I admit it, I’m a ranter. Ask anyone who knows me well. Conversations consist of a great deal of hand waving, facial contortions and vocal gymnastics. I often write that way too. But I tone it down before the words end up in my blog where, honestly, very few people will read it.
If I do take my rantings public someday, it will be in a place where it fits the intended audience or people are choosing to buy it because they like what I’m writing.
What I’m trying to say is that I wish there was a bit more self control in social media and online in general. It’s become too easy to say whatever is on our minds, not to our best friend over coffee, but to everyone reading our updates. Being able to discuss things publically without being a journalist or celebrity is great but it’s not great that anyone can say anything online without doing what journalists used to do — fact check — and yet people read these tidbits as though they ARE actual facts. If it’s online (and especially if it’s gone viral), it must be true…
We take in news that really isn’t news but slander, and repeat it so others can carry it even further. We take quotes out of context. We aren’t debating facts or trying to find a solution. We’re slinging stones at each other.
I’m thinking about all this because of recent mass shootings in the United States and elsewhere, and the public response these events have elicited. It appears that a majority of people believe that these are darker more frightening times than we’ve ever experienced before and we have to respond by taking strong measures to protect ourselves. What those strong measures should be is where the disagreement comes in:
- We need to tighten up security, which includes tightening up our borders to stop immigration.
- We need to identify and keep tabs on all Muslims in this country.
- We need to increase military spending.
- We need to send in troops to destroy terrorists.
- We need to all carry guns.
- We need to restrict people from carrying guns.
Okay, here’s my opinion. The world has pretty much always been like this. We’ve fought wars with countries or in countries with our real or perceived enemies and we have our own list of hate groups on US soil. I can’t think of a time the world has ever been free of terrorists. But my definition of terrorists is much broader than the norm and includes groups like the Ku Klux Klan and zealots who plant bombs in buildings or open fire on women at an abortion clinic. I am equally as concerned about them, especially because no one is looking for them. Our focus is elsewhere.
But my point is not how crazy our world is, because our world is us and I hope we’re not all crazy. My point is why are we taking in this news and then using it to throw stones. Do we want to control violence or do we want to further a political agenda by pointing our finger and saying, “This is your fault because _____.”?
I know it’s not easy to resist retaliation when we’re afraid, angry, frustrated, and someone has just thrown a stone at what may be our deepest values and beliefs. And yet I think we need to stop hatred and retaliation with our own thoughts and actions first. How can we stop violence with guns when we are so violent with our words?
There was the headline last week in the New York Daily News: “God Isn’t Fixing This.” The article criticized the Republicans and conservatives of responding to the murders in California by praying and calling for prayer while the Democrats and liberals were calling for action. Boom! Another stone flies through the air.
Then Conservative blogger Erick Erickson fired bullets through the New York Times editorial and posted a photo on Instagram. And another stone flies through the air.
And then the public joined in with their stones.
But there were a few people who responded as I would — that both prayer and action are needed. Maybe you don’t call what you do “prayer” but in such times most people send out some form of thought or internal whispering to those who lost their lives and the people who loved them.
Normally, I stay away from voicing religious beliefs because I want to be inclusive of all beliefs, as I am a mix and match kind of spiritual woman. But in this case I want to say, that most of what I believe and how I try to live is inspired by Jesus and his responses to injustice, oppression, exclusion, and violence.
I imagine him asking us to put down our stones. But rather than just turning and walking away, I see the crowd responding with a change in attitudes and future actions.
I believe we can be better than this.