I’m not generally a “think of the children” sort of guy, but I actually have been thinking of the effect they’re feeling from this election. It has brought out the absolute worst in almost everyone.
It has made reasonable people truly believe that anger is necessary to success. That to get what we want, we need to be ruthless in our speech, to tear down the opposition in every imaginable way.
When you do this, you cannot pretend that it is for betterment. No reasonable person believes that wrathful criticism is beneficial to persuasive discussion. You do it for gratification. To build up yourself, not to convince others.
I’ve seen some of my literary professors, who once discussed how workshop critique is only useful when the goal is to build and improve rather than shred, take up seething social arms against their opposition. I’ve seen them wield snark, cynicism, and shameless rhetoric to shake up their social circles–that is, provided their social circles aren’t comprised of obsequious praisers, back patters, and pretentious yes men.
I’ve seen friendships shatter, riots in the streets, and foreign leaders bolster arsenals in wait for the results of this election.
When you do this to someone else, you do it only for yourself. When you are cruel, and the blood boils, and it feels good to be angry, and you tear down someone else, it is because they will respond in kind and perpetually justify your continued pursuit of passionate release. It gives reason to continue doing wrong, because you can say it is only in defense.
We tell children when they’re young that they should strive to be kind, always. To be good in the face of insurmountable evils. Then, when they’re a little older, we tell them to be strong, to go to the defense of their friends and family. A little older still, and we tell them they have to fight for what they believe is right. Older still, we tell them that the world is unfair. As teenagers, they’re told that they have to deal with it. As young adults, they come to fight fire with fire. They learn cynicism as comedy. They learn snark as commentary. And then they fight, and they fight, and they fight, because now it doesn’t matter what the truth is, all that matters is that they’re strong of will and they fight for what they think is right because no matter who they are, what they think IS right.
And now here we are, fighting with all the weapons we’ve been handed over the years, and nothing to show for it but sound and fury and not a shred of evidence to any great truth.
We’re getting exactly what we deserve.