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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Shaking My Head

 Lately I have been shaking my head a lot, astounded by what I have been reading on social media.

There is so much hatred, anger and vitriol these days, more than I've ever seen. It seems that it is impossible to have a civilized discussion about any polarizing topic, including religion, politics and gay marriage. The discussions quickly deteriorate into nothing more than name-calling. Why is it impossible to have rational discourse?

I and several other people were recently labeled as 'haters' after I posted that I thought it was disrespectful for someone to post a photograph of the body of a man who had died in a car accident. That makes me a hater because the person who posted the image (and who later removed it) runs an animal rescue organization? I was accused of condoning terrorism because I have a Turkish friend who is a Muslim. I was 'unfriended' on Facebook, presumably because I am pro-choice and this woman is anti-abortion. I unfriended a couple of people who apparently felt it was OK to lecture me on what I should feel and think about religion and politics. Share your point of view, certainly, but do not lecture me.

And now that the presidential election is over, Facebook is filled with angry posts and arguments. I admit, I am frightened and sickened by the thought of a Trump administration. Already we have seen increased violence and hate crimes against gays, blacks and Muslims. Somehow pictures of cute puppies and kittens in my newsfeed don't seem very important or fun any more. There is a pall of gloom over this social media outlet.

I worry about what the Trump administration will do to our public lands and wildlife. But I'm not attacking anybody. I don't call people names. I support peaceful protests. Yet it seems 'the other side' thinks it is fine for them to threaten riots if their candidate had lost the election, but when Clinton supporters take to the streets, they are told to "just get over it" and to stop protesting. Not too hypocritical. But I agree that there is no place for riots and destruction of property. Others say we should give Trump a chance, to see what he does, and not to worry about what he might do. Based on his inflammatory campaign rhetoric and on the historic actions of the Republican party with regard to gay rights, the environment, public lands and wildlife, I'd say we have a lot to worry about, particularly now that the Republicans control both houses of Congress.

People are worried, and people are frightened. Telling them to "get over it" and to "move on" is not helpful. A president-elect that waited several days to finally tell his followers and supporters to stop the violence against minorities, to accept others who may not look or believe as they do, is not helpful. How about listening to people's fears and worry rather than belittling them? How about trying to understand why they are fearful and worried? How about trying to be a voice of reason and calm in these times of fear and uncertainty rather than planning a 'victory tour' of the United States?

There is a genuine, palpable fear in our country. Add to that the deep philosophical and political divisions in which we are embroiled, and conditions are ripe for an explosion of anger and fear. I hope I am wrong. I hope Trump surprises us skeptics and turns out to be a great leader and president. I will be the first to say I was wrong about him and his political party. But until he steps up and starts acting like a real leader, I will remain worried and fearful.