It saddens me to see America in its current state. And it takes a great deal to bring about this particular emotion and this singular decision. I have lived a lot of years and seen, firsthand, how a country can be torn apart by a divisive war. But, this time, the division, I fear, is deeper, more contentious and more fractious. America, a great people, have been cut apart in a fault line approaching a critical depth and width. I am not sure we will ever be as strong as we once were. That overwhelming feeling of something truly great, possibly forever lost, is the reason for this very personal affection.
We are involved in yet another war where young men are dying and the American people don’t understand why. Some think they do and believe it a noble cause; some are equally confident in their belief but feel, with matching fervor, it is one man’s crusade and a useless Quixote-esque crusade. They are both right and they are both, sadly, very wrong. It is, as all wars ultimately are, an exercise in futility. Wars never solve anything. If history has taught us anything – and the lessons are always taught but poorly attended – today’s enemy is tomorrow’s ally. What seems right and reasonable instantly blurs when the bullet start flying and the blood starts to flow. The “fog of war” remains a term both descriptive and philosophical. War fogs both the minds of those in its midst and those at home, who vainly try to understand war’s horror and impact.
What troubles me is not that the country simply has differing opinions but that we are beginning that freefall into the unresolvable and unreconcilable chasm we have seen but a few times before. We are being slowly and irretrievably torn apart by our differences. And, this time, I can not imagine an end to it. It took us decades to recover our moral compass after the Viet Nam War and now we are on that heart-wrenching course, yet again. But I, for one, fear we may be lost in the political and cultural wilderness this time, perhaps, forever. The dogs of war are tearing at the gates and the gatekeepers are fighting among themselves.
I have been reading and, occasionally, participating on BlogCritics for almost a year now. During that time, I have found myself – as if anyone else would notice or care – posting fewer and fewer articles on that site. And it is for a very simple reason: everything – save the occasional innocent movie or CD review – immediately degrades into the most mind-numbing exchange of vitriolic commentary one can imagine. It has become painful, at least to me, to read. The cycle is completely predictable. A writer posts his or her view of some seemingly benign event and, regardless of the topic being proferred, those of the two polarized and distinct political views – for simplicity, we will fall back to the usual labels of liberal and conservative – begin their venomous exchanges.
Lest you think I am against the informed discourse that has made our country great, I am most certainly not. Debate and the intelligent exchange of ideas is always enlightening and has been the very lifeblood of our country’s great strength. But, what I am observing, is not debate. What I see is purely disjointed, acerbic, hate-filled writing that is exchanged with deafness and blindness to dissent. This is not debate. This is a collection of people shouting at each other, in a virtual world, without any actual exchange of information or any chance of middle ground. There is no give-and-take, there is only hate. All civility is dispensed with and the only thing that stops the name calling and caustic and, often, incoherent exchange is that a new posting occurs. The two armies break camp and move their raging hoards of hyperbole off to attack on the battleground of a new thread.
Our country, the home – once – of reasoned, measured debate has fallen into something far different. As in another plague, the “reality show,” it is as if American has been neatly and precisely divided into two groups and sealed into opaque, muted boxes. In each box, everyone is in agreement. They shout at the top of their lungs with every ounce of enmity available as if trying to scourge the evil from those in the other box. And that box, with its collective voices, shouts back with equal vigor and antipathy. The goal, in this game, is not to sway opinion; the goal, in the new reality, is to suffocate and silence. This is not debate. This is pure, unbridled, discordant chaos. I am reminded of a famous definition of a fanatic as “one who will not change his mind nor change the subject.” I no longer have the stamina to read fanaticism.
I tire of the tedium. I see no hope for any remedy. I am too old and lack the energy to watch the gulf of savagery into which the commentary inevitably recidivates any longer. It is my weakness and I will live with it as I can. With this tiny withdrawal, I seek no comments for they, inevitably, will produce more of what I have come to dread most. I will continue to read what and where I can on BlogCritics but, as the comments drift into mindless bedlam, I will turn away. If I want to read unrestrained malevolence, I will go to a place I hold with less respect. It is no loss to the content of BC and it is I who will be lessened by my aged timidity and cowardice. The challenge to contribute something enlightening or thought-provoking – that is to say, something that “measured up” – to a place I held in inestimable regard is what I will miss most.
BlogCritics will continue to thrive because it allows what Americans seem to need most in our current time, namely, a forum to be heard. It’s just that, for me, the right to be heard carries with it the obligation to listen. And I feel that reciprocation is no longer de rigueur. It is a my heartfelt loss.