Knee Deep In Snark
Election Day is coming. But political disagreements have become deeply personal, driving us apart when we should be coming together.
We are knee deep in a steady storm of snark these days. Our politically polarized mainstream media is amplified by our social media echo chambers. This Twitter and Facebook blizzard spins on top of some 20 years of mass audience talk radio screamers and Reality TV pioneers (Jerry) and outliers (Honey Boo Boo).
No one even blinks any more when a "friend" openly calls them stupid, traitorous or morally wrong because of the candidate they support for president.
My Facebook has become so hair ball-clogged with all manner of snarky comments, slides, memes and parodies that I’m afraid to look at cute cat pictures anymore.
I cringe when I log on, expecting someone in cyberland will let me know for the fourth time today why President Obama sucks, or why Mitt Romney sucks. That’s the level of discussion, playground stuff no matter how clever your Photoshop skills.
I made a New Year’s Resolution this year that I would try to engage political disagreements in a civilized manner. I would seek out people with whom I disagree and discuss things politely, levering no insult and making no character judgments.
Lord, it’s been hard. Politics today is not a discussion. It’s a pro wrestling script.
Yes, I’m aware you don’t like Barack Obama/Mitt Romney. I made up my mind about this dog’s breakfast choice a long time ago. And no matter how many times you bombard me with media and conversations and "we want our country back" bumper stickers, my mind shall not waver.
But that doesn’t make me the enemy. We happen to disagree on economic and political philosophy, but we’re otherwise good neighbors or acquaintances. I’ll hold a door for a lady whether she pines for Barack or Mitt. I’ll let a Romney man into a crowded line of traffic and I’ll let an Obama woman in, too.
If you think I protest too much, consider that I spent most of the 1990s working in the very belly of the talk radio beast, producing shows locally at WGST, working with people like Sean Hannity and Kim Peterson, men whose job it was to inflame and outrage every day.
I spent a year and a half as local board operator for Rush Limbaugh at the height of his Clinton family bashing, watching and listening as he and Maury and Drudge and MTV and others turned our daily national dialogue sour and bitter, turning us against one another as part of their daily shtick. Chelsea Clinton looks awkward, oh the hilarity.
Hip Hop music portends Armageddon—natch. I once hosted several hours of live talk radio about Monica Lewinsky. I lived and breathed and thrived in snark’s heyday. I'm not entirely proud of my small part in that.
But all this snark has come at a cost to our national spirit. Our leaders exist not to lead but to be ridiculed and obstructed or adored as cult leaders. There is no in between.
Huge issues that cry out for reasoned national debate get buried in negative campaigns and special interests. Votes are demanded strictly by party line, not conscience. It’s all amplified by our 24/7 feeds.
The Urban Dictionary defines snark as a combination of snide and remark, essentially the use of sarcasm in conversation. Snark has an erosive force over time. It drives down vote totals and it breaks down neighborliness and neighborhoods.
It’s the life’s blood of bullies and passive-aggressive people and casts a pall over our ability to thrive as communities.
So in the days leading up to November 6 I would ask all of my neighbors to dial it back just a little bit. Make your vote a point of pride in all of America, and not just an excuse to spend the next several weeks blasting “Kenyan Socialist” and “Vampire Capitalist” across each other’s bows.
Because come inauguration day we have more control over what is happening on our own block. Take care of each other. Don’t be snarky to one another.