Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I'm Still Thinking

In my last post I wrote that I was deep into though about a subject that I would be writing about soon. The truth is that I've been thinking about this subject for months and months, trying to get to the point where I could put my thoughts into words. I've struggled and don't think that it is going to get any easier, so here it goes. I want to talk about the political polarizing of our country.

I don't like what is happening to us and I've decided there is no simple answer for the causes. But I think a main contributor is fear and the individuals and organizations that take that fear, magnify and exploit it. Political bickering and opposition is part of the fabric of our nation. We hear historians, under the heading of "You Think It's Bad Today," tell us stories of brutal in-fighting in our past. Yes, I agree, it has always been bad. But what we have today that they didn't have even fifty years ago is the host of 24 hour "news" pundits pounding us from every corner. These stations have given a platform to entertainers who say whatever it takes to have high ratings, sell copies of books and keep the sensation-hungry American public tuning-in. And I say, "Shame on us," for letting it happen.

We fall prey to these manipulators, these experts at identifying our fears and anxieties, and believe what they have to say. Not because we know they are right, but because we believe they are right. What they have to say seems like it should be true because it agrees with our gut feelings. Well, unless you really work at it, your gut is ignorant, uninformed and falls right into their hands. Maybe I should say falls right into their wallets, because, as always, that's the bottom line. It is up to us to educate ourselves to be able to recognize when we're being manipulated.

I know our country is in a time of change and uncertainty. We are seeing the results of cultural, demographic, global and economic upheavals. Change creates anxiety and fear, the feelings that we are floundering and headed for doom. Some of these fears are real, but many are artificially exaggerated. Let me say here that, if you are one of the unemployed in our country who have struggled to find and keep a steady job, I completely understand your fears. Those fears are real. How you are going to keep your life and family going without income is in your face, every day. You cannot escape. But there are plenty of other people, the majority in fact, who are not in that boat. We are the ones I'm writing about. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that our lives have not significantly changed over the past decade, but we are afraid of the changes that may come. This is the fear that is exploited.

So how do we know the difference between real fears and irrational ones? Educate yourself. Easily said, I know. But since I've been thinking about this problem for months, I have also worked on my personal solution and want to share a few recommendations with you.

Read news from more than one source. I try to read the Associated Press and Reuters news files every day. These are sources most newspapers and networks use. More than any other, they will tell you the who, what, where and when of a news story. You can find them both on the internet and also listed as tabs on Yahoo! News main newsfeed. Free, no charge.

Know the difference between news and opinion, even when you are reading news. Look at the source of the story and be aware that it may be someone's personal viewpoint or opinion. This is particularly true on sites that compile news, like Yahoo! News. Unless it is under the AP or Reuters tabs, it may be more entertainment than news.

Don't rely on television for your only news source. They might be acceptable for local news, but the major networks have gotten really bad about fighting for ratings and have sacrificed integrity of content for entertainment value. I still watch the national network news (ABC, CBS, NBC), but I've tried to read what's going on before I hear what they have to say.

All "News Networks" are focused on entertaining you rather than informing you. That goes for CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, CNBC and any other. A recent Pew Media Study found that more than half of all news network content is opinion or entertainment based and not news. If you watch a show that flies under the banner of someone's name, i.e. Bill O'Reilly, Rachel Maddow, Rush Limbaugh, etc., be aware that they are there to entertain you and keep you coming back every day. You may like what they have to say, in fact, you are supposed to like what they have to say. Just be aware that it may not all be true. Their "news" is politically slanted and will always be. It's up to you to be able to recognize that slant.

Read The Constitution of the United States. Go ahead. I dare you. All of us need a refresher course on all ten of the Bill of Rights, not just number two. We need to know which duties belong to Congress and which to the President so that when each blames the other, we know who's lying.

Take a deep breath and calm down. When you hear something outrageous ask yourself, "Who benefits if I believe this?" If the answer is some politician, network news ratings, online subscription rates, product sponsor or TV preacher who will ask you to send in a donation, a light should go off in your head. Maybe you are being manipulated.

I could go on and on about this but I think you have the general idea. You can't complain about the "Stupid American Public" unless you are willing to make sure you are not one of them. I know that is harsh, but I agree with the "Be the change you want to see" group. It's up to you.

Above all, let's be kinder to one another. Show some compassion and empathy and resist the urge to judge others. Put yourself in their shoes. Understand your fears and where they come from; it will go a long way toward helping you calm them and keep them from ruling your mind. And just know that, in the long run, everything will be OK. If you are a Christian, you are supposed to believe that everything is in God's hands and all that happens is in His plan. So act that way. Oh, and quit posting political items on your Facebook page unless you have personally checked out whether or not it is true.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you'll be back.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Annette. I particularly liked your admonition to "quit posting political items on your Facebook page unless you have personally checked out whether or not it is true." People who eagerly press the "share" button on misleading political posts seem to do so for one of two reasons: (a) they are gullible and too lazy to verify the facts, or (b) they did check the facts, but they want to win at all costs, even if it means willingly passing along a lie. It's a sad situation.