1976, Clayton Junior High. The jocks against the hoods. Me and others somewhere in the middle or maybe on the outside — nerds, bookworms, artists-in-waiting, ROTC members, goody two-shoes. We were too uncoordinated to excel in sports, too scared of getting in trouble to be really bad, and too much (or too little) of something to be wildly popular. So we muddled through, one foot in childhood, the other wanting to sprint through our teens until we reached the magical age where it didn’t matter what jacket we wore, or whom we chose to be friends with. I remember the divisiveness of those days. There were separate lunch tables and sweeping judgments. Kids who had been friends since grade school ended up in different groups, studiously avoiding each other for fear of being found uncool by their new friends.
Lately, I have been feeling that same kind of uncomfortable, seemingly ready-made divisiveness online, except this time it’s not about sports or the ability to decipher Beowulf, but about politics.
No one has ever accused me of being a Pollyanna, and I’m realistic enough to know that sometimes there’s not really a light at the end of every tunnel, but I do know that most of us have more in common than we have differences. Most of us, regardless of how we check our ballots, want healthy kids, good opportunities, decent jobs, and safe communities — we want more of the good things in life and less of the bad.
I was speaking with a new friend on the phone today, and the discussion briefly turned to Twitter and politics. I don’t know whether she’s a Republican, a Democrat, or something else, but it doesn’t matter. The thing that was bothering both of us equally was how divisive and hostile political speech has become.
The social media that draws us together to converse and share has become something of a battleground for left/right politics. Sometimes, these arguments are intriguing. Sometimes — okay, a lot of the time — they are not arguments at all, but angry rants that leave little room for real discussion.
Later in the day, I made the comment on Twitter that I wish we could have a one-day moratorium on angry, hostile speech. I know that probably means little or nothing to those who engage in such language as a habit, but it seemed to strike a chord among those who would like to see people come together as people first, political party members second.
There’s nothing weak or politically apathetic about wanting a nation less divided. There are probably more of us near the middle of the political spectrum than not, or at least desirous of finding some middle ground. Most of us are feeling the effects of a down economy and sharing the same worries and hopes. I doubt there are many people out there, regardless of party affiliation, who don’t want things to get better. We may have different views about how to go about improving our world — we may not even agree on what “better” entails — but at the heart of every political matter being discussed aren’t just ideas or beliefs, but people. Not just Democrats, not just Republicans, or Libertarians, or Green Party members, but all of us.
Along with several other Twitterers, I wondered if we could have one day where we don’t sit at separate tables and toss spitballs at each other. Maybe it’s a bit idealistic, but perhaps those of us who are interested can just pledge one day where we don’t engage in or respond to the vitriol, but instead concentrate on what we have in common, what we are grateful for, and what we appreciate.
The twitter hashtag is #1Day0Hate. The day to come together is October 6th. If you’d like to make this happen, please start using the tag and promoting it on Twitter and your own blogs. Corina Fiore at Down to Earth Mama even made this badge/avatar you can use on Twitter or on your site! Feel free to steal the picture from here, or grab the code from her post.
Thank you to everyone who expressed support for this idea and suggested I kick it off. I’m looking forward to a day of renewed and new friendships!