I am deeply concerned about the state of America these days. I’m seventy-years old, and I’ve never seen in my seven decades such vitriol. At there is a statement that rings clear,
Back in the day, vitriol was the name for sulfuric acid, which burns through just about anything. So think of vitriol as language so mean-spirited and bitter that it could eat through metal.
There you have it: America in a nut shell, couched in the mind and spirit of life in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
Sadly, as a culture, it seems we’ve fallen and can’t get up. So, stuck in the rut of anger and hostility we breathe in what we constantly breathe out. We now live in a war zone the weapons of which are character assassination, pungent humor designed to make fun of and destroy persons as persons, and acerbic news telling, designed to defend world views rather than tell the story with journalistic integrity.
How did we get here? How in the world did we get here? 242 years into the American experiment and this is the best we can come up with? Generations in, and we can’t seem to live together. We hold our worldviews so tightly that anyone who thinks differently than us is worthy of character assassination? Vitriol might just be our downfall in the age of Twitter, Google, Instagram, and Facebook.
In the film, “The American President”(Castle Rock Entertainment, 1995), president Andrew Shepherd, played by Michael Douglas, gives a speech in which he states,
America isn't easy. America isadvanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.
We live in a republic and the people of the republic are responsible for its ongoing development. If you only want people who think the way you think to make their home here, you’re living in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is America, American that has a constitution the Preamble of which states,
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general , and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our , do and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
In our Declaration of Independence, we find a driving principle that should be embraced by every man and woman who seeks to have a leadership spot in our republic:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
All this being said, I suggest that our leaders are not living up to the leadership requirements of the 242 year old dream. Leaders on both sides of the isle and those who claim to live in the middle or as independents are not a part of the solution but a part of the problem. And, it trickles down into the everyday lives of all of us. The anger and hostility expressed every day on social media, particularly, leaves one wondering if the days of democracy are coming to an end.
We simply don’t know how to live together in the land we call “United.” Yet, we’ve got to learn to live together or we all will be in deep trouble. However, where in the world do we begin? How in the world do we begin?
In brief and insightful article at oprah.com entitled, “Why You Should Take Your Demons to Lunch,” Elizabeth Lesser has a powerful paragraph that might just help us. At least, it is helping me.
"Otherising" is the dangerous act of turning someone into the enemy just because he or she looks different, prays different, speaks different, or thinks different. Some of history's most tragic events—wars, genocides, terrorist acts—began with ordinary people demonizing other ordinary people.
What if we chose not to participate in “Otherising?” What if we chose not to demonize others? Too radical? I don’t think so. Granted, It will take intentional reaching out that is rooted in some degree of humility and a great degree of seeking to resolve conflict that, if we’re not careful, will rip us all apart.
As a follower of Jesus I am wondering if Jesus wasn’t actually on to something when He said, “In everything…treat people the same way you want them to treat you… (Matthew 7:12).
Let me leave it here for now. Treat people the same way you want them to treat you.