I’ve been lost. For the past few weeks every time I sit down to write something out, to comment on society or scribble a thought bouncing around in my head, I can’t find my direction. So today let’s just spill it out and see what happens.
Sitting and thinking about the current state of our world definitely doesn’t help. News outlets latch onto events like the NFL protests, the Las Vegas shooting, or President Trump’s general ineptitude and regurgitate the same pointless data without any grace or concern for the underlying problems. A few talking heads will get the right message out, but they are drowned out by the ratings grabbing click bait smothering us all. The resulting divisiveness is depressing. I feel like I’m turning into even more of a cynic; borne out of a never ending discussion on issues that could actually be solved if we would take a step back and analyze them rationally.
I’m so tired of the back and forth. This Us vs Them rhetoric is killing our society. We argue non-stop because we have been groomed to think anyone opposing our viewpoints mean to destroy everything we hold dear. We have embraced free speech and the endless information afforded by internet connectivity without knowing how to decipher false data, recognize manipulated stories designed to divide, fact check, or prevent customizing news feeds to the point of opposition blocking bubbles.
People hold their values close and I know that it can be difficult to entertain values different from your own. Adding to that, if you believe your way is the best path to live a happy and successful life, you tend to share that belief with others. But as we all know, the conversation rarely ends at sharing. Beliefs are pushed and forced on others with little thought to how they differ from what beliefs may currently be held. The pushing turns to name calling, the name calling turns to bigotry, and the bigotry turns to supremacy. Just because your beliefs may hold weight in your environment does not mean that they will hold the same weight in another.
The divisiveness bred from these shouting matches is a poison. It is a poison fueled by those wishing to capitalize on the splintered and confused masses in order to gain even a minutiae of power. It is used to breed a world that would rather argue than compromise. And that world will fail.
The recent shooting in Las Vegas has sparked up one of the more divisive topics in the U.S.: our old friend Gun Control. Firearms have become one of the symbols of American Freedom. They have been used to illustrate everything from the strength of the people (“The American Revolution was fought by men using their personal weapons”), to the freedom of the people (“It is our constitutional right to own guns. A government cannot and will not tell me what I can own.”), and are used to demonstrate their necessity in defending the Constitution itself (“The Second Amendment protects the people from the Government infringing on the other Amendments.”). These tools have been warped into something they were never meant to be.
The inverse of the pro-gun is one of extreme regulation. There are many that believe that no one outside of the Police and Military should have the ability to own/use firearms as they believe this will put an end to a high number of violent incidents we see in the U.S. The two sides do not discuss rationally, they do not offer compromise. You see pundits on either extreme ridiculing the others for their position without listening to why they hold the beliefs that they do. A point I mention often, and I don’t think often enough, is that understanding something is not agreeing with it. You can learn and develop a thorough understanding of a viewpoint and still hold a position against it. But you better yourself and the conversation when you take the time to respect the fact that the other side of the discussion has a right to hold their opinion. Both sides become more open to compromise when they know their opposition intimately. You find common ground, however scarce, and the discussion becomes one that can lead to legitimate change.
The discussion on gun control continues to die every time it comes up because it has been turned into “Give me all the guns!” vs “Take away all the guns!” The dichotomy kills the progress before it has time to gestate.
There is a solution here, but societal change is slow and we have to acknowledge that. An individual may change their mind only to shelve their personal opinion for the opinion of the group; especially if the group itself is under attack. When a gaggle of late night hosts and various liberal talk shows treat the average gun owner like the next Steven Paddock waiting to happen, the conversation ends immediately. When Fox News runs segments on how any form of gun control is one step away from Nazi-era Germany, the conversation ends immediately. There can be no rational discussion when neither side is willing to listen and avoid hyperbole. The current gun laws are entirely too loose and vague. We don’t need to ban weapons, but we at least need to have a serious conversation on the access to them. We regulate cars, chemicals, and cold medicine but somehow personal weapon stockpiles have become off limit? It’s irresponsible to think that we can keep progressing as a modern society without starting down the road of re-evaluating laws around weapon ownership.
Divisive arguing, bigoted generalizations, deflecting hyperbole, undue fear mongering…all of this hurts us. We don’t need to attack each other. We don’t need to develop this battle for vengeance against anyone who might have an opposing viewpoint. Maybe that makes me naive. Maybe that makes me hopelessly optimistic. But I’ll take hope in the potential of humanity over the heavy burden of cynicism I feel now.
We are all we have.