The unfriending of America

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Cartoons are often where the wisdom lives…

I’ve started this blog several times, but the unending stream of fresh hell coming out of Washington has made me stop and try to make sense of things more than once in the last two weeks, wondering if my sentiments are current or hopelessly out of date.

A few times, I’ve walked out of the office simply stunned.

It’s taking me a lot of thought and even more words to try and understand this – so get a cup of coffee or Maker’s (or both) and get comfortable. It’s a long one.

I came home from the theater last week to news footage of thousands of people at airports all over the world after the welcome gates of our country were slammed shut to people coming from seven countries across the ocean. I saw families, professors, students, doctors, all stranded. Children in handcuffs. What the hell?

Two days later, the Attorney General was fired because she questioned the legality of the imposed travel ban.

Rich individuals with few qualifications and crystal-clear conflicts of interest were installed in cabinet positions because a political party decided they were in the majority so they changed the rules and excluded any opposition.

Legislation has been proposed to seize national open space for private interests, which will surely result in drilling and stripping and destruction of natural wilderness.

Public information that every American has the right to has been shut off from environmental and health agencies, which will result in illness, injury and death.

And the hits just kept on coming.

Truth lies dead at the foot of the Capitol steps and nobody in power seems to care.

I’m physically sick to my stomach. The thought that this country is being run by members of the Party of Condescension (Webster’s def: “An attitude of patronizing superiority, disdain”) who are hell-bent on getting their way at ANY cost, just knots my innards. Screws up my thinking. Makes me frustrated and angry. Gives me an understanding of people who have just had it and blow up. (Note that I did not say that I was going to explode myself or anything else, just that I now see where they are coming from, not condoning their actions).

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-4-34-49-pmI’m working on a children’s show where one of the lyrics of a song is “don’t pit-a-pat ‘em” – a phrase that I thought the writer might have used just because it rhymed with the “up and at ‘em” that follows, but given the current atmosphere in this country, I now know exactly what it means.

Stand up to it, kiddo. Be strong and proud. Don’t let the situation run you over.

The overwhelming number of people in this country – those who are railing against the wrong and demanding that the bulls in our DC china shop stop their wholesale destruction – are being “pit-a-patted” – that disgusting “Now, now, this will all be fine, we know what’s best” behavior, usually accompanied by patting someone on the head, by those in power.

It’s like those white guys in ties who tell women to lie back and enjoy the inevitable sexual assault.

Speaking of the viable threats to women, I’d like to remind all of you post-menopausal whiners that just because you don’t need the health services that Planned Parenthood provide now, decisions made today will affect young women for years. Put down the mirror and think about your daughters and granddaughters for a change.

I freely use the hashtag #notmypresident because it reflects more than whose name I checked on my November ballot. I will not support anyone who abuses the Constitution and his fellow Americans the way he and his cronies do. People tell me that I’m wrong, that the election results support the current resident of the White House and that I need to just accept that.

“Give him a chance,” they say.

“Lie back and enjoy it,” I hear.

Nope. Not this girl.

Eight years ago, this country made history by electing its first black President. Talk about someone who opened the doors on Pennsylvania Avenue to find a mountain of thinly-veiled racist obstacles in his path. Racist. Yeah, I said it. Racism is alive and well in America, especially under that alabaster white dome. It was clear to me in 2008 and it remains clear today, there were elected officials who brought their “Whites Only” beliefs to the floors of Congress and acted accordingly. Health care? Not gonna approve it. Hate it, vowed to work against it, despite chance after chance after chance to come up with an alternative plan. Supreme Court nominee? Simply refuse to act on it just because.

This is wrong on so many levels.

How many people would get away with this kind of behavior at their place of employment? But millions of people in America accepted this from their representatives. Double standard much?

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-4-21-00-pmWhere is the discourse, where is the conversation, the exchange of ideas and offering of both sides of the issues. Where is the compromise? Where is the teamwork that we depend on to run our country smoothly? Where is the representation of every American, regardless of financial or social status?

What this current administration has fostered is a disintegration of America’s standards, all the way down to civility, especially on social media.

I know, there are people who will say to just turn away from the computer if my feelings are being hurt, but that’s not an option. I choose to live in an environment that fosters discovery, innovation, information sharing, creativity, friendship and positive progress. Social media is part of that.

Unfortunately, social media has given people the same blinders they wear in the parking lots of the mall during the holiday season. People’s behavior behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle that seems to offer a shield of power (or at least the horsepower to make an escape if they feel threatened by someone they offend) is abhorrent. Along with the power comes a sense of anonymity, because who remembers the face of the person who cut them off or zoomed past them to get a better parking space?

That anonymity has transferred itself to a year-round game on social media. Facebook, which started out as a place to share pictures of pets, grandchildren and whatever you are eating has become a vengeful battleground, where hurtful comments are thrown indiscriminately at friends and foes alike.

“Unfriending” someone, which sounds so junior high, has become the second level of hell. If you don’t like something someone says, you have several options. You can simply not participate, you can block someone, unfollow them or (cue scary music here) unfriend them, a move perceived by many as the ultimate insult.

Go back to the part where I said I understood the people who blow up. There are too many times that comments step on someone’s last nerve and cause them to find that option and click away years of friendship and camaraderie.

I know because I’ve done that. I started on election night. I uninvited people to an annual party that’s been going on for 34 years. I blocked people who I’ve been on stage with, who helped raise my children, who dance with me and sing with me and know many of my inner secrets.

I don’t even worry about unfriending trolls, the long list of those already existing in my “blocked” file. Those got sent into the ether over things that have nothing to do with the person who gamed the Electoral College last year.

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-4-37-59-pmI’m not interested in creating an “echo chamber” either, a phrase coined by a friend whose opinions and information I look forward to every time I see him post. I enjoy the intelligent discourse of information between friends and acquaintances, and some of my friends who have polar opposite opinions from mine acknowledge that.

Social media is the perfect avenue for talking, listening and learning. But nobody does any of that when people are blasted by name-calling or criticism.

And to those who might say I’m criticizing, you might be right, but it got your attention.

It comes down to respect. I respect people who listen, who put down the mirror and consider others’ feelings and opinions without insults or slamming the previous administration or group. Everybody has a different circumstance, we are all cut from the same cloth and we only have one planet on which we must coexist.

Love trumps hate. Enough said.

 

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

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