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John Zaring: The rancor is deafening

Democratic Voices

Posted: July 31, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 31, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

So a few weeks ago, I posted “I stand with President Obama” on my personal Facebook page. It quickly got a few Likes from fellow Democrats on my friends list, and a few polite-but-negative comments from some Republicans. Predictably, one strident conservative launched into a partisan tirade of epic proportions, real fire and brimstone stuff, and dared me to rebut his arguments in an online scrum.

Well, since I have a life that includes both a family and a job, I instead deleted his comment and sent a private note reminding him that kids are among my friends and asking that he tone down the rhetoric about America’s president when posting on my page.

Apparently I offended this friend, because he soon posted an even more vitriolic screed about “wimpy progressives” in general and President Obama in particular.

Since my private approach hadn’t worked, I posted an equally rancorous comment that asked him to confine his absurd thoughts to his own Facebook page. I also stated emphatically that I wasn’t interested in getting into an online battle with him, and suggested that if he couldn’t resist the urge to poop extremism all over my page, I would be left with no choice but to un-friend him.

Then it snowballed …

Suddenly, my Facebook page became the social media equivalent of a comment page on The-Signal.com. When a couple of other Republican friends chastised my eye-for-an-eye approach, I half-seriously suggested that if they didn’t like it, they should feel free to un-friend me.

One actually did, and though I’m embarrassed to admit it, my response was “Good riddance!” In all honesty, I’m sick and tired of fighting on Facebook about politics, and I’d rather see my friends list shrink than get locked into a never-ending battle with people who far too often dismiss nonpartisan analyses when those assessments don’t fit their ideology. I don’t mind if you disagree with me — in fact, I respect your right to a differing view — I just don’t want to argue about it if you blindly insist on ignoring contrary considerations.

But these battles aren’t limited to Facebook; some among us are even willing to change what and where we eat over politics …

This past week, Dan Cathy, the owner of the Chick-fil-A fast food chain, found himself embroiled in controversy when anti-gay marriage comments he made inflamed those who favor marriage equality. Hordes of politicians, celebrities and even regular Janes and Joes took to Facebook and Twitter to voice their own views, some swearing off Chick-fil-A forever while others, like former GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, pledged to eat there even more. Sarah Palin and her hubby Todd even tweeted out a photo of themselves proudly holding Chick-fil-A bags as if to say, “Take That, You Crazy Liberal Gay Fornicators!”

You betcha!

Not to be outdone, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos and his wife donated $2.5 million to a marriage equality campaign in their home state of Washington. I wonder how many conservatives will now buy their books in brick-and-mortar stores instead of online? Too bad Borders didn’t survive the new economy long enough to reap the benefit!

Our country is so ideologically polarized that politics seemingly permeates all facets of American life. Network television is already overloaded with political commercials far earlier than ever before in a presidential election cycle — most of it negative — and the cable news networks have ratcheted up the ideology to the point that a few days ago, CNN, the one news outlet that at least tries to play it down the middle, saw its president resign due to declining ratings caused by the constant viewer drain of conservatives to FOX and progressives to MSNBC.

Most Americans appear scornful of compromise and seemingly prefer to get their news from the like-minded. And so now CNN, the first-ever 24-hour news network, is faced with yet another defining moment in cable news history: Do they return to their hard news roots or jump headfirst into the business of inflammatory opinion-making? Whatever the outcome, CNN is facing the harsh reality of that old adage that says people want what they want the way they want it.

Our Founding Fathers wisely created a representative democracy that requires principled compromise to govern. Unfortunately, that’s not happening in the halls of Congress or on Facebook. Democracy simply doesn’t work when one side — yeah, I’ll say it, the GOP — behaves like an apocalyptic cult. Their center of gravity has moved far from the mainstream, and until Republicans once again listen at the same level that they pontificate I fear things will get a lot worse before they get better. Gridlock, fueled by intense ideological divisiveness, will rule.

For those of you who are unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science and remain dismissive of Democrats, go to The-Signal.com and have at it. Just stay off of my Facebook page, please!

A Castaic resident, John Zaring serves on the Castaic Area Town Council’s Land Use Committee. Active in education issues, Zaring led the Hart District’s successful Measure SA campaign in 2008, is a founding board member of the district’s WiSH Foundation, is West Ranch High School’s parent representative on the District Advisory Council, and serves on Castaic Middle School’s Site Council. He is also a delegate to the LA County Democratic Party.

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