The Death of American Civility

I scroll through my social media feeds and watch how silent everything is getting. I’m unsure whether that means I’ve finally been unfollowed or blocked by enough people to get back to seeing normal content or if people have finally grown weary of all the political hysteria that has rocked this political cycle. But either way, I breathe a sigh of mild relief.

I have come to realize that the United States is fractured beyond repair, driven into the ground by the very freedoms that we hold so dear. Our ability to speak freely has allowed lies to permeate our discourse and active calls for censorship of opinions we don’t like. Our freedom of assembly has been used as human shields for people to take advantage and cause billions of dollars in damages and even more damage to people’s souls. Our freedom of religion is encouraging people to abandon all sense of ethics and morals. Our enumerated powers are looked at as obstacles to our path to a worldly utopia. We have gone from a world that saw the good despite our failings and offered mercy, forgiveness, and a pathway back to a world that demands perfection, subservience, and silence with no hope of reconciliation for even the most minor infraction.

I don’t see it improving, regardless of how the election turns out. If Trump wins, we’ll see this sort of behavior continue, even more viciously in spite of our desire for law and order. If Biden wins, the people who used violence, rage, and censorship will be incentivized to continue because they got what they want. The majority of people want to live their lives, go to work, support their families, love their pets, and find the place where they belong.

While the toxic rhetoric didn’t start with Trump, it certainly hasn’t improved under him. And unfortunately, the rage and hatred that has boiled to the surface takes away our chances for real improvement. We’ve become so obsessed with how we speak instead of how we act, with our positions on things rather than our actual interactions with others, and with our performative outrage for our tribe rather than trying to include others in making the world a better place.

Call me sentimental, but I miss the days where we would look at people and see them as a person, and not the collection of external traits and collection of oppression points in order to figure out how I need to interact with them on a power dynamics basis. I grew up with people of all ethnicities, and worked with people of all levels of income and background. And yet, I didn’t see them that way, but rather I saw them as who they were and how they treated me determined how I interacted with them.

I’ve been called all sorts of vile things by people who profess to be compassionate and empathetic. I’ve been cursed at, threatened, and accused of all sorts of terrible things and cast at the other by people who in their bios claim to have deep love for all humans. And I suppose that it’s just a sign of the times, or a symptom of human nature. The perverse side effect of our desire for belonging, community, and finding meaning. But hey, what are you going to do?

So I wonder where we go from here. My sense of optimism is really dampened with the continued riots, media and social media narratives, and the general sense of anxiety and despair that has permeated our society. I don’t know whether this all magically resolves after the election or if the country that I grew up believing in will die in my lifetime. I pray that it is not the case, but I will watch and speak and write and think and share, and maybe, just maybe things will get better.

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