Friday, November 9, 2012

Middle of the night thoughts

The whole election thing was depressing. Not the results so much, though I did not vote for the winner, but the reaction. I do think that anything said within 24 hours of such an emotional event should be discounted but I couldn't help but be worried by the extremes represented by some comments.

One commentator use the word "tribalism" to describe the post-election atmosphere. It stuck in my head all day, every partisan comment, one way or another just another example of "tribes" in our modern society. The personal attacks, the gleeful nature of some, the end of the world warnings from others.  We often denigrate the Middle East for its weak government, caused by the dependence on local tribes for ruling authority and stability. What would happen if the emotions displayed temporarily on election day became permanent?

There are those who do display that amount of passion for causes all the time. We generally confine them to AM radio, cable news stations and collegiate football. The tide seems to be rising however. It doesn't take much to whip up public opinion about nearly anything. All you have to do is see what the top video searches are, or just watch the Yahoo News top feed.

I am embarrassed to say it, but since my email is through Yahoo I often see things first on Yahoo News. Then I go somewhere a bit more reputable to find out details. I have seen Yahoo pick up stories weeks old and run with them as if they were new. I have seen incredibly biased coverage and articles that read as if an 18-yr old intern has written them. I know that I am not alone in seeing that news first. A large number of our young people get their information from comedy news reports. An even larger percentage get it from admittedly biased sources on cable (you know who they are). As it becomes easier and easier to only hear what you already know or agree with we break apart.

I can see it in my own life. I like things that I used to think were unusual: The Lord of the Rings, science-fiction movies, Dr Who (even before the new series, thank you very much), big books and quirky items from almost anywhere. Then along comes the Internet, Pinterest especially, and now I can see my interests aren't nearly as unique as I had thought. I find this exciting and slightly depressing. The danger comes when I only associate with these like minded individuals. It would be very easy and fun to make my whole world my particular geekdom. Well, almost, that whole "reality" thing gets in the way. I do go to church, talk to my children's teachers, live in a neighborhood, etc.  But I could still minimize those contacts in favor of "my people."  It would be easier.

For the sake of not developing agoraphobia I do go to playgroup, make an effort to chat with people at church, even converse with people at the store on occasion. But it is hard and I have to make an effort. How many like me choose not to make an effort?  How many keep to themselves and their self-made tribes and I never will have the chance to see if we might connect?

Depressing thoughts. That's what happens when I drink too much caffeine in the evening. But I can't help remembering that word, "tribalism", and thinking of the scriptures I read recently, in 3 Ne 7:

And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land.
 And every tribe did appoint a chief or a leader over them; and thus they became tribes and leaders of tribes.
 Now behold, there was no man among them save he had much family and many kindreds and friends; therefore their tribes became exceedingly great.

How much division can our society take? The design of the United States was to welcome differences and make them a part of the whole. Now those with differences seem less intent on becoming part of the whole than in making sure their specific differences are preserved and protected. Bigotry is just another form of hate. The solution to it is not rejoicing and emphasizing one another's differences. It makes us all different and less the same.  At the end of the day, we are all still human, all still children of a loving God and much more similar than any list of different traits and ideas could ever overcome.

By the way, here is a wonderful summary of the election and how I wish we as a nation could have responded.