You’re talking about someone else, but you’re only teaching us about you.

 

Do you know what’s a lot like a car wreck?

When I go online and read an article on Yahoo or a news site and then I click on the comments left by readers. I know it’s going to make me feel yucky. But I once I start looking, I can’t look away. And I know it’s not going to end well, but I read anyway.

It’s like a car wreck. At least in that aspect.

And do you know what else is like a car wreck? Politics in this country – the good ole United States of America. And that’s not because I can’t stop watching. Politics is like a car wreck because it’s  opposing forces constantly crashing into each other.

And yes, the comments on the articles and politics are what I’m going to write about today and they are connected.

Let me explain…

This country is a mess politically. It really is. But before I continue on this rant, let me put this in perspective…

All Americans are very lucky to be Americans. Our political system is head and shoulders above most other places in the world. And the “problems” we have right now are the types of problems that many nations would welcome.

However, with that being said, it also has to be pointed out that we can do better. We have to do better. And the change has to start with all of us. Individually.

This brings me back to the comments on articles…

I’m always appalled at just how vicious people are to each other. And yeah, I get it, people are easily able to hide behind their smart phones or computer screens and say whatever they want because they don’t have to face anyone. Anonymity can spark courage, but it usually only leads to cowardice. And the Internet is full of cowards.

But that’s not the problem. It is A problem but it’s not THE problem. The problem is the closed-mindedness of people. And it’s the increasing separation of people.

In today’s world, we love to attach labels to everyone: your pro-choice or pro-life, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, etc., etc., etc. And if you are on one side of an issue and I’m on the other side than we have to dislike each other and, worse yet, we have to dismiss each other as opposites.

And this isn’t just happening online. I see it with my family and with my friends. I see it at Walmart and at work.

“Yeah, Tom Hanks is a great actor but he’s a liberal so he’s a idiot.”

“Rob Lowe looks like a nice guy and seems like it too. But isn’t he conservative? So he must be a jerk.”

Wait… what?

Turn on any news program (take your pick of the network – MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, whatever) and you’ll see them working hard to increase the divide between people. They all have an agenda. And it’s to feed the hatred. It’s to keep you tuning in to fuel “beliefs” so you keep feeling righteous. These networks only add to the problem. And they know it. But they don’t care. Because it’s making them money. And it’s keeping viewers. The divide provides their 30 silver coins.

But the comments on the internet are the worst.

So much ridiculous name calling. So much venom.

It’s so immature. I mean seriously. People sound like they’re back in middle school fighting over whether it’s cooler to like New Kids on the Block or The Beastie Boys.

But that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that we’ve stopped listening to each other. We’ve closed off our minds from each other. We’ve divided ourselves.

It’s okay to have opinions. It’s great to have strong political opinions. But we can’t just dismiss the opposing view. We need to listen to what others have to say and be willing to admit that they probably have a point to make. And we have to be willing to actually consider their point of view.

Because here’s the thing: Most people do have intelligence. And most people have given some thought to their beliefs. Sure, I know there are some people who blindly follow others like sheep. But from what I’ve seen, these people exist on every side of every issue.

There are liberals out there who have no idea what’s going on. And there are conservatives out there who have no idea either. And there are segments on shows that will ask strangers on the street questions just to show how stupid and uninformed the other side is.

But I really hope and believe that these people are a small minority. Most people have taken the time to think through their issues and they’ve adopted their beliefs based on information and their own values. They are smart. And they have something to share.

So, why do we just yell at each other and call names and stick our fingers in out ears and yell “lalalalalalala” when someone with an opposing view starts to speak? Could it be that maybe deep down we know that most issues aren’t black and white? Could it be that we’re scared of the grey? Could it be that some of us have come to find some type of value in our beliefs and we get angry and scared when those beliefs come under attack?

It’s okay for people to change their minds. It doesn’t make anyone weak or stupid. And it’s really more than okay if someone doesn’t change their beliefs but acknowledges that the opposite view has a point too. It’s okay to acknowledge that grey. It really is.

And here’s the biggest thing that worries me: Sometimes it seems like those in power want us yelling and screaming at each other. They want us to close off our minds to each other. That way they can just keep feeding us what they want us to believe. That way they can stay in power without doing much good. They can point fingers and get their side all fired up and the other side can do the same thing while actually not making any progress. This serves them the in the short term. But it doesn’t serve anyone for long.

United we stand, divided we fall.

That is so true. And we have to remember it. And also remember that it is a blessing and an honor to have the freedom to disagree. That’s something that is precious. Let’s remember that the next time we start to get all fired up because someone says something we don’t agree with. Let’s stop abusing this beautiful gift.

And let’s remember we’re all people. And almost all of us are truly good people. We want to be happy and we want others to be happy too.

We all want the same thing.

Think about that. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing!

We just have different opinions on how to achieve that. But in the end, we’re all just guessing. All of us. We’re all just making our best guess. About everything.

None of us know. So we can stop pretending that we do. And we can stop pretending that the other side is much less intelligent because they don’t know. Of course they don’t know. They’re guessing just like everyone else. And if you think you’re not guessing then you might want to take a long hard look at yourself and what you believe.

Unfortunately, the nastiness on the internet isn’t just limited to politics either. It’s everywhere and seems to be a part of everything. But usually it has something to do with politics and/or religion. And if it doesn’t, then commenters make it about politics and/or religion anyway.

For example, today I read online about a young man who was sort of famous who died suddenly. There were a lot of comments about how great he seemed and how he touched people’s lives. But sprinkled in were nasty comments about politics and other ridiculous things.

And I see that all the time. Even when someone dies, people remain disrespectful. Even when someone is sick or going through a hard time, people still choose to spew hatred and disease. Too many times I’ve even seen commenters wish death on someone.

I get it. The internet is the perfect place for cowards. They love to bite at the heels of others using what they believe to be creative made-up names. There is no accountability and people will take advantage of the anonymity to try to make themselves feel better. And I’m sure some of these people justify it by thinking they aren’t hurting anyone.

But the truth of the matter is this:

I believe that whatever you put out into the world – whether it’s through writing or speaking or even thinking – stays out in the world. It stays and builds on what was already there. So, if you put love out into the world. then it will make the world more loving. And if you put hatred into the world, then it will make the world more hateful. I really believe that.

And here is what I know:

These people who troll the internet are not making themselves feel better. They’re actually making themselves feel worse. They are making themselves sicker. Whether they realize it or not. That’s the truth.

And here’s another truth that these people need to hear:

You’re talking about someone else but you’re only teaching us about you.

That’s true on the internet and in all of life.

When you talk badly about someone or, even worse, act badly toward someone, you’re only showing how dark your life really is. You’re not teaching anything about anyone else. But you’re giving a powerful lesson on who you really are.

And what a sad lesson that is.

So now I’ll climb off my soapbox. And leave with you one simple truth:

We are all human.

We all want love and goodness and happiness.

Let’s not forget that. Ever.

We’re all human. We all want the same thing. And no matter what, we’re all much more similar than different, and the differences make this world beautiful. The differences are a gift sent to everyone of us.

I choose to always remember that. And I choose to treat everyone with respect and kindness. Because that’s what I deserve. It’s what everyone deserves. And that’s what might just begin to bridge this great divide.

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