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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Cindy A. Rose |


As Long as We Remember...

June 25, 2018

Rampant Self Flagellation

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

We really have no one else to blame, we do it to ourselves. What does that mean? For starters, it refers to the increasing coarseness of our dialogue, especially our political discourse.


At no time in our history, since maybe the earliest days of our Nation, have we found the gulf between our political ideologies so wide and seemingly insurmountable.


Most people seek a form of validation for their opinions, particularly their political opinions. Never has that been truer than since Donald J. Trump upset Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election cycle. Part of that is the total failure of media polling and the total lack of objectivity exhibited by almost every major outlet, save Fox News. More about that later.


It’s impossible to connect to social media without encountering a fiery political debate. Despite the cute cat, dog and jumping baby goat videos, a good portion of even the most casual perusal includes liberals bashing heartless conservatives with New York Times, Washington Post or CNN references. Similarly, conservatives’ posts belittling wealth transfer and give-away social programs cite Fox News, Wall Street Journal or Rush Limbaugh as definitive sources.


It’s easy to read something, whether or not the source is revealed, that totally aligns with your own view of a certain matter. Be it guns, drugs, immigration or abortion, if you can find a source, even a shady one, which seems to suggest your inherent point-of-view is the right one, that affirmation feeds our bias and fuels our advocacy.


Unfortunately, even our international adversaries understand our thirst to satisfy our confirmation bias. Recent news reports indicate that Russian intelligence services have and will likely continue to focus on generating fake news content for American social media consumption. The reason? They find this is a very effective way to decrease our confidence in our own news, and to increase negative personal interactions.


So what do we do? We link to these fake news stories, at least we share those stories that align with our own viewpoint. No worry, though. Even those stories you find offensive will be shared, just by those who a differing view than you do!


So if, by example, you hate President Trump and everything he says and does, you’ll be inclined to get your news from CNN or MSNBC. You’ll find solace within the pages of the Times, the Post, or any number of liberal and anti-Trump biased sources. Conversely, if you can’t stand Sen. Chuck Schumer, of New York, or Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, you’re watching Fox News and/or listening to Rush Limbaugh.


You’ll be drawn to associate with people who share your opinions. It‘s just easier that way.


It might well be easier, but it’s not better.


When you surround yourself with only opinions that align with your own, you get sloppy. You tend to lose creativity and passion, both traits are needed to debate a point with someone who disagrees with you. You also get sloppy with the facts, and are susceptible to Boris and Natasha feeding you some commie falsehoods.


For people who enjoy the outdoors, an analogy.


If you like to spend time in the wild, you’ve no doubt encountered similar people at a campground, lake or mountain camping facility. People who spend time outdoors are adept at the art of turning strangers into friends. It usually happens around a fire pit.


There’s just something about sitting around a fire, under a star-filled sky, the cool night air and a crackling blaze. Outdoorsy people can sit for hours, chatting, telling stories, roasting marshmallows and generally getting to know each other without the unhinged political rhetoric that defines outlets like Facebook and Twitter.


Maybe its fear that everybody’s pretty adept at knife-handling, or that a lot of people travel to the woods with firearms, but I don’t think that’s it.


I think it has more to do with perspective. People out in the woods, or the beach, all seem to have a different set of priorities. They seem less impressed with status and stature. When they ask “how are you,” they actually have an interest in the answer. It isn’t a preamble to a political debate; it’s an honest inquiry. They also don’t watch much cable TV out in the wild.


Maybe we all need to spend more time outside, taking in the beauty of our natural environment. Less time in front of the tube, having our biases confirmed by some dopey talking head.


Maybe it’s time we stop doing it to ourselves – just for a little while.


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