Can’t we all just get along?
Clearly, the simple answer is “no.” I’m not naïve and have a rudimentary understanding of how the world works, so when I ask the question, it’s not because I’m a simpleton. Nor am I “Little Mary Sunshine,” (Google it) warbling in a field of daisies about how swell it is to be alive, ignorant of what lurks behind every flowering shrub. I get it, but I don’t have to like it.
That’s right, it’s Election Day. Of course, by the time you read this, the ballots will have been counted, results announced and a new round of bickering, hatred and strife will have reared its ugly head, regardless of the outcome. Last I checked, free speech was still a right accorded to all citizens, but as of late, that too, has come into question, and many Americans are finding their voices stifled, rights are being taken away, and freedom being called into question.
Yep—there’s more to me than puppet shows and parades. Like many of you, I find myself living in a world not of my own design, and I’m scared. Not so much for me—I’ll be gone soon enough, and if I’m remembered for anything at all it will be, “Whatever happened to that guy with the dog?” more than being a political pundit. But every once in a while, I’d like my voice to be heard, too. That’s why I’m voting today: to make my voice heard.
Remember Tony Hiller? How about Peter Simons? No? I didn’t think so, but together they wrote a song you may recall, called “United We Stand.” The year was 1970, and the group who first recorded it was the Brotherhood of Man. Written as a condemnation of the Vietnam War, the song quickly became anthemic for a generation, and teenaged hippie-wanna-be me sang out loud alongside millions of other Americans who not only made their voices heard, but made a difference, too.
Ironically, that song is based on another—written by Founding Father John Dickinson. Remember him? No, I didn’t think so. First published in the Boston Gazette in July 1768, the pre-Revolutionary War piece titled “The Liberty Song” was written by Dickenson using the words “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!” Personally, I’m observing my own comfort zone shrinking by the day, and it’s gotten to the point that I’m afraid to (you guessed it) express my own opinion, humble or otherwise. Gun to head, I blame social media, which has become (IMHO) the new “wild, wild West,” where “anything goes” and if you don’t like it—well that’s just too bad. “Un-friend me, un-follow me,” a “friend” told me yesterday, when I had the nerve to express my frustration over what seems like a never-ending browbeating emanating from her Facebook page.
Far be it from me to tell someone else how to use their social media presence, but if you’re gonna stand on a soap box and shout your feelings to passersby, shouldn’t they be actual passersby, and not your own pals? If your Facebook posts aren’t “public” but rather for a select group of “friends,” then I have to ask: to what end? If one is addressing one’s actual friends, isn’t it fair to assume that your pals are like-minded and whole-heartedly agree that it’s fundamentally wrong to be a racist, wrong to spread hatred, wrong to harm children and wrong to hurt puppies? While the message might be right, aren’t you simply “preaching to the choir?” Maybe a public podcast or Vlog (Google it!) would be time and energy better spent and reach the intended audience. I’m just sayin’.
“What does he know?” you shout at the cat, swearing you’ll never read this column again. “All he talks about is going to concerts and prancing around town with that damn dog of his. What a jerk,” you say, pushing the cat off the counter and checking how many friends you have on Facebook. Maybe I am a jerk, and maybe my social media appears superficial and shallow. After all, my page is riddled with little more than pretty pictures of the Upper Delaware River region and its inhabitants, if for no other reason than to remind us all (yes, many of my posts are “public”) that there is still good in the world and pretty things can brighten up your day, that it’s OK every once in a while to just breathe. I guess it’s my way of coping, and no less valid than yours. Playing to my strengths, I tend to steer clear of inflammatory rants and leave the proselytizing to others.
Can’t we all just get along? Hmmm. Maybe I am a simpleton after all.