Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Arm-waving, teeth-gnashing, chest-beating and undirected hatred

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about humanity.

Because I want to be a well-rounded person, I like to know both sides of an argument and make my mind up only after I have all the facts. Like most people, though, I suffer from the occasional knee-jerk, emotional gut reactions that shut down intellectual reasoning. I found myself taking up arms against the insensitive notion of a “Mosque built near Ground Zero” before I learned that 1) it wasn’t a Mosque; 2) it wasn’t going to be built but placed in an already-standing structure; 3) it wasn’t at Ground Zero but a couple of blocks away; and 4) there were already genuine Mosques open for worship in that area. Still, my inner Helen Lovejoy beat my inner Sherlock Holmes to the door, shrieking “Won’t somebody think of the children?!” before I knew all the facts.

But once I received more facts, I adjusted my hysteria accordingly. To some people, this is known as “waffling”; others see it as “being rational”. Some people will argue both sides depending on how it suits their needs at the moment.

Which is called “being human”.

I understand that. On an intellectual level. We, as a society, as a species, are a nervous, hysterical wreck right now. Frustrated and impotent with outrage. The global economy is a mess. Global—with a “G”. It ain’t just this group of people or that, it’s everybody. And everybody is reacting accordingly: looking for someone to blame because there isn’t anything any of us, singularly, can do about it.

We can’t just go “get a job, hippie!”—there are fewer jobs to be had than even during the Great Depression. Naturally, part of this is because that there are exponentially more of us on the planet than there were eighty years ago. The rest of it can be explained by the international market collapses, businesses playing things close to the vest to see if the economy will recover, or any number of rational reasons. On the irrational side, we have everything from the blanket “It’s Obama’s/Bush’s/Limbaugh’s/Lady Gaga’s Fault” to “the Flying Spaghetti Monster has grown angry with us.”

None of it is helpful.

Knowing intellectually the cause/effect doesn’t change the situation. Pointing fingers and screaming won’t either.

But, of course, I understand the screaming, too. At this point, what’s left for any of us to do?

The most counter-productive thing I’ve noticed—that impossible to not notice—is the bile-spewing hatred coming from both sides. Beyond name-calling and gallows humor the abject, black-hearted misanthropy is purely disturbing.

For the past few months, those that post on Yahoo news stories seem to be the angriest (not taking into account the pure right or left-leaning folks who exclusively read Glenn Beck’s site or The Huffington Post).

This in response to a story about the potential hazards of iPhones:

“Health risk?.......what about current National policies?.....that's a health risk-period!” - GNowak

This in response to a report of a Tsunami in Indonesia:

OH NO, not again.

Now obama will come out and open his mouth about this, and we all know what it means when obama opens his mouth....there goes another 100 billion dollars or so of our tax money!” – Bob

This from a story regarding a national poll questioning whether the “system” is at fault or our elected officials:

“Like so many of Obama actions I do not understand. As reported in various press articles only 2% of the popular vote is Gay with up to 10% closet gays if you add them all together how is this going to help him be reelected. He is tearing down our government little by little makes me wonder if how much Muslims are paying him to serve. Then it make me wonder where all his money came from to run for office too.

I never understood how a man who refuses to salute the Flag so many of our brave Veterans have died to protect could be elected to office anyway. Every fundamental policy of our government has been brought down by this administration, Judges who are overturning laws that were passed by popular vote in a democracy as if this is a dictatorship. Obama support for EVERYTHING MUSLIM, Support for gay marriages after it was banned in California by popular Vote and allowing a reportedly Gay Judge to overrule the Law. This just does not make sense.

It really brings to Question his motives for it can not be to serve the American Public. Has he been paid off or sponsored by Muslims to do everything in his power to see that America Falls. It is all too much and to overwhelming to be a normal actions of a sane man who is in Political office unless there is an hidden agenda somewhere.

I advise any Democrats to distance themselves from this man or suffer for his foolishness. I mean heck there are more unemployed Americans than there are gays, he should be trying his best to assist them than supporting this unpopular policy on GAY RIGHTS. Where does it end I don't support GAY RIGHTS for sure, but I don't really care if they gay, I just don't want my children exposed to it and required by law to see it as NORMAL and I think I have more right to this than most after serving in Vietnam. I have earned the right to have my own opinion and it sure does not come close to this PRESIDENT's Policies.” - Eamo K

Posts regarding Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

“this is a BAD thing!!!! this will destroy alot of the unity and trust in units! yes servicemen/women knew they served along side gays/lesbians, but it wasnt known or spoken. this will weaken our armed services not strenghten them and cause problems just watch. and yes i served in war and am a disabled vet so i have been there!” - Dennis C Tue Oct 12, 2010 02:21 pm PDT

“This lawsuit might mean something if the bill to repeal the law weren't already halfway through Congress. It has passed the House and is now waiting for Senate to vote. Instead, the lawsuit is simply a dog and pony show by the GOP to show the world how active they are in promoting gay rights. Excuse me? It was Vice President Cheney, the person the GOP put in the office of Vice President, who lambasted gays in the military and was accutely embarrassed when his daughter came out of the closet. Where was the GOP when it was time to revamp healthcare, where was the GOP when millions of unemployed (formerly hard-working folks) needed their benefits extended, where was the GOP when Warren Buffet himself said Bush's tax cuts for the rich would do nothing to stimulate the economy or create more jobs? They were busy being the PARTY OF NO. Now that the backward Republican Party has finally realized it can not be too anti-gay or its only supporters will be fundamentalist Christians and right-wing extremists, some of its members have filed a lawsuit. Rather than hurting President Obama and the Democratic Congress, I think this lawsuit helps them. It is a clear waste of taxpayer dollars and another example of where the GOP is so out of touch, they actually file a lawsuit when the legislation has already passed the House and is currently before the Senate. People will see the lawsuit as frivilous and another GOP dog and pony show. Anybody want some popcorn???” - Victoria Tue Jul 13, 2010 01:25 am PDT

“Solution: put them on the front line” - FollowMe Tue Oct 12, 2010 02:20 pm PDT

“Another step backwards for mankind,and our country. How about asking the TROOPS, they are the ones that have to deal with this insanity, i've been there i know their vote, to us don't ask don't tell was ridiculous, they shouldn't be there period. You can thumbs down call me racist i care LESS, i'll continue to speak up for what i think is right.I care less what you fairies do, if you want to be an abomination fine, but you don't belong in our military.Liberals are leading to the downfall of one of the greatest nations ever. How tolerant do we have to be? Better learn that answer in Chinese you liberal traitors to this country.” - S
This from The Washington Times online:
g9w6 says: “another plan that will cause American deaths in the name of political correctness! why is it that everything the socialists do ends with our people being killed? i was in the military and i can promise you that the straight rank and file soldiers will never be "convinced" that the gay lifestyle is either normal or acceptable! no soldier is going to want to be associated with two guys strolling down the boulevard hand in hand! and in uniform to boot! how humiliating for our troops and our flag! thank God i'm to old to have to deal with this insult in person!”
[Grammar and spelling, incidentally, untouched.]
The invective hurled from both sides is often frightening. I posted some of the tamer ones I ran across in the hundreds, if not thousands, of spoutings. Everywhere you go on the web, inevitably you’ll run across someone invoking Howard Beale from Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!”

But the only solutions seem to be “Vote ‘em out!”(referring to any incumbent regardless of party), “Send ‘em back!” (referring to anyone who isn’t, in general, white and Christian), or, not to split hairs, “Kill them!”—either by our or “God’s” hand.
Maybe the bigger question is, have humans always been this hateful and the lovely anonymity provided by the internet finally gives them endless forums to express it? The cynic will doubtlessly say yes and the cynic will probably be right. “Polite society” is nothing but a mask, apparently. If you can’t be held accountable for your words, you can say whatever you want, no matter how horrific the sentiment. Bile-spewing keyboard jockeys make members of the Westboro Baptist Church look courageous in comparison. At least those bigots have the balls to vent their spleens out in the open.

I want to by sympathetic to the frustrated. I’m frustrated too. But as has been pointed out here and everywhere else, it’s not just the country in trouble, it’s the world. We’re all sharing the same sinking boat and, as usual, those in steerage will drown long before those in First Class, but we’re still going to drown unless something is done. “Every generation needs a new revolution.”—Thomas Jefferson. By my count, and obviously by the count of many others, we’re several dozen revolutions behind. But the trouble is we have too many enemies and too many things to change.
Which brings to mind two other quotes:

“Things are more like they are today than they have ever been before.”—Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”—Pogo.

Which is to say, I don’t know what the solution is either. But the hate-fueled calls-to-arms definitely isn’t it.


Patrick said...

I think we as a species have always been like this unfortunately. We are a tribal / pack species. The major differences are that our tribes have grown and grown, and been able to mix georaphically, and now online, but there will always be the "They are different, and therefore my enemy" mentality. Whether that difference is race, religion, preference, or political party, those who are different are instinctively seen as a threat to one's tribe and traits. We just don't see them as tribes because everyone's opinions are everywhere. Now in this "information age" (more by digital process than actual fact) the opinions that were previously shared in the safety of local bars, dinners, etc. vocally, and disappearing into the ether, they are now being put into print for all to read in perpetuity. This is for anything opinion related, really. Just look at online film criticism. Being mean and judgemental gets more readers, more site hits, no matter how awful your grammar, logic, spelling, or knowledge of the narrative process may be. People like to be angry as a standard, like to "go to war," and since most of us are ultimately powerless to do anything in any real way, venomous posts are the only way for us to be "soldiers for our beliefs."

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