I write with extreme reservation tonight. Because I read a TON I develop thoughts and questions about a myriad of topics. I pay attention to the world around me constantly, and I frequently don't know when to turn the news off. My mind is a sponge for new information.
This all allows me to perceive and estimate where things are going in my sphere, and occasionally, accurately predict outcomes. it also affords me ample opportunity to find out that I have been dead wrong on something I've been thinking. So, when I sit to write about some observation or (hopefully) thought provoking question, my mind goes through 10 degrees of checks before I can put pen to paper.
Usually, "I should write" proceeds through, "what will you cite?" and, "how will you thoughtfully present your observation in as logically bulletproof a way as possible?" This progresses to, "you're going to have to go back through all that stuff you've read over the last couple of days/weeks/months/years." This usually leads to a time of questioning whether what I have to say is important enough to expend that kind of energy. The answer is usually "no" so I just keep quiet on the topic and go about my way in disappointment at the state of affairs. Often, the thought is related to issues of a political nature so the choice is usually a good one. I honestly don't have the time to spend arguing on Facebook that the 25 year old me had.
If my thought/observation has weathered this gauntlet, it moves forward to the question of whether I can layout a well structured and cohesive argument that I am will to defend. Passing that test, my thought must endure the, "Can this thought proceed in a non-activist, non-public-shaming, not overly zealous self-righteousness kind of way?" This is a subjective bar at best, but a good final filter. If I'm sharing an opinion publicly, then some part of me feels an authority to share. Thus, if the finger finally does make it to the key I am at least moderately influenced by a reservation at casting judgement whether I am ultimately successful or not. ;)
The decision has been made then. Sufficient review has occurred and the thought seems ready for public release, barring one final hurdle. So much time has been spent, and mental gymnastics performed, that there isn't much left for sharing. So the final difficult decision must be made on the depth of explanation that will be offered. This ranges from merely asking 1 or 2 open ended questions to a deep dive including citations, graphs, etc.
Tonight (yes I am finally getting to the point), all of this has occurred simply for me to ask myself (and anyone who may read this since this thought has passed all of the filters), "Is this who we really are America?"
Oooh. The question hovers with self-righteous indignation (filters on red alert). But, as much as I ask the question rhetorically, I ask it truthfully. I am referring to the state of dis-course(hyphen for effect) and discrimination in our current culture. When did we lose the ability to be respectful, to see the humanity in one another, to be friendly despite differences? Did we every truly have that to begin with (humanity with its long and storied history of atrocities committed against one another)?
My parents, for all of their foibles and failures, still managed to instill in me (amongst other things) what I might subjectively call "basic human decency" - care for one another, be respectful, follow the law, be honest. I assumed those were widely accepted standards in American culture. The news, and occasionally personal experience, kept me acutely aware that there was a criminal fringe out there bent on bucking the system and creating havoc, but never educated me on why, or what systemic issues might be contributing (a conversation for another time).
As the oldest of 3 young boys, I was your average 11 year old viking child: rambunctious, pushing the envelope of my parent's patience, and underpracticed at listening the first time. But, as my family sat at an old hotel restaurant in full public view, eating our supper, I'll never forget the pride I felt, and I saw in my parent's faces, when an older gentleman stopped at our table to comment to mom and dad "how well behaved these boys are." I've tried to instill a similar sense of public respect and civility in my girls.
However, it seems that sentiment is fleeting today. Why do people in power feel the need to belittle others? Why must criticisms devolve into personal attacks? Why to the "oppressed" feel their only option is to return in kind? Have we lost the simple tenets of civility or have we abandoned them for fear of oppression, persecution, or loss of power?
Our righteous offense is no longer even pure. We've turned our public platforms into pugil sticks to beat the opposition into submission through public shaming. When I look ahead to the societal norms my children will inherit (no, I'm not talking about the average select few religious priorities) I can't see where things are not headed to a very scary place.
When truth is not a core value, facts are fake, disagreement is punished with shame, a mistake is punished with rejection, power is used to oppress instead of improve, and those claiming a higher authority have made themselves beholden to personal agendas and influence peddlers, the future of a society looks dim.
I have left a TON out. Obviously. There is more discussion that is begged for about where the line is that separates social justice, from overbearing activism.
For those of faith, yes I know what the Bible calls this, yes I know what the world needs more of, and yes I know where my hope truly lies. But, I still grieve "watching Jerusalem fall."
For those who have already dismissed me as a liberal Trump hater, my disappointment is aimed equally at the restaurant owner who discriminates based on political affiliation as it is with the cake baker or those who no longer even struggle with lies. And those of you whose skin is not white, yes I understand the absurdity of a white male asking when discrimination became a thing. I hope you can understand the nuance in this case.
If we ever "had our way" as an American society, it seems we have lost it, not because we are wrestling with the definition of morality in physical terms, but because we struggle to maintain a base level of human decency while we do, and because our wrestling is most often about power rather than a common good.
Then again, I may just be old fashioned. And it is quite possible I completely failed the self-righteous filter...