I was picking Wolfe up from daycare the other day. When I walked into the classroom, he was giggling and playing with one of the other kids, whom I will call C. Wolfe and C were having a great time. I found myself wondering (mostly because of the tassel loafers) if C might not be from the other end of the political spectrum. The kids, in the meantime, didn’t care.
Soon enough, though, they’ll be posting memes on Facebook that oversimplify complex problems, cherry picking anecdotes that support their side and calling everyone who disagrees with them idiots, morally depraved criminals, and worse. (Big leap there, I know, but I promise I’ll come back to the daycare story.)
I’m not saying I haven’t been guilty at times myself. With the recent gun control debate, I know where I stand and I sometimes want to post inflammatory comments like “How can you think that? Why are you so stoooooooppppiiiiiiidddddd?????” on the walls/blogs/emails of people who disagree with me.
And the web makes it so easy. Fire up your meme generator and create a much more clever (albeit equally as simplistic) meme to combat the mouthbreathers, the sheeple, the morons who are unenlightened. Start arguments and focus on semantics in order to prove your superior logic. Photoshop pictures of your opponents on the bodies of donkeys and label them jackasses.
I don’t contend this is necessarily new, but the Internet has made it easier to do. It’s also making it easier to filter out those who don’t agree with you, so we never have to challenge our own beliefs. The perceived anonymity makes us brave, and we let loose with comments we’d never make in person.
Here’s the thing, though. There are some smart people who disagree with you, and listening to them might actually bring you to a new understanding. It might or might not change your mind, but it would at least give you something to think about and make you realize there are other, sometimes equally valid, viewpoints.
Plus, when it really matters, we don’t ask if somebody is Republican or Democrat or Communist, or if they support stricter gun control or less government regulation. When the guy helps you push your car out of the snow bank or the lady catches you when you trip over the curb, you don’t ask about how they voted in the last election and then proceed to berate them for thinking differently than you do. You thank them, and hopefully you offer the same help to other people you see who are in need.
My point is, there are things we all have in common, like the fact that we’re human and we’re trying to figure out what that means and (in most cases) how to be the best at it we can be. I think that’s why Wolfe and C were having so much fun. They haven’t yet learned that they’re supposed to form separate tribes. They’re just enjoying being humans, together. (I, on the other hand, tore the bumper sticker off C’s dad’s car and blew my nose on it, because he voted for the wrong guy.)