Don Rogers: Answer’s in the mirror
Dud pipe bombs and a deranged bigot with hot semiautomatics in Pittsburgh have twisted the knobs clean off these midterms, already overwrought.
The timing of hard words taken to the next awful level this close to Election Day also blew up any lingering sanctimony over the antifa and the crazed lefty who chose a baseball field to take potshots at Republican politicians.
Violence against Jews and Muslims in this country far outstrips attacks the other way. Murder, beatings, accosting on the street. This is a madness of the right.
But it’s been this way a long, long time. Donald Trump didn’t start it even if he hasn’t exactly been the grownup in the room, either. It won’t end with his reign.
Still, the rhetoric plainly hasn’t helped, presidential or provincial.
Blame us, the people, not the times, the politicians, the president, the press. They are no more than the products of what we put into play ourselves. I find hope here, ironically enough.
If I can control myself a little better and you do the same with yourself, maybe we can blunt our worst instincts, even if just a little, bit by bit, like starting with a few pushups in a row until we can do 100.
After all, we have been improving as a species if you look beyond the news cycle. Humanity, however haltingly and subject as always to backsliding, indeed is evolving. Just about every trend shows this.
Not that you would know it from today’s coverage, the campaigns, the caravan, Kavanaugh and now the killings. Also the need to pin blame along the same old partisan lines, the same stark outrage, the same speaking only to our own — the “base,” as the political leaders call their ranks, their most reliable lemmings. Few are trying very hard to have an actual conversation with the other side, with the attendant ebb and flow, give and take, consideration of points well put.
You can say it’s worse than ever, adding social media among the scapegoats, but this only reveals our amnesia. In hyperbole, we ignore our history.
Today’s a mess, most definitely. But we don’t murder like we did in our deeper, darker past. We don’t die by the thousands on battlefields. Our legislators don’t routinely engage in duels or fistfights in chambers. We don’t lynch. We don’t even abide stray comments about “black face.” These are signs of progress.
Things in fact are not worse than ever. Pundits who prognosticate wildly about the next civil war have forgotten the Sixties, never mind the real Civil War.
We do talk. Oh, we talk. We indulge in a whole lot of nonsense. Too many of us have let ourselves be drawn in as pawns in larger quests for political power. I’m not sure why, considering the ridiculous state of both major parties. But that’s not anything new, either.
What is new? Well, more sources than ever of at-our-fingertips information, disinformation, mistaken notions, pure lies. Wild gossip, once at least somewhat contained to bars and over backyard fences, carries some weird legitimacy posited on Facebook and Twitter. That’s not the social networks’ fault, our gullibility.
The press today has half the reporters of just a decade ago, and how many more sites that purport to be journalistic? All chasing clicks, almost none banking on objective coverage, a dry hole. And who do you suppose is doing all this clicking?
Trolling’s still relatively new. Something definitely slips when we aren’t face to face. Too many of us talk in ways we never would in person, tweeting and commenting horrible personal attacks, threats and the like in the name of free speech while trashing the high civic principle.
It could be the ease of spouting this slime paired with the promise of an audience. What’s the attraction? A vile performance netting virtual applause among the other trolls on the same team, along with delicious outrage from those “idiots.” No need for even a nod to a discussion with a prayer of better understanding. Blood doesn’t rise with reason.
The human psyche this stuff infects is not new, not hardly. Neither are the hormones, the synapses, the instincts about belonging or not belonging that snare adolescents and people who never grew up.
But we’re not really hostages to all this or have to be puppets, either. These are our choices, aside from genuine cases of mental illnesses.
The real press doesn’t try to fake us out. Money doesn’t really make us vote certain ways. Political ploys don’t have to distract us. Propaganda isn’t that hard to pick out.
We do have minds. We are capable of stepping back from ourselves. We can choose what we’ll engage with and how.
We’ve endured worse in history, a lot worse. We’re far from helpless. We each can take responsibility, be accountable to ourselves.
If we ever did, the rest would fall into place.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.
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