Bucks County Herald

Camille Granito Mancuso: Chatterbox

Dangerous social climate change

Most Americans are riding a see-saw every day.

We cringe when a luncheon topic goes from summer movies to politics, yet many gatherings will at least waft political. We may long to spend time with those we know won’t “go there,” but it’s getting harder to avoid, no matter how light or overdone it may go. The condition of our nation now affects everything.

This morning I was checking out my social media. Someone posted what animal we would love to domesticate. It was a sweet, simple post. I said, Mountain Silverbacks. They’re stunningly beautiful and gorilla troupes are much like human social groups. Some people posted raccoons or sea otters but, nearly immediately, the other posts arrived ushering in the darkness of today’s political climate in America.

One of the very first was from a female saying she’d like to tame, “Angry, out of control, liberals.”

Several followed suit. Some people still just played the game, but some asked why we couldn’t just have some fun. They posted, “No wonder the world is so hateful! It’s just a game …” and “… politicizing a game? Lighten up!”, but one which really stood out was the one that stated, “A crying shame, people are so political and they think of nothing else, no fun. They don’t know how to laugh anymore.” That one really hits home; can America laugh anymore other than at political jokes?

Our nation is in a passionate tug of war such as I have little remembrance of before. The sixties were hard with segregation, discrimination and the fight to integrate. Then, there were the hawks and the doves embroiled in a volley over Vietnam, the political cover-ups, and the war torn veterans being spat upon when they came home. It was bad, but these topics didn’t alter everything, everywhere, every day, for everybody as our new incivility does today.

True, we didn’t communicate, numerous times back and forth, daily, instantly, especially with strangers, in those days. That’s a big part of the acceleration of the anger and people carrying it too far, into too many genres, with people they neither know nor feel they owe respect to – even just as fellow Americans or humans. Still, social media once did unite people with fun and information for a long time. We even played games such as today’s game – we could name a favorite Baskin-Robbins ice cream without death threats.

Some of that happened during certain periods of history, of course, and no one should think life in America was ever perfect. It has never been; not yet, but it’s hard to disagree with the fact that we were in a better place, had a better mindset, and respected and trusted each other and our leadership more.

Some of us wonder why so many Americans are so angry so much of the time. Some of us know. We are being incited against each other. The use of demeaning, dehumanizing and discriminating against others, often unprovoked, is happening everywhere. Its blatant use by, and acceptability to, our leadership is giving it validity and velocity.

It’s frighteningly close to actually being seen as patriotic for people to insult others or aggress themselves on others. Almost all are old enough to know better, to teach children better and to demonstrate for grandchildren better. Worse, most do know better.

Today, on social media, a person whom I know called an entire section of Americans a name using today’s new, popular vernacular. This person is a spouse, a parent, an entrepreneur and an educator; nothing would have moved him to any insult 10 years ago, or even two years ago. Today, filled with enough anger, superiority and bravado, it gets easier for him to do so. He doesn’t personally know the people whom he insulted, and he probably never will. Yet, empowered now, he believes he knows what they are and what they stand for, and it’s not who he is or what he believes. Therefore, they are fair game.

Ironically, 10 or even two years ago, he didn’t so clearly understand what he stood for. Now, he thinks he does, though he still isn’t really sure what that means. It’s really more just a way to participate, to swagger on the electronic paper that is social media … and he’s safe, because that medium provides great protection through more than six degrees of separation.

So, does this mean we can’t just play nice anymore? How long before we can again?


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