As I found myself getting lost trying to find the point of the segment, I started to think about popular culture and the news media and really people in general, all of whom seem engaged in some sort of Kafkaesque criticism of each other. The Daily Show makes fun of Fox News; Fox News makes fun of the Obama administration. So much for reporting news; our news sources report on the other people supposedly reporting the news. There is occasionally some thoughtful critique, but much of it is sound and fury - signifying nothing because no one's listening anymore.
How many Daily Show viewers, I wondered, spend time talking to, really engaging with Fox News viewers?
And then it occurred to me: I bet I do.
And I hit upon yet another thing I really value about blogging: I don't know much, if anything, about your politics or your religion, and yet we talk about some of the most important things out there. I don't know if you love Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin or Al Gore or Dick Cheney, are a member of the NRA or NOW or both, but I don't really care. Whatever labels you might use to define yourself if the Real World, I value your opinion and trust your advice here in this one. At a time when it seems like so many people have stopped listening to each other, we are connecting more than ever.
And then, of course, I thought of Judith Warner. (And, yes, you've got it right if you've surmised that Jon Stewart, blogging, and Judith Warner are oft on my mind.)
In her Thanksgiving post, Warner addressed these very issues of what she calls "civility, grace under pressure, and general human fellowship." No fan of Sarah Palin, Warner nevertheless applauded her recent gracious overtures to her grandchild's father during her interview with Oprah Winfrey:
Asked by Winfrey whether her once-future son-in-law, Levi Johnston, who slimed Palin with gleeful malice in the October issue of Vanity Fair and is soon due to bare all in Playgirl, would be joining her family for Thanksgiving dinner, the former Alaska governor replied, “It’s lovely to think that he would ever even consider such a thing. … He is a part of the family, and you want to bring him into the fold and kind of under your wing. And he needs that, too, Oprah. I think he needs to know that he is loved and he has the most beautiful child and this can all work out for good.”
You may be wondering how I could possibly be taken in by such obviously scripted political posturing.
But the fact is, Palin’s verbal gesture of graciousness surprised me. And the fact that it struck me as newsworthy and stayed in my mind long afterward speaks volumes about the general level of ambient aggression, thinly-veiled hostility and sheer nastiness that’s circulating — and parading, very often, as justified righteous indignation — in our society right now.From Warner's examples of road ragers and "etiquette vigilantes" who publicly embarrass those who fail to say "thank you," to my own musings on the back-and-forth of political news television, it seems like many people now see things in absolutes, throwing out the baby because the bath water voted Republican.
But here we are, bridging the civility gap every day. Making a choice to rise above the hostility that dominates so much communication these days. Opting to engage with each other and with issues that matter. I am proud of us.
Now imagine what we could do for health care reform.
In your Real Life, how openly (and open-mindedly) do you communicate with those whose political or religious views are different from your own?