National Affairs: How to lose friends, and influence no one

The University of Cambridge recently conducted a research study correlating the honestly of those who swear with those who use more temperate language.

The result:  The most truthful people are those who use “colorful” language when they speak.

According to Dr. David Stillwell, one of the study’s authors, “If you’re trying to follow the social norms rather than saying what you think, you are saying what people want to hear,” he said.

 “In that respect, you are not being very honest.”

 Regular readers of this forum know that I am taken to peppering these essays with a few choice words – like my father before me, it’s just how I communicate.

Offense intended.

In matters of political opinion, it is important to speak your mind – say what you mean and mean what you say.  After all, discussing how the sausage gets made in various government chambers – especially around east Central Florida – is not for the squeamish.

However, in today’s environment, ‘saying what you think’ comes with a heavy price tag.

Regardless of which side of the Trump argument you come down on, be prepared to lose some friends – real and digital – and to have your point-of-view picked apart and hurled back at you with a few incredibly personal sobriquets.

Folks, our American tradition of civil debate is dead; replaced by who can scream their brand of political invective the loudest.

As a result, I no longer debate, or even discuss, national politics on social media.

Perhaps it’s the coward’s way out – but who ever accused me of having a backbone, eh?

For the past decade (at least), the fear of offending others – the need to remain ‘politically correct’ in every way and on every occasion – dramatically shaped the way we communicated with one another.

Now, not so much.

The tone and tenor of our latest presidential election changed all that.

It’s anything goes, and political dissent and debate has become a full-contact sport.

Add to that what we now know about the depth of government spin and media bias in what passes for ‘news’ and one begins to question the veracity of literally everything that came before.

Was social honesty the victim of our previous desire for national harmony?

In many ways, it appears we are reaping the whirlwind of our collective acquiescence.

Look, I’m not talking about the use of racial, cultural or gender based epithets or “hate speech” – language that is mala in se.

And I’m not calling out citizens on both sides of the political spectrum who, for perhaps the first time in their lives, are moved to peaceful protest and the full-throated exercise of their First Amendment rights.

(Rock on, you left-wing wingnuts and right-wing Children of John Birch!  Rock On!)

After all, political involvement and civil disobedience are the very essence of our democratic society.

What I am referring to is the minority of self-absorbed professional victims who find vague offense in literally everything, and are actively shaping the contemporary discourse for everyone through force, violence, and a simple “talk to the hand ’cause the face ain’t listening” dismissal of counter-arguments.

In the spirit of inclusiveness, most Americans yielded to the increasingly ridiculous demands of even the most obscure special interest, and modified the tone and tenor of our national dialog so as not to upset the delicate apple carts of a few college students, anarchists, socialist ideologues, fringe players, and literally anyone and everyone who could concoct a self-identity.

In short, we stopped communicating with sincerity and candor – least our opinion be weaponized and used to bash us over the head.

The clear majority of ‘moderate’ American’s tried very hard to play nice – to assuage the feelings of the self-absorbed set, and tiptoe around the sensitivities and weird world view of various “Movements,” and other so-called “victims” of the most socially, financially and technologically advanced society in history.

Others have used this terrible point in our history as an opportunity to fan the flames, spew their specific brand of hate, and muddy the waters by playing on the fear, confusion and divisiveness which is gripping the nation.

As someone recently said, “Who knew that Love Trumping Hate would require so many firebombs?”   

In my view, it appears we, the Silent Majority of ordinary Americans, have been ambushed – by both sides.

Caught in the crossfire of vile rhetoric and seditious bombast.

What was once considered the political periphery has transmogrified into some of the most rabid and radicalized hate mongers this country has ever experienced – and, incomprehensibly – their rhetoric is increasingly seen as “mainstream.”

Why?  Because an election didn’t go their way?  Or they simply want to crush dissenting opinions?

The fact is, I don’t have a clue.

What I do know is that the skirmish lines are drawn, and our nation has all the dry tinder necessary to fuel the flashpoint of an ideological civil war not seen since the 1960’s.

Last week I purchased a novelty t-shirt with the words, “Shut Up, Hippie!” emblazoned on the back.

Why?  Because I thought it was funny.

Because I thought other people (regardless of their politics) might see the humor and irony in a guy who looks like Jerry Garcia sporting that shirt and have a good laugh.

Because there was a time in the country when you could poke fun and have a joke – or sport a funny slogan (“Imagine Whirled Peas,” etc.) on a bumper sticker – and not risk physical attack for having a weird sense of humor.

So, I’ve opted to put the t-shirt away – succumb to the fear – and quietly mourn the death of fun.

The lunatic fringe on both sides of this perverse argument – the Social Warriors who twist and misinterpret everything, and the kooks who use this time of national discord to promote their ugly brand of hatred – appear to be winning.

There is no “middle ground” anymore.

I hate you, you owe me, and we (insert name of “social justice” movement du jour here) will burn you out, shut you down, and crush your dreams if you don’t like it.

So, I hope you understand why I refuse to engage in some inane bickering on Facebook or Twitter over Trump’s latest.

If we are connected by social media, that means you and I have something in common in this life – a community relationship, a friendship, or familial connection – and, frankly, that’s very important to me.

Trust me, no social media rant – or threat of violence – is going to change my fundamental belief that the United States of America remains the greatest nation on the face of the earth.

In my view, there will always be more that unites us as Americans than divides us – and our inalienable rights, responsibilities and freedoms are incredibly important to the future and stability of our union – and the world.

And that’s the truth.


One thought on “National Affairs: How to lose friends, and influence no one

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s