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We are divided, but we can change it: Editorial

Posted 1/24/18

We are not united as a country right now.

That’s not a shock to anyone who spends any time on social media or watching cable news.

But we also need some perspective.

It’s …

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We are divided, but we can change it: Editorial

Posted

We are not united as a country right now.

That’s not a shock to anyone who spends any time on social media or watching cable news.

But we also need some perspective.

It’s ludicrous to say that we have never been more divided. Remember the Civil War? We literally were fighting each other to the death.

One hundred years after that, the 1960s also saw major divisions, stemming from the fight over civil rights, Vietnam and the peace movement.

We probably aren’t more divided today than we have been at many other times in U.S. history. It’s just that we know how divided we are. It’s in our face all the time. We tell each other about it. Maybe not you, the person reading this in Middletown or Lower Swatara Township, or Londonderry Township, but the collective “we,” as a society.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media are full of arguments. Cable news pits talking heads with opposing viewpoints against each other. Democrats and Republicans shut down the government, and each side blames the other.

We all have a voice, if we post on Facebook or if we tweet out our ideas or an article with which we agree. That power simply didn’t exist a little more than a decade ago.

The platform each American has is a great equalizer. After all, it used to be very difficult for an average American to express his or her views. They could buy a copier and hand out pamphlets or fliers. They could run for office, or argue with friends, or go to the local bar and try to win converts.

That all seems quaint now.

“Going viral” is equivalent to deep thought. Gathering Twitter followers is akin to leadership.

While there are no bigger advocates for free speech than us here at the Press & Journal, it doesn’t come without a price.

We still have to put up with hate speech, words with which we disagree with all of our fiber of being, but those who utter it now are not limited to shadowy backrooms and secret meetings. Social media, the Internet and other platforms allow it to be spread quickly, even if it is vile. Technology allows those people with the same thoughts, even if there are only a few hundred in the country who are in agreement, to find each other, to validate each other and to embolden each other.

The world is a lot smaller than it used to be.

The ability to exercise our right to free speech should be a wonderful thing. But reason, discussion and compromise are too often trampled in its wake.

Too many of us have to win every discussion instead of trying to be enriched by the viewpoints of others. We can find websites to support our every thought. Those who work hard to verify and publish truth are accused of being “fake news.”

We have a long way to go before we as Americans — as residents of Earth, in fact, because this problem knows no international borders — can figure it out.

We don’t have the answers.

But there is always hope. We are only a few years into the era of social media. As our young people get older, we hope that they figure out a better way to use it than many of their elders are right now.

We can’t uninvent the technology that put us where we are today. And we aren’t blaming social media and technology for all of our ills. It’s a tool, and it can be used for both positive and negative results.

Maybe, just maybe, we can all chill out a bit moving forward.

It can get worse, and that’s a scary thought. Let’s not allow it to happen.