As a long time social media user - Blogger, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest - I am more than aware of the power of the platform. Facebook especially has enabled folks who would normally keep their thoughts and hands to themselves the power to start expressing themselves publicly, and many times to a rather large audience. The ability to press “like” instantly connects them to like-minded folks all over the world, and possibly adding those folks to the bulging list of “friends” they have collected. Since I joined Facebook in 2008, I have watched people I know “friend” people in their lives, only to “defriend” them – sometimes not only on Facebook, but in real life as well. I went on a “defriending expedition” of my own a few years ago when I realized that I had amassed a network full of people I wouldn’t recognize on the street, would never want to dine with, and didn’t want to have a glimpse (no matter how small I allowed) in to my private life. Every election has resulted in millions of Facebook friendships being burnt to smithereens. The online battles that caused the fire often carried out of the virtual world to reality. With it a whole bag of emotions and consequences many were not prepared to deal with when they didn’t have the armor of their favorite keyboard. A world of introverts now had to come off the wall at the party and be accountable for the words they published.
So here we are. It’s November 11, 2016, a day we should be honoring and remembering those who have fought for our right to do such things as voice our opinions and vote, and instead we are fighting and protesting like little children. Waving flags, burning buildings, flinging bottles, spouting hateful rhetoric. I may be naïve, but I would like to scream “Can’t we all just get along? Can’t we find some platform, some space, where we can have a facilitator navigate us through these troubled waters? Where is our voice of reason? Where is the logic?” Excuse me, but it is certainly not in our new President who is instead still rambling on Twitter. I had hoped his handlers would have deleted his account on Wednesday, but alas, his fingers are still allowed to touch his virtual armor.
The last two days I have tried to be the voice of reason for my loved ones. First to my daughter. I had to sit her down on Tuesday night, then again on Wednesday, and remind her how awesome our country is. Now in the last day I have heard from people whom I love tell me that they are so horribly depressed that they cannot leave the house. I have also watched as friends and family members are fighting, and folks are on defriending binges, and some are going on social media hiatuses because they can’t handle the impact the election result is having on what their Facebook friends post. A part of me wants to give them the biggest hug I can muster, put a vice in their hand (cigarette, joint, beer, cake, chocolate, wine) and say “Let’s go party like it’s 1999.” Why 1999? Because that’s the year we were told that the world would come to an end. The year that Y2K had everyone with an online bank account terrified that they would lose their fortunes. And where were we on January 1, 2000? We were just fine.
So, I have only this to say to you, my loves, my friends, my neighbors, and any of you wonderful beings that I haven’t met (and probably never will because I am also an introvert with virtual armor who gets as close as she can to a wall when at a real cocktail party) that I am an American. And the fact that I am an American gives me two very strong powers. 1. The right to speak my mind. 2. The power to vote. And as an American, you do too. So, the next time there is an election, I want you to sit down and read as much as you can.
- Ballot Measures – don’t just listen to the one liners presented to you. Sit down and read the text. What real impact will it have? Is there a piece missing that could be damaging and possibly hard to reverse?
- Candidates- Do they share your values? Do they have a real platform? Do they have a plan? Are they presenting what they consider something that needs to change, give you a hearty back up of what they will do to initiate that change, and what the change will do for you? Look at the Representative and Senator’s background? What have they supported in the past? What will the new Mayor do to your city? What will he cost you? (Those of us in Portland have paid dearly because of our last few, and not just with our money.) Will the County Commissioner listen to your concerns over traffic? How will that new School Board member help your neighborhood school?
- Think Local. Pay attention to all of it. What effect with that county measure have on your neighborhood? What will that new highway do for businesses?
- Get involved. Even if it means heading to your Neighborhood Association meetings, the local school PTA meetings, the School Board meetings, maybe even join a local lodge that shares your values.
- Pay attention. You may have been guilty of the Not in My Back Yard mentality and had your head in the sand. Pull your head out. Look around. What’s happening in your neighborhood? What is taking place in the city? Folks that don’t have kids rarely pay attention to what is happening in their parks and schools, but I can tell you from experience that wonderful change blooms out of both those spaces.
- Get to know your neighbors. Buy from the local fruit stand. Eat at the coffee shop down the street. Making connections will allow you to be a part of something and possibly help foster a change that will run all the way up to the national level. It happens all the time. An idea seed is planted by one and grows to many until the support reaches the majority and becomes the rule. Where do you think Donald Trump came up with the idea to run? Someone whispered it in his ear when he and Barack Obama were flinging insults at each other. “You should run for President”.