Saturday, April 2, 2016

Society. Remember that?

I don't think anyone would disagree with me when I say that, if anything, America has become a fractured society.

Certainly, social media plays a big role in that. People can just hide behind the relative anonymity of their computers and lob meme grenades at random, with relative immunity from the consequences of their actions. It's a playground for trolls and half-educated people to spread semi-truths and misinterpretations, hand-picked to fit whatever agenda the poster desires.

Now, I'm not saying it's wrong to have an agenda. We all want to associate with people who share our beliefs and our visions. We also have a free speech amendment in our Constitution that pretty much guarantees everyone in the US can say what they want, when they want. Right? Free Speech, they call it. And God knows how Americans love their rights. And it's fine for everyone else to have rights, too.

As long as they agree with your agenda.

Just ask anyone on Facebook. Anyone who dares to disagree with you, is automatically a hater, an idiot, a fool, blind, WRONG! Therefore, you, a citizen (in most cases) of a free society, with the right to free speech, have the right, nay, the responsibility, to heap derision upon them in the form of a meme. And because you share it on YOUR page, it means nobody has the right to address you about it. Right?

I think we're getting confused on the balance of rights vs responsibility when it comes to maintaining a society.

Humans operate on multiple levels of responsibility. The first level is the responsibility to themselves, the Individual. You interact with yourself, in your own little closet, in your bedroom, in your apartment, your house (if you live alone). You can tell yourself anything you want, do whatever you want, you're accountable to one person: YOU. Okay, some of you will add God. And yes, you are accountable to God, if you believe you are. I hold myself accountable to my God. But that's a part of being accountable to myself, for my own future.

Next up, we have the family unit. We can discuss specific family structure another time, and in fact, Alvin Toffler wrote about that in his book Future Shock, which was a disturbingly accurate prediction of the changes the world began to take on back in the '70's. It might be a worthwhile read, even today.

Anyway, back to the family. You as an individual, have a responsibility to your family, inculcated from birth. The ones who raised you, held you accountable to standards of behavior that included getting along with your siblings and obeying the senior members of the family. I don't have to go into great detail about what happened to me when I talked back to my mama, do I? I can tell you, after that first time, it didn't happen very often.

After the Individual, after the Family Unit, we are all accountable to our Neighborhoods. It's a plain and simple fact, I've seen it over and over again growing up on the wrong side of the tracks: If you make trouble in your own neighborhood, your neighborhood will take care of its own. A thief doesn't rob houses on his own street. Not unless he has a gang of cronies that will protect him from the torch and pitchfork mob that would otherwise yank him out into the street and deliver swift justice.

The other levels of responsibility, of accountability, belong to our companies, our town (usually represented by our high school), our state, our nation. All these levels of responsibility are there to help s to get along with each other. That defines our Society, or Community. That which receives our loyalty and our trust, defines acceptable conduct.

Society says, "Hey, it's a world out here with all kinds. Let's put our big boy/big girl pants on and get along. Here are the rules of getting along..." And like that, we have a community. We understand who we are. We understand where we are in our community, and what's expected of us. Then, you know what happens? We have people getting along, saying please and thank you, tipping your wait staff, obeying laws and ordinances. And if they can't get along, they either move out, or we move them into places like prison (for those who harm others).

But Social Media, that's another story, isn't it? Stomp around on your own little hilltop, shake your fist and scream "Get offa my lawn!" at the passersby as you heap insults and call fire down from heaven on all those heathens and sinners. You don't have to be civil on social media. In fact, if you do something stupid and post it on social media, you get to be famous. So do something stupid, post it on your page, and no one will be able to hold you accountable for it. It's on your page, after all. It's not like anyone's going to see you grinding an American flag into the dirt, or pouring scorn on anyone's faith system, or lack-of-faith system.

That animosity, that horrid vitriol, spills out into our day to day lives, and look what's happening as a result. I'm sure Facebook isn't he only culprit. We have Social Experimenters in Washington, DC who are doing their best to reinvent the Social Wheel, to force us into their mold of what Society should look like. And instead of building community, they are tearing us apart. But Facebook isn't helping. Where else can a picture get relabeled to make Jesus into a likeness of Adolf Hitler, and go viral fifteen minutes after the original troll posts it?

Someone on my friends list recently posted a meme that was a wry, semi-humorous, back-handed slap at a group of people. Oh, goodness, that never happens, does it? The bottom line was, it showed not just a profound lack of knowledge of the matter, but a profound willingness to not even try to understand the other group. And I chimed in with a statement that basically called into question the hostile nature of the meme.

Now, I will say, the "friend" in question wasn't someone I'm close to, more like a casual acquaintance. All the same, being in the group at which the meme was directed, I was hoping to inspire a conversation about the concept in question. Immediately upon which, this person and about five of their friends decided I was meat in the shark tank, and lit into me about what business I had, responding to something they posted on THEIR page, and how dare I suggest they were wrong?

Hey, Little Mary Sunshine, Let me rain on your parade a little: What you post on your page becomes part of a COMMUNITY. It's part of how you show yourself to the public eye. And not everyone in this wide world sides with you in your narrow-minded view of the group upon whom you were heaping your insults.

I have stood guard for your right to say what you will. But that doesn't mean I have to abide by blatant stupidity. It doesn't mean I have to stand by and let you pour derision on anyone, for any reason, without calling you to account for what you say. Words mean things. And from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. We all have a responsibility to use our freedom of speech in a way that builds community, rather than tearing it down.

It's time we became a society again.

Realize, first and foremost, that what you put up on your page, is words from your mouth. You say whatever you post. Whatever you share. That's YOU, Bubba. So don't be surprised if someone questions you, or takes you to account for it. You didn't paste it on your closet wall. Real people out here see that filth, that hatred, that venom, that ignorant slime, coming out of your mouth, the same mouth that kisses your baby daughter good night.

It's time we became a community again.

It's time we started living by the two things our parents tried to instill in us from birth: One, to treat others as you would have them treat you, and B, If you can't say something good about someone, then shut your pie hole.

I'm done being told I'm less intelligent because I post positive pictures and memes. I'm done being told that, as a person of faith, I should sit down, shut up, and take whatever insults are aimed at me. I'm sick of being told I'm the bad guy because I believe a person should be empowered to make their own way without being overwatched and dictated to by our own government, the one who said 240 years ago that they would stay out of our way and let us be free people. And I'm supremely tired of being told that, as a veteran, I have no more responsibility to defend our flag and the republic it represents from all enemies, foreign and domestic (that means ALL enemies, inside and outside the borders of the United States).

It's time we started to bring our country, our world, back together, back from this social brink we find ourselves looking over. Because I fear for a future where freedom and liberty are taken so much for granted, that they are easily taken away for the sake of security.

But that's another discussion.

It's time we all put on our big girl/big boy pants, and actually worked on getting along.

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