It's disturbing to me, regardless of political bent, how little respect exists in media.
I'd never expect in a free society for people to agree on issues and how to solve problems lock-step, and I am thankful for healthy discussion. It makes me think and look at all facets of a problem.
Can discussion be unhealthy? I think yes.
Discussion becomes dysfunctional when people are torn down for exercising freedoms. When their spouses and families become part of the fodder. The conversation becomes less about solving problems and more about winning personality contests with the public, and elections become the Super Bowl.
The news becomes entertainment. A spectator sport.
Now I like satire as much as anyone else, and I do love a good parody.
But character assassination and seeing ill motive lurking behind every corner isn't helpful to any sort of discussion about how to solve some pretty looming problems that our country and our world is facing.
What if the public was aware that these same personalities who skewer each other on television and AM radio have dinner together and enjoy one another's company in private?
Sadly, these folks have handed us an atmosphere of polarization (and dare I say 'paranoia') where healthy discussion is sometimes no longer possible.
A fundamental lack of decorum then trickles down to social media where people think nothing of ruining other people.
Because social media is fairly anonymous, and people become 'friends' without consequence.
It's pretty easy to friend someone online who thinks exactly the way you do, and it's pretty easy to become whoever you wish to become online while alienating people who care about you and love you a great deal.
It's easy to go on the attack and have these strangers come to your aid and make you feel completely justified.
This is something I personally wrestle with. Because even the Warren Jeffs and the Fred Phelps and the Herbert Armstrongs of the world -- while exposure of spiritual abuse is important -- they are human beings loved by God. They've lost their way, to be sure. They piss me off. I hate their aftermath and what they have done to destroy human souls. I expose their teachings wherever I can.
And I take seriously the call to pray for my enemies, remembering that had different circumstances existed in my life? I could be just like them.
Humility is important. Or I'm part of the problem. And this is something I continually have to self-monitor and ask friends to help keep in check for me.
As an aside, I don't say anything online that I am not willing to say to someone's face. And I truly agonize over a lot of things that I write because I am concerned about how it might affect someone I care deeply about.
People of all political bents say some of the most hurtful things and seem to think nothing about the pain that they cause. The environment of distrust among people is lethal to real relationships - even those of many, many years - and sometimes, it just isn't possible to maintain a friendship, regardless of how desperately one might wish to do so.
Full disclosure? I'm a political moderate who leans way left on many domestic issues, especially those involving child welfare. My husband is more conservative, but some of his best friends are quite liberal. We talk about politics, and as we age, we're getting closer and closer to the middle.
We've probably never voted for the same president, but we wouldn't know because we've never shared who we voted for with one another.
Why? Because our relationship trumps ideology. And we'd like to continue living together and loving each other, and that requires an atmosphere of mutual respect.
In spite of our ideological differences, neither of us can stand what is happening in this culture. Recent online and telephone and face to face conversations with good friends help us see that we are not alone in despising how rhetoric is killing relationship.
What we say matters...whether it is online or in person. And relationships are indeed lost over what we say and how we treat one another in reality or virtually.
Facebook and Twitter aren't video games; they involve real flesh and blood people with feelings and baggage and pain and joy. Which means that care should be exercised when speaking, as in any relationship.
Which is also why I try, albeit imperfectly, to exercise tolerance - first, because I am crazy imperfect (as I just said) and have a penchant for meanness myself, and second, because I do not wish to come off as condescending and placating.
I have strong opinions, sure. But even when sharing them, I am mindful of those who may not agree and remember (to paraphrase a line from a film I love called An Ordinary Family) that when all is stripped away, I would rather have a relationship than be right.