This morning, I received two e-mails from two Facebook ‘friends’. Both e-mails contained the identical image: a photo of Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” asking the scarecrow this question:
“But how do you talk without a brain?” The scarecrow’s reply over the first image was, “I’m a Democrat!” The scarecrow’s reply over the second image was: “I’m a Republican!”
Like most of you, I get dozens (sometimes hundreds!) of these kinds of images every day. Many are characterized as “humorous political truths”. Virtually all of them are disparaging ‘commentaries’ on the sender’s distorted political views, or personal insights into the individual’s opinions on matters of gun control, gay rights, Muslims, or any other pertinent social issue of the day. Many are mean-spirited. Many of these posts are often vulgar, profane or just plain evil. But they’re passed off as “humor” by cowardly ‘posters’ who hide behind the anonymity of the InterNet in an effort to “express themselves”.
Later in the morning, I glanced at the YaHoo! News headline about the mass shooting in Las Vegas. At the time of that post, 58 people were reported dead; over 400 hundred were reportedly injured. Stephen Paddock, a white male, was allegedly the lone shooter who, apparently, killed himself after his massacre.
It occurred to me: could many of our mass killings in this country be related to all of the hate-mongering that floats around like flotsam over the InterNet?
Is it possible that these “quiet” loners who “kept to themselves” and didn’t mingle with their neighbors are influenced by all the hatred, verbal violence, vulgarity and profanity that saturates social media? Did Stephen Paddock stare at thousands of these posts until he finally ‘snapped’ and decided to ‘take it out’ on the society that he saw as pugnacious and unrepentant? Or, did he listen to all of the ‘talk show hosts’ spoon-feed their political pablum to the masses while they laughed all the way to the bank? Could Stephen Colbert, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Jon Stewart, et al, have provided impetuous influence that drove him to decide he needed to obliterate as many hate-mongers as he could effectively eliminate before eradicating himself from this uncivilized world?
We have evolved into a national community that thrives on political and social divide. Sadly, most self-proclaimed “conservatives” hate “liberals” and so-called “liberals” hate “conservatives” without an ability to provide a legitimate definition for either term. I’d wager a guess that most of these online rabble-rousers have never voted in their lives, and have never involved themselves in our electoral or political processes. They simply follow the propaganda as spewed out from the tainted tongues of their favorite talk-show commentator du jour.
More unsettling is how many of these online agitators proclaim to be ‘Christians”, even as they espouse hatred, bias, prejudice and bigotry against those of different races, different religions, different political views, different sexual persuasions, or different cultures.
So, when someone like Stephen Paddock blasts his way into the headlines, should we blame his disruptive childhood? His mental incapacity? His sociopathic tendencies? Should we blame his inattentive mother? His abusive, alcoholic father? His years of drug abuse? Certainly, all of those elements could be contributing factors to the man’s severely anti-social behavior.
But maybe…….just maybe…….as we point the finger at all those incidents, we should also be pointing a finger back to ourselves. Everytime we post an image that embraces hostility or hatred, maybe……..just maybe………that adds one more ‘spark’ that fuels the flames of savagery in an undisciplined, troubled mind.
It’s only a matter of time before some “nut job” assassinates – or attempts to assassinate – Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. It will be convenient to fix the blame on one delusional madman and his life’s messy influx of social chaos. It might be less comfortable for us to examine ourselves as a society that has gradually become addicted to unrest, turmoil, war, racism, sexism, political bias, religious bigotry and cultural distinction. It might be uncomfortable to admit that our Christianity and patriotism has contributed to the evil among us. Are celebrity ‘commentators’ no different than the propagandists in Nazi-era Germany? Are “we the people” no different than otherwise- intelligent Germans who stood by and allowed their country to be ruled by those who controlled the government, and a government that controlled the media?
Lincoln was right: we will destroy ourselves from within.