What Country is This?
It is difficult for me to recognize my country today. I hear bickering. I see posturing. I observe a partisanship so aggressive that the truth that is spoken can only be a half-truth at best. One must go to the opposite partisan for the other half and hope that there is enough there to make the whole. But mostly the 24-hour news cycle produces whatever sells. Truth be damned!
This presents a problem for our discourse that is worse than fake news. In a media and social media dominated world we have already lost interest in and the capacity for real personal interactions and relationships. Know what I mean? The kind where one human speaks face to face or even voice to voice with another? In that world to be invited to go to your corners and come out fighting for the half-truth one prefers is a recipe for disaster.
Sad to say but I observe this same phenomenon in the “church”. Almost subconsciously the social references from the pulpit mirror the partisanship in the pew. Perhaps at this point I should identify myself. If I’m correct in my observations that will be enough to send half of you scurrying for the exit.
I am a 67-year old African American male. I am married to a woman. We have children and grandchildren. I live in a predominantly “white” neighborhood and attend a predominantly white church. I work in a predominantly “black” neighborhood. I grew up in all black neighborhoods and attended all black schools until college. I have white and black friends with whom I actually socialize. Really!
As I move freely between the various worlds I live in I find the lack of real interest in and interaction with the other to be astounding. The colorization of our national discourse has become so well defined that one need not listen long to know what megaphone the speaker is mimicking. We are not becoming balkanized. We are there.
But back to my country. I am not nostalgic for an idyllic past that never was. But I do think that there is something to be said for a time when there was less information about information for information’s sake. I do think that there is something to be said for a time when information was not thought to be synonymous with the truth. I do think that there is something to be said for a time when research born of curiosity was encouraged. I do think that there is something to be said for a time when time was given to thought.
If I’m correct the information driven world poses a threat to my work. That work involves getting a message to the general public that will change the way that they think about a particular subject. It’s a message that asks them to challenge a deeply embedded pattern of thought about our country and themselves that is untrue. It’s powerful but it’s untrue. It’s the idea that “White” people are superior and that “Black” people are inferior. It’s an idea that both people groups buy-in to with devastating consequences.
In a world of fake news and partisan discourse that’s a toughie! Any ideas?