By Kurt J. Kolka
(During Campaign 2016)
How united are we in America?
To judge by social media and the national media, we seem to have become a country divided. The national media tries to put everyone into one of two camps, liberal or conservative. (Moderates are virtually ignored.) Attacks on social media because of political views has gotten out of hand.
A couple weeks back, I used a post on Facebook to say that I still call people friends no matter who they voted for. This election was horrible and I knew a lot of people who struggled as the election approached. The post reflected this.
To my shock, an acquaintance attacked me for that stand. He flatly stated anyone who voted for a certain candidate was the scum of the earth (his terms were a little more colorful than that, of course). He then proceeded to personally attack me on my religious views.
According to him, if I really believed what I said I believed, I would have voted on his side.
When he asked me a question, I’d answer it as best I could. No answer would please him however. It became evident after a while there was no way to reason with him because we stood on two very different plateaus with two very different points of observation. And he refused to simply agree that we disagree.
Finally, when he wouldn’t stop posting after being told to, I had to unfriend him. And that was sad.
This man was simply a professional acquaintance. We had only met once or twice and I admired his work as an artist. Yet, this was the second time he attacked me on social media.
The first time it happened, I had posted a news story about farmers struggling in America from a newspaper article. That time he attacked because, according to him, farmers are all millionaires and should never get help from the government.
I cannot think of any farmers I know or have seen who fit that category. When I go to the Farmers Market in Gaylord, I have never seen any of those sellers get out of Rolls Royces with tuxedoes on, showing off their diamond rings on each finger.
Rather, I see a lot of hard-working men and women struggling and eking out the best living they can. Most farmers I know hold down jobs elsewhere and farming is their part-time job, because they don’t make enough through farming alone. If they bought a new tractor, it was through a loan, with the hope that the harvest would be good enough to pay the loan back quickly.
I have come to realize I am not alone in this experience of losing relationships over trivial postings. An old friend talked about a similar experience recently. Others also have expressed sadness over losses of relationships due to postings on social media.
The political arena is not the only place I see gaps forming between people. It used to be cliques were only found in high schools. Today, adults have become very cliquish in regards to their relationships. And these cliques often have their own language, or at least their own terminology.
What one group means by the use of a certain word can be quite different than another group using the same word. I see this creating misunderstandings way too often among people.
Have we, as a country, now lost out common ground from all these little divisions? These gaps.
While I was growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, there was a lot of talk about the “Generation Gap.” Looking back on my parents and grandparents however, there didn’t seem to be any huge generation gap between them. There was very little differences in lifestyle. Their arguments seemed to revolve around what was better: Chevy or Ford? U of M or Michigan State? Who was the Tigers best manager?
Growing up, I thought there was a generation gap between my parents and siblings. Now, I realize my childhood was more closely matched to theirs than my own child’s. We didn’t have all this ever-changing technology to keep up with, or all these adult-organized activities. We used our imaginations. Our siblings and neighbors socialized us in the various games kids played. It seems so different.
That is not to say there is a generation gap between I and my daughter. While she may be more tech savvy and had different experiences growing up in this culture, we share similar interests and common morals. We can still sit down and talk with each other.
But, what about others? As these gaps continue grow wider in our culture, I am continually wondering, “where is this leading?” Will we be able to have compassion for others if we fail to see our similarities? If there was some national crisis in the near future, could we still come together as a nation? Or are our differences now destroying our national identity?
Something to ponder.