There’s this narrative in the media that we are now “more divided than ever.” Particular blame is placed on social media and sites similar to the one you are reading now. In order to get society back to “normality”, we need to regulate online speech…heavily. That seems to be the conventional wisdom among elites, anyway. Of course, they push such measures for their own benefit, not out of some altruistic concern for societal well-being. Still, I will concede one point: we are divided.
Is the division greater than ever before? No, not even close. There was this little conflagration called the Civil War that you may have heard of. The late 1960’s also throws this era into the shade, at least so far. I lived through the Clinton and W. Bush years and can say with some certainty that there were some bad feelings on all sides during those periods as well. To make a long story short, we’ve always been at each other’s throats. I would agree that we are living through one of the more notable periods of discord but the phenomenon is hardly unprecedented. In fact, it’s just part of being a participant in American democracy, and, taking it further, just a part of being human.
Politics are a part of life, but they are not life itself. Personally, I’ve never had a problem separating severe political disagreement from personal relationships. Many of my good friends over the years have vehemently disagreed with me on policy matters. Not only do I accept that, I welcome it. Arguing is a great pastime, provided you don’t take things too seriously. Which brings us to the crux of the problem: a lot of people are taking politics way too seriously.
Don’t get me wrong, I take my political convictions seriously. But I refuse to let them interfere with my personal life. I don’t disown friends or family over voting preferences, or whatever the controversy of the day is. I have lost friends in that manner, but it was the other side who decided they could no longer associate with me. I didn’t lose sleep over such developments, however, because I don’t want to have petty people like that in my life in the first place.
I’ve made my living for years by writing mean things on this site. I expect I will continue to do so. Being sarcastic, dismissive, ridiculing those I dislike or disagree with…well, it’s just fun. It’s what I signed up for, and believe me, I’ve taken my fair share of fire in return. A quick scan of my Google search results will show you that. Looking back, there aren’t many things I would change when it comes to my work here, though. My efforts landed me a loyal, funny, smart, and beautiful wife. It helped me make countless fans and millions of readers. And it also made me some money, although I could stand to do better on that last score.
There are some folks I’ve written about that I genuinely hate. I won’t sugarcoat that fact. But the number is in the single digits. The political trajectory of our country also matters to me, but regardless of what happens, I’m going to have a life to live outside of politics. Advocate? Sure, I always will. Argue, accuse, engage in activism? Yes to all three. But getting so mad that you let this stuff affect relationships negatively, or even ruin your life, is ridiculous. Laugh at the absurdities of existence, take losses in stride, and be grateful for wins when they come.
Our time is limited and we never know for sure when our card is going to be pulled.