As you may already know, I quit my job in a deliberate effort to take some control over my life and what now seems to be hopeless dream of forming some sort of writing career. I’m not having much success in this. Instead, I find myself daunted by a publishing world I no longer understand and growing more discouraged with every passing minute.
In the past, when overcome by writer’s block and industry-related frustration, I turned to social media as a muse of sorts. But in recent days, I’ve found social media to have the exact opposite effect. Online forums like Facebook and Twitter, it seems, are no longer a cache of inspiration and a place for open dialogue. Instead, they have become a platform of sorts. A platform from which we spew forth the vile, hate-filled thoughts we once kept buried deep inside ourselves. Social media has become a place where our ugliest words are not only permitted, but celebrated and encouraged.
The internet no longer serves as a means of communication, nor as a reliable catalogue of information. It is now a place we visit in search of idealogical reinforcement from others who think, act, and look just like us. Custom rhetoric is available on demand and without the objection or nuisance of a persuasive third party with a beating heart.
Fact-checkers need not apply.
With the exception of the occasional “like” or comment, I’ve managed to steered clear of political talk online. If ever I’ve told you I don’t participate in political debate due to an insistence discussing only matters in which I am knowledgable, or out of a desire not to “engage” anyone looking for a fight, I wasn’t lying. But I wasn’t exactly telling you the whole truth either.
My reasons for steering clear of political debate are fairly self-serving. I have a deep-seated desire to hold my personal boat steady and un-rocked. I don’t like conflict, nor do I care to offend others. Mostly I don’t like having my feelings hurt, and well, I want people to like me. And because I reside squarely within the demographic that is unlikely to be affected by change (or lack thereof), I can watch from a distance as debates turn into dangerous explosions, knowing I won’t be impaled by legislative shrapnel.
But today, in the wake of several hurricanes, a devastated Puerto Rico, a myriad of Presidential Twitter-storms, and the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, I realized that precisely none of the people I’m so fearful of offending are affording me the same courtesy. In fact, they don’t seem to care much about me at all.
They don’t care about my feelings when throwing around the word libtard (or any other word ending in tard for that matter), nor when they openly mock my laziness for medicating my child rather than just beating his ass.
They don’t about care the heartache I feel when I hear immigrant jokes, nor when they insist that somehow my kids aren’t included in their Mexican-bashing, because my kids are half-caucasian and were born here and just look like darker white people. They don’t care that I’ve long since lost count of the times I’ve been told my kids are somehow being granted a rare exception to bias because they are white–looking.
They don’t care about the compassion I have for the people of Puerto Rico when they assert that the entire territory is made up of slothful gold-diggers who want everything done for them and won’t even show up to work just because of a storm.
They don’t care about my intellect when they share news articles containing facts that can’t be substantiated, nor when blindly reposting words from a fictitious friend of a friend claiming to be in sight of a hospital ship in San Juan – Words published the day before the first hospital ship left port in Virginia.
They don’t care about the sincere gratitude I hold for volunteers when they refer to the Red Cross as thieves and monsters for refusing to allow an untrained person to show up unannounced and serve four hundred hamburgers to a thousand people, without ensuring safe preparation or serving standards in advance. Nor do they care when they repost slander videos made from personal garages by self-proclaimed heroes who somehow managed to salvage “trashed” donations without verifying they aren’t expired, unusable, or even real.
They don’t care about my desire to treat others with dignity when they assert that silence and compliance is required of people of color in exchange for comfort and wealth.
They don’t care about my sense of logic when they refer to illegal aliens as stupid, while insisting that those same illegals are seamlessly gaming the system to commit high-level welfare fraud, nor when deeming Puerto Ricans lazy and incompetent, yet capable of running a stealthy unionized racket in the background without electricity, water, or phones.
And they most certainly don’t care about my wellbeing, nor the wellbeing of others, when digging their heels in and refusing to forfeit even one single extraneous bullet in the name of saving lives, nor when they tell us that mass shootings are just the price we have to pay for upholding a right without any accompanying responsibility.
I believe I’m done extending respect to the feelings of people who have no desire to respect mine in turn.
I’m done giving the benefit of the doubt to people who can’t be bothered to take thirty seconds to verify facts, or the legitimacy of claims, or to simply apply common sense, before clicking “share.” Statistics without context are not facts. You can cry Fake News! to anything you don’t like. I can’t stop you. But there’s never going to be an instance when I accept “proof” from underground websites based on conjuncture and out-of-context snippets over decade-long studies performed by highly regarded research teams and credible news sources.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t expect the opposition to accept claims from less-than-credible sources as absolute fact, while dismissing any and every credibly sourced story and study as conspiracy at the hands of a liberal media. And you can’t deem that media incompetent while giving them credit for pulling off the most brilliant conspiratorial cover-up in the history of America. You can’t praise a politician for using a natural disaster as a means of furthering a political agenda one day, then disparage another two days later because it’s not the time.
And you definitely can’t expect to insult my family, break my spirit, and fill my life with hate-filed rhetoric without expecting me to speak out.
I can’t stay quiet any longer. I can’t watch passively as my social media feeds fill with hyperbole and nonfactual claims from a faction of individuals who seem to be growing more unstable by the minute. I won’t stop caring about you. You have my absolute word on that. But I am rescinding my decision to respect your feelings.