To my two or three readers of the Curmudgeon’s Guide, I apologize. Not so much because I haven’t written throughout this entire election cycle, but rather because of the tone of voice I have used in the past to discuss these issues. After this election, I don’t feel as though I could ever again justify writing with the same degree of snark and cynicism that Uncle Woody has used in every previous edition of the Guide. Let me lay it out:
This election has been, I feel, one of the most intellectually lazy elections ever. This is not to say that there hasn’t been plenty (an over-abundance, really) of analysis, some of it even quite thoughtful, for us to consume. However, this wealth of opinion-flinging has been more than offset by the hurricane-force mudslinging generated by all forms of social media. For every thought-provoking evaluation of this issue or that, there are literally millions of posts featuring sarcastic memes generally consisting of one out-of-context quote superimposed over a picture meant to either flatter or denigrate the subject, followed immediately by thousands of comments to the effect of “I’m a jerk; you’re a jerk.” The posters of these memes almost invariably question or insult the intelligence of those who would dare to disagree with their proffered wisdom.
I have, I am ashamed to admit, been a part of that laziness. I began the Curmudgeon’s Guide as a way to rant and rave about the extreme silliness that is the California Ballot Initiative process. Anyone, but anyone, can get an initiative in front of the voters, and most of them are (this is an honest opinion, not sarcasm) a colossal waste of time. It is the state-level equivalent of a home-owners association. If enough people complain, you can’t put a flag on your front porch.
So in light of the intensity of this election and the resultant feelings of despair, elation, or meanness being experienced by many, I wish to retire the Guide. I also wish to offer some thoughts on our path forward as a group of citizens who will all be affected by these election results.
First, some advice to all social media junkies: Say what you mean, but first think CAREFULLY about what you say.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is a wonderful and powerful statement. It gives us the absolute right to speak our minds. It does NOT (and cannot) absolve us from the consequences of having spoken our minds. There are always consequences. Some are pleasant; some are not. One consequence is the offense others feel at our choice of words. Often this offense is intentional. It is, however, the price of liberty. Notice that, no matter how carefully you study the Constitution, there are no guarantees against being offended. None whatsoever. Heaven knows Washington and the various states have attempted to legislate protections against being offended, but the degree of offense is always in the eyes of the beholder, and there is no such thing as “one size fits all” legislation.
Secondly, you can CHOOSE to take a kinder tone in your discussions.
Ask yourself this question: in all your seemingly brilliant attempts at snark and social-media bullying, have ANY of those posts EVER actually changed someone’s opinion on those topics? I can tell you they certainly haven’t changed MY mind on anything. Oh, you may have thousands of people “like” what you say, but do you have any proof at all that they actually changed their minds because you yelled at them?
If you want to persuade me, teach me. (Note: TEACH. Not PREACH. There’s a difference. And, yes, I realize I am preaching here.) I am far likelier to grant you that your opinion is valid if you can explain it to me with a cogent, well-formed explanation. Calling me an idiot because I don’t agree just makes me dig in my heels and refuse to listen further. It’s just human nature.
Lastly, take a deep breath.
Most of us probably were holding our collective noses when we voted yesterday. Many, many of us are anxious, even fearful about what the future will bring. Obamacare scared me to death and still does. I have watched my work-provided insurance premiums double recently because of the drains Obamacare has placed on the marketplace. I suspect it will only get worse. But I am still here. I am still alive. I’m pretty sure I’ll find a way to deal with whatever may come out of Washington over the next several months and years. And so will you.
In the meantime, let’s see what we can do – together – to make life bearable for all of us.