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.