Over the last week I have been corresponding with two friends. One from California and one from Norway. So, suffice it to say, not heartlanders from the central part of the country. The conversation has been around their reactions to President Trump and the course of our country under his leadership. Confession #1: I am not sure I want to spend the time and energy to sort through all the stuff that is flying around out there to try to sift through all the swirl to arrive at a real conclusion about just about anything in the political world.
Confession #2: I feel guilty about that but I also feel overwhelmed. I talked to a friend several years ago who seemed well read and settled in his opinions about current events. I asked him how he arrived at his conclusions and he told me that he read everything he could find on a subject from every political perspective and then looked for the common themes that emerged and formed his opinions from that. Who has the time and energy to do that? Did I mention that he is not married and doesn’t have children. I guess that helps.
Confessions #3: I am disturbingly uncomfortable with what is happening in my country, the United States of America, with the radical polarization that seems to be growing. I cannot watch any of the news channels without becoming disturbed at the vitriolic and condescending language I hear. I don’t care if it is Fox or MSNBC, the dismissal of any opinion that differs from the view of the news source and the seeming assumption that anyone who views things from the other perspective is a raving idiot is just more than I want to deal with.
So, what am I going to do? I want to retreat. I want to just avoid it all and keep on living my life and hope it will all work out. But we live in a constitutional democratic republic. And if we, the citizens of that country refuse to engage then professional manipulators of the system will. That is the risk we all incur for the freedom with which we live. By the way take any one of the words out of constitutional democratic republic and you get a twisted understanding of who we are.
I am choosing to engage the conversation and commit to spending more time reading all perspectives than I do watching television. Did I really just write that? What if everyone who reads this makes a commitment to spending one minute more each day studying all sides of an issue rather than numbing our brains with television and movies? After all if you watch a so called news station it is really very little about news as opposed to numbing opinions about any given story. That is part of the curse with 24 hour cable news stations. You get 5 minutes of story about what is really happening and then 25 minutes of opinions about those facts. We wind up letting the talking heads think for us.
Then those damn algorithms come into play. I have been working in the health care business for the last four plus years. Algorithms are wonderful things in terms of predictive analytics and helping us understand disease progression and early interventions that can make a real difference. They are horrible when they figure out what our viewpoint is on Google or Facebook and start feeding us only the stories that reinforce what we have already chosen to believe. Hey, Google, Facebook, how about using your algorithm to figure out what our viewpoint is and make sure your feed us stories with the opposite perspective at least 25% of the time? That would shake some things up.
Well, its time for me to get in bed to get ready for another week of work. But, I am choosing to engage, spend the time and try to arrive at a more objective view of the seeming insanity that is going on around us.
Let me close with this thought from Teddy Roosevelt, “The reason why our future is assured lies in the fact that our people are genuinely skilled in and fitted for self-government and therefore will spurn the leadership of this who seek to excite this ferocious and foolish class antagonism. The average American knows not only that he himself intends to do what is right, but that his average fellow-countryman has the same intention and the same power to make his intention effective.”
I don’t know if that is still true today, but it can be true for you and for me. How about it? Are you wiling to try? The alternative is pretty bleak.
April 17th, 2018 at 12:02 am
Thanks for writing this Bill. I relate to your struggle to stay engaged…sometimes it feels like mucking through a garbage dump. What keeps me sane is knowing God is in control and, in my thinking, He gave us what we deserve. We are a nation who wants to express any opinion anytime in any language–no matter how coarse or brutal, hateful, foolish or unthinking…on all types of public and social media; and yet we are shocked and dismayed when our leadership does the same? We rant and demand our freedoms to do whatever we will, but point fingers at someone else for “exercising their rights?” I am convinced that God gave us someone who would deliberately shock and dismay us; someone who mirrors for us how far we have fallen; someone on whom we cannot nor should not lean, because God is calling the nation back to Himself. What did He do in the Old Testament when His nation went astray? He sent enemies from outside the borders. He gave them foolish or ungodly leadership. All done to make them groan, and cry out for what is true. This country is in need today of crying out and returning to the one true God. Who is listening for His voice amidst the clamor and rancor of mass antagonism, fear, hostility, self-seeking, and brute opinion? What do we think we can fix by a simple change of administration, policy or law? The “wisdom” of men solves nothing. “Return to Me” says the Lord God Almighty, “and I will return to you.” Zechariah 1:3 In this lies our salvation and our blessing.
April 17th, 2018 at 8:24 am
Roxanne, thank you for the thoughtful response. May we genuinely treat others the way we want to be treated and not get caught up in the spirit of fear and rancor.
April 18th, 2018 at 11:08 am
To clarify, I am not saying we should not engage. What an impact a person can have on this world when he steps up and stands for righteousness, mercy, or any other attribute of God. But, don’t we serve best where we are called? If I don’t have grace to read the news, then I think I probably don’t have the grace to fight in that particular battle, no? As for the current administration, as messy and uncertain as it is, for some reason I have faith that the leadership is an instrument in God’s hand that He is wielding for our sakes. When the people of this country lock their eyes on the flaws that so easily glare at us from the pages in print, they miss the point of why he is given this position and what God is doing by bringing us a difficulty such as this.
April 22nd, 2018 at 10:04 am
no more conversation?