Monday, September 6, 2010

Closer Together and Further Apart

It’s the 21st century. I use a Blackberry. I have an MP3 player and a gajillion cable channels, so I’d say I’m pretty current with the times. Lately, I’ve even started getting all my news through Google reader. Who needs a paper paper, when I can get my favorite sections of the paper delivered to my PC?

I get the top stories, local news and political sections. It’s really helped me keep abreast of current events. However, I have become practically addicted to reading the comments people leave regarding a story.

It’s fascinating to see how people’s minds work when they are posting anonymously, hidden behind a computer screen and a protective ‘screen name.’ No matter what they topic … crime, the school board, unemployment, even weather, it devolves quickly into political name calling and race-baiting.

A commentator at the paper recently posted a challenge to the usual posters. He asked them to say something nice about the opposition. In other words, he wanted pro-life people to say something nice about the pro-choice side and vice versa. Those on the left could have come up with a comment for the people on the right side of the aisle.

Do you know most couldn’t do it? And some just outright said they wouldn’t do it. I tend to be in the middle of most issues and even when I skew one way or the other, I can’t imagine going so far to one side that I couldn’t see anything at all good on the other side.

I think its easy for people to vilify ‘the other side.’ It’s easy to call them crazy or stupid or misguided if you stop seeing them as people. If you can say something nice about them it humanizes them and makes it harder to spew unadulterated mean-spiritedness and condescension.

I would have hoped a decade ago that the Internet would have helped us connect. Sites like Facebook that reunites friends and family help show us how small the world really is. Yet, the commenters on my local newspaper show us how wide the divide between us truly is and how much further we have to go.

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