A friend and I were chatting the other day.
Did you see that thing in the news about that craziness over in such-and-such?
Yeah, pretty wild. Pretty scary. And what about that violent idiot criminal who did that other thing? Can you believe that?
I know. People are nuts, man. Makes you just want to move far from the city and put up a high fence.
Yeah, it sure does.
It’s an appealing fantasy. Just me and 40 acres and a big garden and my books. And some good music. Maybe a few bottles of wine. A sturdy truck. And Wal-Mart. Yes, a Wal-Mart within 15 minutes would be handy. Same for church, maybe next to Wal-Mart. And I don’t mind a cup of Starbucks once in a while. Hmm. Sure hope I don’t get sick. I’m not doing my own appendectomy.
The appeal is real, but the vision evaporates when you run through the list of day-to-day practicalities that fill our lives.
The world is crazy, as it ever was, but we are stuck with each other. Humans are interdependent not just economically but socially. That’s what living in community is. That said, I agree with the argument that we’ve suffered through at least a couple generations of excessive individualism, and for that we pay a steep price. Maybe – maybe – there is some movement to turn that around. In other words, get over ourselves.
People say everything and everyone is out of sorts because of the ugliness found on social media. We used to blame TV and the movies. Now it’s Twitter’s turn. There’s an element of truth to this, but it’s also a copout.
Social-media platforms are tools. A good deal of disturbing information has finally come to light about how the creators of those tools have engineered them to bring out the worst in us, but in the end the individual is the one who taps and posts for good or ill.
This is about the culture. Bullies gotta bully, and trolls gotta troll. Facebook and Twitter make that easier, but they aren’t the essential problem. Simple rule: Would you read that post aloud to your grandmother? Who doesn’t get that?
My take is that my country is in a weird, angry place. We’ve been through far, far worse, but we haven’t found the path out of this just yet. Disengaging – isolation, that is – isn’t the answer. It’s a big part of the problem.
We still hold doors open for other people. We still say “hello,” “thank you” and “how about that weather?” Those are outward things that look like good will and charity. They need to be in our hearts too. That’s a start.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @FoxEJC.