Social Media Manages To Make Politics Even More Distasteful

Here’s a good place for politics…a rally.

I dislike elections for many reasons. The flyers from candidates litter my mailbox. The cold calls from campaign offices soliciting my vote always interrupt dinner. The non-stop political advertising on television makes me do the unthinkable…turn off my television. The constant barrage of information, disinformation, and misinformation create an epic cacophony in my brain. In the six months directly preceding any election, I completely understand why some people are driven down the rabbit hole only to reemerge in outhouse-sized shacks in the chilly environs of isolated Montana where they can quietly stew in their hatred whilst planning attacks on the misguided government. If the founding fathers were here today to witness the degradation of a political process they so highly esteemed, they would determine that they should have spent less time drafting a thoughtful constitution and more time drinking and fondling barmaids.

And, just when I thought that my distaste for the election process could not be amplified, Facebook and Twitter came along to prove me wrong. Now, in addition to the aforementioned flyers, cold calls, and television ads, I get to endure the rantings and ravings of people I once considered sane enough to befriend via social media. Of course, all these friends are convinced they are posting facts (and not bastardizations of information that once held a modicum of legitimacy). The links to articles from often dubious sources are usually chock full of erroneous factoids. If the links themselves weren’t bad enough, they are nearly always accompanied by a personal diatribe so vitriolic that I wish I could wash my brain out with soap. Sometimes it’s like seeing a display of their ugly nakedness that is now burned into my brain; I will never look at them the same way. It’s disturbing.

So, why do people who appear normal on most days suddenly become rabid political junkies who feel the need to express themselves endlessly before an election? I used to think it was because they thought they might be able to change a misguided mind (and by “misguided mind” I’m referring to the mind of someone whose political views differ from their own, clearly correct views). But, seriously…when does that ever work? Not to get all pop music on you, but John Mayer’s lyrics seem so apropos here: “Is there anyone who ever remembers changing their mind from the paint on a sign? Is there anyone who clearly recalls ever breaking rank at all for something someone yelled real loud one time?” It doesn’t happen. By the time we are adults, most of us have more or less determined the things that are important to us. Plus, we’re stubborn and don’t like to be told what to believe. So, when you post something in an attempt to discredit or belittle another viewpoint, people immediately go into childish “la la la” mode with their fingers in their ears. You will not persuade them no matter what you say because they stopped listening the minute you implied they were too stupid to know what is “right.” Your lack of respect for their views garnered nothing but an immediate lack of respect for yours.

Years ago, my well-meaning husband told me he wanted to form a new political party called the Manners Party. It’s his assertion that people in this nation have lost their ability to treat others with respect and common decency. People are no longer capable of holding their tongues and listening with open minds or holding a door open for a stranger or even giving up a seat for someone who needs it more. We’ve become a nation of individuals with little or no concern for anyone or anything but ourselves. We’re the only ones who matter, the only ones who know anything. We’re a nation of people who feel we deserve something whether or not we’ve earned it. Just because we have rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press does not mean we should use our rights to chastise, attack, or otherwise denigrate those with whom we do not agree. The media attacks on political candidates are only worsened through the use of social media. Blatant untruths about political candidates are bandied about on Facebook as if they were hand delivered by God. Anyone can say anything, and they usually do.

When I was younger, I looked forward to elections because they gave me the opportunity to learn more about the candidates and the political process. Now elections only offer me the opportunity to learn more about the self-righteous political views of my friends and associates, as presented through whatever biased, self-promotional media outlet they’ve chosen to revere. Oh…I still try to look forward to elections. But now I look forward to them in the knowledge that as soon as they’re over my social media news feeds will go back to being filled with random quotes from cute kids and clever ideas reposted from Pinterest that remind me that, underneath our political posturing and self-serving rants, we aren’t that different after all. We all enjoy a good lolcats once in a while.

My Goal: Sons Who Are At Least One Evolutionary Step Above Primates

Hats off at the dinner table, boys.

I firmly believe in picking your battles. As a mother, I make choices every day about which wars to wage and which ones deserve a white flag. One crusade I’ve chosen is to raise young men who are polite, have good table manners, and are properly groomed. Oh. My. God. What the hell was I thinking when I picked up my sword and marched headlong into this fray? Did I not realize that I have two small primates living in my house? We’re barely one step above flinging feces here.

I spend roughly 2/3rds of my waking hours talking to myself (because no one is listening), repeating suggestions, pleas, and ultimatums all having to do with proper etiquette. I don’t care that much if my sons’ rooms are a mess or if they leave their shoes on the floor by the front door. But, it makes me crazy when they chew with their mouths open, barge into a room without knocking, or fail to flush a toilet. My life is a litany of commands (all of which are normally followed by “please” because I try to practice what I preach).

  • Get your finger out of your nose and use a tissue
  • Wash that gunk off your face
  • Hold the door
  • Say “please”
  • Say “thank you”
  • Say “excuse me”
  • Knock before you open the door
  • Use your fork, not your fingers
  • Use a napkin, not your shirt
  • Brush your teeth
  • Close your mouth when you chew
  • Don’t wipe your boogers on the walls
  • Turn the fan on when you’re in the bathroom
  • For heaven’s sake, flush the stupid toilet already

These words are on an endless, repetitive loop echoing from my otherwise empty head. It’s no wonder I feel I’ve forgotten the fine art of conversation. I don’t know how to talk to someone unless they forget to put their napkin on their lap.

One ritual I absolutely insist on is thank you notes for gifts received. While we sometimes we fail to get cards in the mail to thank a great aunt for a $10 bill slated for Easter candy, birthday and Christmas gifts must be acknowledged with a handwritten note. Steve and I both come from families where these notes are compulsory. (Exhibit A. My 81 year old father-in-law still sends us thank you notes on personalized stationery.) Because our boys’ birthdays are three weeks apart (with my birthday sandwiched in between), we write a truckload of notes before the end of June. My sons hate this with a passion that matches their hatred for American Girl dolls, but I make them do it because it’s the right thing to do. People say they don’t need it, but I bet you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t appreciate receiving handwritten acknowledgment of their kindess. These notes, while perhaps antiquated in today’s email and text society, is simply a polite gesture I want my boys to feel is not elective. Someday, when they’re interviewing for a coveted job and they land it because the boss appreciated their gracious, interview thank you note, they will see how truly wise I am and they will thank me because they know they should.

We’ve made some progress. My boys now hold the door open for me when we walk into the house. They voluntarily help me carry in groceries. They ask to be excused from the table and they clear their own place settings. And, if they happen upon a piece of “chewy” steak, they spit it quietly without fuss into a paper napkin (although they occasionally leave the napkin behind for me to find). The whole manners gig is much more difficult for Joe because of his ADHD but, God bless him, he tries. I hold out hope that someday my sons will be the teenage boys who impress their friends’ mothers with their thoughtfulness…and not in that smarmy, Eddie-Haskell kind of way. That’s the goal, anyway. And, if I can’t achieve that, I’ll settle for sons who are at least not the worst of the bunch. In the manners game, anything better than “the worst” is something. Some days are better than others, and it’s like shoveling snow in a blizzard, but we’re making progress. As long as they don’t start picking nits off each other and eating them in front of others, I think we’re on the right track.