you for living up on the side of a mountain.

    Janet, you're right. For every negative thing I can think of about the Internet, there are half a dozen positives. I love being able to get online and search out the truth about the allegations the various campaigns are making.

  9. as for me I love political news. some of the news makes me laugh. some makes me yell in my head.We have satellite and the news people really are over the top.
    I talk to people who say they never watch the news because it is so bad but I don't want to be in the dark. I have a fellow commenting on my blog who calls himself "zippers reverenge". He is really out there but he makes me laugh every time he opens his mouth.
    I had a friend at work with me who made me realize something a few years ago. I was sounding off about the presidental race , all wound up and when I stopped she said "Patsy they are all trying to feather their own nest." I thought she is right so I don't get so carried away since that time.I worked at Tyson for many years and I have heard a lot of stupid people make stupid comments so I guess the enter net is something like Tyson .
    as for the election, I know you support Obama so in Nov. you will have the last laugh. He is going to win. As to how times and people have changed, 20 years ago Obama could not have been in the race never mind winning the race.
    My sister has a saying that I like and I have said it many times of late. YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID!
    So just think of this election as American comedy and laugh.

  10. It really upsets me that we seem to think that our way is the only way...If a country is happy have a king, I say so be it. What business is it of ours. Murdering in the name of freedoms seems a little frightening.

    Maybe we have hit bottom. If we have hopefully we can start back up.

  11. Very provocative post. I have been watching as avidly as you and I just don't know what to believe about whom. Things are blown out of proportion on both sides and so far the Republicans are sitting pretty right now. But wait until a Democratic candidate is chosen and all hell is going to break loose. You think the Dem's are slapping each other around? I think they have been cautioned to take it easy on one another because they are on the same team but to be prepared once one of them has to go up against McCain. I do agree about the media but that's their job. People seem to thrive on being angry so the media does their best to give them what they want.

    It's not just the Internet, when in our lives was a war televised!!!
    We give away all our secrets via TV, inflame tempers in other countries by some comment that was taken out of context and televised so that all the Muslims want to behead us or blow us up because someone made an inadvertant remark about Mohammad when in this country freedom of speech is supposed to be a good thing! I think freedom of speech has given everyone license to say anything they want no matter whether they hurt someone else. That's not a legal issue, I think it's a moral issue. So do we want to talk about morals these days? That's a whole other bag of worms.

  12. I haven't' heard anyone in my circle of friends say anything vitriolic. Instead most of us are feeling inspired and hopeful (can you guess who we hope will win).

  13. Patsy, I find a lot of the recent political news ridiculous, but I haven't got to the point yet where I can laugh at it. Maybe one day I can follow your example. In the meantime, thanks for passing along the saying about "you can't fix stupid." That's a good one.

    Sister-Three, I think the desire to rule sometimes makes people (and nations) forget about the Golden Rule. I hope we'll get back to that.

    Nan16, I know what you mean: the campaigning during the general election will be brutal. I'm sure some of the pols are lining up already in preparation for airing the candidates' dirty linens. I was reading an online London Times article last week. The European commenters were mostly respectful, even when they disagreed, but most of the comments were from Americans, and I was embarrassed by the nastiness they displayed for the world. I agree with you that morals are an issue, too, but I believe morality covers a much wider range of behaviors than the top two or three we see on TV.

    Annie, I haven't heard any vitriol among my friends or co-workers, either, but I have heard some cynicism along the lines of "this is the way it is and it will never change." I've also heard some of the Internet rumors stated as fact. Actually, I was kind of glad about that, because it gave me an opportunity to correct the misinformation.

    Thanks, everybody, for your insightful comments.

  14. there is little that disgusts us more than politicians, politics itself, and the horrific things they say and do which has nothing to do with why they are there. we have very definite feelings about what should be changed but it won't happen so no use in saying it, just know our "average" friends are much nicer and joys to be with, sadly 99% of them are our friends on the internet!

    peace and blessings


  15. Keepers, one of the things I've enjoyed most about making Internet friends is the diversity of the people who come together because they recognize something in each other that they can relate to. In the "real world" these same people might never find each other. I hope one day the politicians will try appealing to the common bonds people share, rather than trying to divide us.

  16. I've been living in South Korea where we just had a presidential election. I was amazed to find out that the candidates can only campaign 21 days before election. Boy was that refreshing. I'm sickened by all the money that is being spent and will continue to be spent. Also, I've never been so proud to be an American.

  17. Becky, thanks for visiting my blog. A 21-day campaign period would not only save a lot of frustration, it would save an amazing amount of money that could be put to better use. Sometimes I think age affects one's level of pride in America. Those of us who grew up in the '40s and '50s remember a kinder, gentler nation back then. It was kind of like "Leave It to Beaver," where the worst people we ever had to deal with were the ones like Eddie Haskell.


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