I couldn’t dare say that I have a favorite Jim Harbaugh quote. Just like Michael Bolton from Office Space, I have the same answer. I like them all. I celebrate the guys entire catalog. One of Coach Harbaugh’s great ones is “Do not be deceived. You will reap what you sow.”
It is really easy to be deceived these days. You can’t spend more than a couple minutes on the internet or watching the news without seeing some truly horrible story about some disturbing person, group or action. We have the entire wealth of human knowledge at our fingertips, yet we use it to share pictures of cats, argue, hide behind anonymity to say horrible things and spread the latest positive or negative note left on a receipt. Where have our people skills gone?
I’ve started to tune more and more of this stuff out. I’ll be honest, I’m worried about the character, intellect and values of my fellow Americans. I think all our founders would be horrified to see what the world is like today.
I can’t imagine a time where I had more anxiety about our nation as a whole. Are the pillars of our society really crumbling as badly as we’re being told? Every conversation is framed as binary with two sides where two people of varying degrees of expertise come on to give a couple talking points, blame the other side, and we move on. I don’t have to go into detail here about what a lousy job our national media does, you’re living it right there with me. Rational discourse and a unifying message has been absent for a long time. I think this is more a result of the lack of any kind of leadership from our elected officials and the media narrative, but undeniably it is true. The nation is more divided today than 8 years ago. Of that there can be no question.
Why does the media do this? It drives ratings. We eat it up. Most of our political leaders are weak, naive, and out of touch with the American people. Protest marches of a couple dozen people, often paid professional agitators, get media coverage. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had more people at a birthday party, the media covers what people tune into. People want to hear more about the negative stories or else they wouldn’t get covered.
Is this ultra-divisive binary America a reality? Yes and no. I think that the media are really fermenting two camps in this nation who are more and more convinced that the other side is the enemy. I think we are fracturing as a nation, but more as a result of what the media is telling is. When you hear something is a certain way, you start to accept it. Tell people enough times that people enjoy listening to Barbara Streisand and even the most absurd distortion of reality becomes truth. Propaganda about the political viewpoints you don’t agree with are being bombarded at you constantly. The other side is dehumanized, marginalized and often made to be the enemy, not the opposition. I don’t think the media is sophisticated enough to realize what they’re doing. If they did realize it I don’t know that they’d care. They care about ratings. They never ask the most important question. If the other side is the enemy, what do you do with an enemy? Human history provides and easy answer. You destroy them.
The path is very clearly laid out there that come November, half of the country is going to feel their way of life is in grave jeopardy from the other half. That doesn’t lead to anything positive. In fact, it will lead to actual conflict like this country hasn’t seen in generations unless the media narrative changes.
I always try to lower my anxiety about the future by remembering that there are so many good people in this world and that we can actually put aside our differences and live together. Drive down the freeway and you see pretty much everybody behind a deadly 3,000 pound missile driving responsibly. Everybody is out on the freeway from all colors, creeds and politics of our nation. Drivers from all sides of the political spectrum. Drivers with and without licenses. Some speaking English, but not all. Bumper stickers from the dumbest to the most brilliant commentary. Yet it is 1 car in 1000 that is driven by some crazy, reckless asshole. Yet which driver makes the news? The crazy reckless asshole.
People I know and call good friends almost certainly don’t agree with my political viewpoints. I think we tend to forget that we probably all know people who own AR-15s, smoke marijuana, or are on welfare. I’m one of those. We all know people who believe that gay marriage is both right and others who think it wrong. Some agree with Black Lives Matter. Some don’t. We just don’t’ realize that the people we’re being told is the enemy by MSNBC or Fox News are our fellow Americans who we BBQ with, work with and enjoy being with.
I’m going to make it a goal to talk friendly politics more often this year so that people don’t’ always assume that a person who owns an AR-15 and thinks that building that wall on the border is some distant NRA nationalist weirdo with a third grade education living in West Virginia. I don’t expect everyone to agree, but at least they might stop thinking about the other side as the enemy. We all need to start working together and having the conversation that the national media and our leadership isn’t capable of having.
Patrick Henry famously drew on a phrase from the Bible in his last public speech. Barely able to stand, he said, “Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.” When the “Firebrand of the Revolution” had said his last, Henry collapsed into the arms of friends and was carried almost lifeless into a nearby tavern. He lived only a few months longer. With the little strength he had left, this idea is the one he felt most compelled to share with us as his last.
I hope our nation hears the words of Patrick Henry and takes heed. If we don’t, we’re in some serious shit.