I’m writing this post on the eve of the US presidential election. And oh, what an election season it’s been! I have my opinion about who is the more qualified of the two candidates, of course. But this blog isn’t about my opinion or anyone else’s for that matter. It’s about recognizing worthwhile discourse, which includes writing of all types.
Although one can argue that fiction doesn’t quite qualify as discourse per se, I contend fiction writers speak with great authority about subjects they have intimate knowledge of. There isn’t a fiction writer on this planet who hasn’t shared some personal intimacy on the pages of their work, even when creating worlds far removed from those experienced.
So why, if language can be used with such power that it becomes memorialized throughout decades, centuries, and even millennia, did we arrive at where we are today? Where did the same species that revered such words as Jefferson’s “…all men are created equal,” Shakespeare’s “To thine own self be true,” and Aristotle’s “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime,” devolve into what we have today?
I use social media as much as the next person. Like most, I sometimes share articles I find interesting and the odd funny meme, along with the cat videos that have taken over the Internet. I’m very rarely offended by other people’s posts, and when I am I simply move right along. However, partisan politics aside, I cannot for the life of me understand how presumably educated people can become so angered by another’s viewpoint that they hurl the cruelest of insults like mud. While this may have been a mode of communication for our ancestors – and I’m talking Neanderthals, who haven’t been around for over 40,000 years – I find it ironic that in this new age of global communication at the speed of light there seems no better form of dialogue.
I’m not sure what has brought us to this precipice of civility. How could people who have paid thousands of dollars to educate themselves and/or their children in the art of academic argumentation and persuasive rhetoric at higher-learning establishments be so ready to surrender to name calling? There are serious global issues and policy positions that are imperative we as a society discuss. Poverty, climate change, the world-wide migrant crisis, the global economy; the list is quite literally endless.
So, why are we here? Calling each other lib-tards, and lunatic fringe and teabaggers and communists, and socialists and fascists without any real discussion of the actual issues? There is so much more we can talk about that will unify rather than eviscerate our society. Aristotle reminded us 2,500 years ago that “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s election, we need to remind ourselves of another of the great philosopher’s truths. He warned, “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.” That being said, whether our candidate of choice wins or loses, I suggest the consequences of our collective behavior will prevail.