TRUMP, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND MORAL SUPERIORITY
Thoughts on Social Media, and the current state of compassion and whether it's even worth it.
So Trump got Covid.
Depending on where you stand ideologically, that's either karma, and a punchline., or it's a somber moment to be reflected on. While pundits, former presidents on either side of the political spectrum, even his current political opponent wished Trump a safe recovery, thousands of people on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else wished for death, mocked, laughed, made memes, or at the very least pointed out the irony.
Of course there is irony to it, and you'd be remiss if it hadn't even mildly dawned on you. This is the same president who claimed at the beginning of the year that the virus he has now tested positive for was a hoax cooked up by China or the democrats. There was also an irony in the fact that the thought might have occurred to many that this, too, was a hoax meant to influence and further manipulate the political landscape. Indeed, I'm not sure there have been many presidents in the history of the U.S. more divisive than Donald Trump.
After all, this is also the same president whom many hold personally responsible for the violence and hatred running rampant through the United States and beyond. At the recent debate, among many opportunities, he failed to condemn white supremacy, or the Proud Boys movement. Instead, Trump opted to rail against Antifa and the violence of "the left". It's difficult to not see a linkage between Trump's statements and the bolstering of certain hatreds, and the deepening of divides.
It's a deeply troubling time in politics for many reasons, but mainly because the ideological sides are staked so starkly. Vocal support for which ever side you stand on is condemned or lauded as a deeply moral one. It's likely the reason that some voters choose not to disclose their vote, for fear of reprisal or worse. We live in an age where "they" are wrong, and "we" are right.
It's like watching a tornado form. Red and blue, hot and cold, meeting in the middle, churning into a destructive maelstrom of moral superiority and spilled over violence, stoked ever worse by the internet, and social media.
It's not just politics, either. The news cycle itself feeds off catastrophe, and sensationalism. So and so just SLAMMED so and so, click here and check it out. If you were a conspiracy theorist believing that some terrestrial power was hell bent on dividing and conquering hearts and minds, the evidence is all around you.
Was it always like this? Social Media's rise in the early 2000s certainly seems to align with ever-increasing degrees of polarization, and politicization.
We get madder or outraged easier and more often about everything. We're pillorying J.K. Rowling for writing a book with a male character who dresses up in women's clothes to kill people. Please don't watch Silence of the Lambs, or, for that matter, look into Ed Gein. As a trans woman, I'm not offended by it, nor do I feel terribly threatened by Rowling's alleged transphobia, (she's actually written an essay you can read in which she explains her perspective on the controversy enveloping her.) There's a whole other topic of discussion here that I'll inevitably get to, especially if I'm taken to task on social media for not hating who my community thinks I should hate.
My concern is that there's no room for a nuanced discussion about sensitive topics on social media. You either hate what the virtual mob hates, or you're wrong. I can empathize with those who rage against the "woke" "SJW" aspect of social media culture because it does seem like certain fights are wholly unnecessary, needlessly loud, and outright taken to an extreme. People have uttered death threats at the people who make or act in Star Wars movies because fans didn't like the content. Death threats. As if the internet people had a god-given right to give and take a person's job from them, (to say nothing of just not buying the product... and moving on with your life.)
Which brings us back to Trump. I heard on the news that Twitter shut down many commenters who posted the equivalent of "hate speech" by uttering death threats, hoping the man died of COVID. I understand the sentiment even if I begin to wonder if Trump himself is to blame for all the hatred and vitriol circling the globe given that it exists on both sides of the coin.
Is there not an irony, also, in being one of the ones deriding Trump for being antagonistic and hate-filled, while at the same time being antagonistic and hate-filled?
"He started it," said the self-proclaimed grown-ups in the room.
I don't know that there's a solution given how deeply etched the battle lines seem to be. But it makes me think of that story in the bible where the religious authorities and the people bring a woman who committed adultery before Jesus. Their question was simple: will you have her stoned, as was the law?
Imagine it. Capital punishment. This woman was sentenced to death for being caught cheating on her wedding vows. Nowadays we want people dead for expressing opinions that offend us, how would this have gone back in those days, I wonder?
So they bring her before Jesus with the ulterior motive of trapping him. At the time, Jesus was a bit of a rabble rouser; an upstart whose teachings were contrary to popular thought. He was suggesting you should forgive your enemies, rather than having them properly stoned or tried. Outrageous. The biblical Jesus threatened the status quo. If they can trap Jesus, it would undermine his credibility and likely sow doubt among those who believe he's got an authority above the elders of the church. If Jesus says 'yea, stone the wench," then he's not quite the guy he's made himself out to be. If he says "nay, don't stone her," then he's outright going against the law of Moses. It would be the equivalent of pissing on the American Flag or something even more deeply offensive.
So there they are, asking Jesus to either go against the culture, the law, the group, the tribe, or fit right in and not look like such a cool rebel guy. Either way, Jesus loses.
Jesus' initial response is to write something in the sand, as if he's assessing the question quietly. We don't know what he wrote, just that he takes some time to write something. I always found it strange that the author noted this without clarifying what Jesus is writing. In the end, Jesus stands up and he says to the assembled crowd of people all clutching their stones, thirsty to get some stoning in before dinner, "let whoever is without sin cast the first stone."
The story says, one by one, they all drop their stones and go home. And Jesus is left with the accused woman. "Is no one here to accuse you?" Jesus asks.
The message: If you're without flaw, then by all means cast judgment, otherwise be silent. Elsewhere in the bible, God seems to imply that He/It/They alone shall judge.
It's likely simplistic, but my thinking is this: to sit in judgment of Trump for his inhuman cruelty to others, only to turn around and be similarly cruel to him would make us no better than Trump. I'm all for having opinions, but to use them as our basis for judgment, in the interest of fairness, should put the same swords we point at others to our own throats. An eye for an eye, as they say, makes the whole world blind.
To think that Trump is solely responsible for dividing a country while refusing to acknowledge our individual responsibility for how we got here is myopic. Trump isn't the cause, he's the symptom, the same symptom as the discourse on social media about whatever offends us. Is there no way to examine how easily our own hatreds are amplified and manipulated without much critical thinking?
I think it's likely more complicated than I make it out to be. Obviously, there are those who would immediately claim the bible isn't true, and therefore it's ability to prescribe anything helpful is nullified, but I will say this:
Without any shared morality, if we don't see each other mirrored in our selves, if sides are drawn and solidified without an ounce of compassion, if "they" are always wrong, and "we" are always right, we will eat ourselves alive.