"Don't ever forget that you're a citizen of this world, and there are things you can do to lift the human spirit, things that are easy, things that are free, things that you can do every day. Civility, respect, kindness, character. You're too good for schadenfreude, you're too good for gossip and snark, you're too good for intolerance—and since you're walking into the middle of a presidential election, it's worth mentioning that you're too good to think people who disagree with you are your enemy."
Unfortunately, the direction of American political dialogue in the age of the Internet is towards more schadenfreude, gossip, snark, and intolerance, not less. The question is, "why?"
Much has written about the corrupting effect of money on democracy in America. Less is written about how all this money effects the way we Americans view one another. Foreigners seem to come away from a visit to America with the view that Americans are a friendly bunch, quick to say thank you, hold the door open, and prone to say, "Have a nice day," to just about anyone. But how friendly are we to one another? And has that changed?
Because of all this money flowing into the coffers of congressmen, and candidates, there is a growing sense among everyday Americans that their government does not truly represent their needs, values, nor aspirations, but rather the special interests of those who contribute the most money. Naturally, views differ on whether the result is a government that interferes too readily in the affairs of the public -- is too intrusive, too protective, too burdensome -- or a government that is too permissive of corporate practices that harm people and the environment.
Using TV ads, direct mail, email, social media, and townhall meetings and the like, we are bombarded with the stock and trade of campaign fund raising memes: anger and fear. We are told by the Right that the president is a socialist hell bent on "redistributing wealth" and turning America into a communist state. The Left rails against Republican efforts to turn back the clock on civil liberties, the social safety net, and women's reproductive rights. The campaigns orchestrate outrage over this or that congressman's hypocrisy when their infidelity or insobriety surfaces. If real failings fail to be real enough, elaboration is used, with just enough ambiguity to make allegations juicy without being libelous.
"Every day, corporations are connecting the dots about our personal behavior—silently scrutinizing clues left behind by our work habits and Internet use. The data compiled and portraits created are incredibly detailed, to the point of being invasive."
But more than invading our privacy, an invasion made easier by how wide we fling open the pages of our digital books, these corporations, PACs, Super PACs, campaigns, and candidates are invading our psyche. By telling us that our political opposites are bent on wresting from us no less than our, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," they are setting us one against the other as not just as political adversaries, but as sworn enemies.
The enormous amounts of money flowing into the political coffers of campaigns, candidates, PACs, and Super PACs generates a whirlwind that swoops down on Americans, wrests ever more money from them to 'offset the other sides money,' and leaves them twisted against each other.
Mao Zedong (it may have been Sun Yat-sen originally) is credited with saying, "Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed."One wonders how long the distinction will hold.