Astute readers will note that I’m ripping off the title of one of my favorite contemporary musicians’ new albums. Let that pass for a moment.
Astute readers will also note that, for the second day out of three, I’m writing an op/ed. Let that pass, too. I’ll be back to news articles promptly.
A discussion with Lenny yesterday brought something to mind, something that I haven’t seen said for a while, something that desperately needs a voice. I’ve heard a lot of people saying that we need to try to get past the hate. I’ve seen people saying that they are stepping away from politics because they can’t handle the friction. I’ve heard of families getting torn apart over political debates and old friendships being dissolved.
It’s easy enough to see a way forward. It’s just not a complete picture.
I’ve been enjoying the Frank Turner album, because I like the songs and I like his lyrics. Those lyrics include messages like:
- Try to be kind to people, because there’s a lot of stress out there: “So before you go out searching /Don’t decide what you will find/ Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind”
- Stop attacking and talk to people: “Be suspicious of simple answers /That shit’s for fascists and maybe teenagers /You can’t fix the world if all you have is a hammer”
- It’s a show of strength to admit when previously unknown information causes you to revise your position, or even that you don’t know everything: “Take a breath/ Try these for size/ I don’t know/ I changed my mind.”
- Challenge your preconceived notions : “We should be asking ourselves uneasy questions”
Now, anyone who’s known me for any length of time is probably wondering who’s actually writing this essay. I’ve railed for decades against people vesting too much value in bumper stickers, song lyrics, or the arranged stories of television, movies and novels. Those are simplistic and fictional, and life is more complex than that.
Sadly, we’re at the point where even simple things can’t be assumed anymore. We’re at the point where sometimes even simple messages are being ignored.
And that brings us back around to the discussion I had with Lenny. It’s a discussion I’ve heard before, from other people. They’re tired of the fighting, they’re tired of the bickering, they’re tired of being expected to swallow lies for the sake of the group.
Here’s one thing people aren’t considering, though: it’s not their group.
Our groups are simple. They’re people we voluntarily associate with, people with whom we spend time every day, people we see once every five years but are thrilled to catch up with. Our groups are not the politicians and the pundits.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t care about you. Donald Trump doesn’t care about you. Neither does Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz or Gary Johnson. Rush Limbaugh doesn’t care about you. Chris Matthews doesn’t care about you. Mark Levin isn’t with you. Cecile Richards doesn’t care about your health. Bill O’Reilly is not looking out for you, and he never has been.
Just because you rally for them or listen to them or read their columns or watch their television shows doesn’t mean they would recognize you. You are no more to them than another fan. You are what a cheering body in the stands is to a player on the field. They like you as part of an aggregate fan base. You, personally, mean nothing. They don’t know you. They don’t want to know you.
And these are the people who are telling us to throw relationships away on their behalf.
We are better than that. We have to look to our own lives and make the associations we want, talk with people we respect, listen to what they have to say. We can disagree with them, but it should always be from a point of informed reason, not because some yammering head on a podcast told us what to think. We should not be willing puppets. When we are, the republic is lost.
If you disagree with me, fine. Tell me where I’m wrong. And I’ll listen, and I’ll respond, because ultimately, you are part of my group and I value you for it.
And now, just to bring it full circle, a Frank Turner song, because I know that’s a thing some of you disagree with me about.