Summer vacation has given me more time to peruse social media than is probably healthy for any human being. But for someone who humors himself at trying to step back and marvel at the bizarre the carnival that is our human existence, the twists and turns or the American political climate over the last week has been nothing short of mesmerizing. It would be easy for me to sit back and laugh dismissively at those whose heads are exploding across the internet this week, but the truth is I’ve been sucked into the vortex of not a few Facebook arguments carrying water for my argument, trying valiantly–or so I thought–to prove my side the best.
For some, the flag, Obamacare, and Gay Marriage now being…just…marriage, may feel like a sucker punch in the solar plexus, and the interwebs have been alight with vitriol, frustration, and coping mechanisms on how to get along in this topsy-turvy world. Nowhere was point driven home more than when on Friday night, Nic and I went to a local park to scout a photo shoot. What seemed a rehearsal dinner occupied one of the pavilions with lights and revelry, but as a younger gentleman helped an older gentleman restock the soiree with a cooler of beers, they lamented together: “What’s the world coming to this week?”
On the other hand, there are those who may see this week as a winning streak of sorts, to stand bestraddled over their vanquished foes, sneering at their logically fallacious arguments as being rolled under the tide of history.
Of course, this contrast is convenient. There are those who buck the predictable pattern, who bemoan the drop of the Confederate Stars and Bars and still congratulate their rainbow-clad brothers and sisters on their newly-gained legal rights. But such nuances are few and far between, especially on the internet, and specifically social media, where posts are the equivalent of shouts, reasoned discussions–if they ever occur–quickly devolve into rhetorical wrestling matches, and people threaten to end friendships over which article you posted on your newsfeed. You’re either on my team or you’re an idiot.
So it goes.
Yesterday morning, however, the rain began to cool the heat of the week, and I found myself scrolling down my Facebook feed, posts from people I love and admire and cherish. And when these ideologically polarizing decisions decisions came down, we may as well have been on two different continents. Yet I see in all of us an impulse both noble and damnable–the desire to ensure that the world that is be in accordance with the world that we think should be.
I’m not going to be so hippie-ish to suggest that deep down we all want to the world to be a better place. But we know when things anger us, disgust us, or cause us moral indignation, and often–though we try to use logic–these can be extremely emotional reactions. Moreover, the scope and reach of our logic can be limited by the boundaries of our own experience, understanding, and empathy. And whether we found ourselves as “winners” or “losers” in the ever-marching goal of wishing the world to conform to our moral vision–divinely inspired or not–it seems we are all guided by the same impulses and limitations.
So, when the dust settles on this past couple of weeks in the political world, when these issues won’t be in the eye of the social media maelstrom, and all people go back to posting pictures of their kids and dogs and dinners and vacations, what will we all have gained from this? What kind of world will we have moved toward? My fear is we won’t really even care, and that impulse to do the good won’t be piqued again until the next big issue rises–as it always does. Maybe this is just part of the ebb and flow of interaction online. But if we’re going to give into this impulse, I want to make it more than just a knee-jerk reaction. I want to work toward a world where we don’t let divides on vexing political issues turn us into permanent enemies. After all, if love truly wins, doesn’t that stretch to neighbor and “enemy” alike? Let this not be love in a condescending “bless their ignorant heart” or “I love you but I’m praying for you” kind of way, but rather in a way that looks at the other as similarly imperfect to ourselves–a reflection of our own impulses and limitations–and in that way perfectly deserving of on honest and open compassion.