A few words from a numbers girl
Life or death. This seemingly describes the level of importance of every single issue today. A never-ending fight or flight. And there are somehow ever only two sides. I have lived nearly my entire life within the news realm. First as a child of an owner/editor/publisher of a weekly local newspaper, and now as part of ClarkCountyToday.com. My father, Marvin Case, coined a phrase early on that sat on top of his weekly editorials, “Independent but not Neutral.” He prided himself on his independent thought process. He needed no one to validate his opinion. Or share it. And he knew it belonged on the opinion page.
I am stunned and heart sick by what is sold as “news” today. A reputable newspaper or news channel should never let their audience be able to guess their editorial staff’s own political or social leanings within their news content. They should never endorse a political candidate. This blatant bias is irresponsible at least, but I would go so far as to call it downright dangerous. Extreme ideas penetrate en masse like flowing water, easily infiltrating willing, soft, empty minds.
I don’t think anyone would disagree with me that we are witnessing a never before seen level of intensity regarding many issues. While I have noticed some civil exchanges as of late — personal attacks, vile language, dominant accusations and false assumptions are common place. I have yet to see someone change their stance with this type of persuasion. Then why in the world do we keep trying? I’ve heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.
As a nation we need to try something new. We are often unable to communicate effectively. We are often unable to form our own conclusions. Instead we must be loyal to our team. How dare we have an independent thought that might come too close to the line. How has this happened? One idea is that students are receiving politics and social agenda in school over an education filled with critical thinking. I remember back in the day that the mark of a great teacher was one that not only encouraged you to think, but one where you’d be able to get to the end of the term and have no idea where he or she personally stood politically. I never saw a teacher cry after a presidential election, thank goodness. And it surely wasn’t because they didn’t have an opinion. I’d love feedback on how this plays out today. Maybe I’m in the minority — but as a young adult I honestly had no idea where most of my friends landed in their personal ideology. We just didn’t talk much about it. We were busy cultivating our lives and gaining experiences in order to form our opinions. There was no social media so no constant barrage of politically charged rhetoric. No round-the-clock sensational ”news.” No memes. And no Netflix. It was a blissful time.
Today, which side of the aisle you fall on seems to publicly define your very core. I often want to comment on posts that I see on social media, but always decide not to, knowing the receiving end will most likely not truly be listening. I am afraid I will do more damage than good. Or worse yet, be misunderstood. We all want to be heard. But very few are willing to think critically about their own positions. Or reach out their hand to have an actual civil, polite, earnest conversation. It is way more satisfying to continue to try to have the zinger of a last word. Or punch with an emotional scathe. Plato said, ‘Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.”
The “media” has helped to create a living, breathing monster of impressionable people — on both sides of the aisle, causing the utter pandemonium we are experiencing in this country today. I would like to have conversations with my friends who do not share similar beliefs or viewpoints but I feel reluctant to do so. The monster might just try to swallow me whole. I am frustrated. I am angry. And I feel helpless. As one person, I haven’t felt that my voice could make any difference at all in this goliath of a situation. I feel shut down before I even open my mouth.
One word I see often in arguments that is massively overused is “hypocritical.” Like every idea somehow fits neatly into how one should respond to a series of other ideas. It is often proudly used as a “gotcha, end of story, I win’’ moment. It is easier to try to shut someone down with a blanket concept than to dig further and ask a question regarding the seeming inconsistency. Maybe the author of the comment, or participant in the conversation, hasn’t thought through every single scenario known to man. Maybe they are a decent human being that is still formulating their opinions on things. And if you have ever parented teens — please let me know how accusing and degrading them helps them to open up. It only helps them to dig in. Communication is most effective within a relationship. What if we actively tried to see things from someone else’s perspective? Asked hard questions and then listened to understand. Only when we understand the reasons behind someone’s viewpoint can we begin to speak to them. And then maybe ultimately offer our own. Sadly, I think we will most likely find that the average person does not have well thought through reasons to support their very strongly held, my way or the highway, beliefs. Our society has now learned our style of communicating by watching the guest panelists on CNN or FOX. Everyone shouting and not one person caring what the other person is saying. We live to hear our own selves talk.
Another word I have found to be maddeningly misused is “love.” Most people on all sides claim that love drives them. To love is to feel and act lovingly. And if love is an important quality to you, I believe it rings hollow if you pick and choose who you love. If ugly words fall from your lips, no matter who you are talking to, love is not important to you.
I am someone with strong opinions on some issues, moderate opinions on others and on many topics I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to have an educated opinion. I am naturally analytical, yet admittedly impressionable, and hate voters’ pamphlets because all arguments “sound” good. I inherently see many things in shades of gray. Only a few are black and white for me. But that doesn’t mean I am unable to see something from another’s point of view. I am interested in having conversations with friends in my life … and then staying friends. We are a generation missing out on finding fresh, innovative, genius solutions to global situations and local problems because we are a generation entrenched in the fight. We each have “our people” and then listen and adhere to them like a herd of cattle. Shame on us. As long as we stay distracted by fighting with each other day in and day out, we stay stuck in turmoil and bitterness, and the joke is ultimately on us all.
If you are still reading, thank you. I challenge you to challenge yourself in your next keyboard war. No foul or demeaning language. Try asking a question … without sarcasm. Listen with grace and attempt to understand. If you are met with anger, and feel you can not respond without reciprocating, do not pursue. And always keep in mind something that Dr. Wayne Dyer so eloquently wrote, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” Oh what a different world that would be.
Heidi Wetzler is ClarkCountyToday.com’s administrator. She is also an occasional contributor of content. Heidi has spent her entire career filling various roles in the newspaper industry, first for The Reflector Newspaper and now ClarkCountyToday.com.