Last night I went on somewhat of a rant on Facebook. It was actually a very mild rant, though if I had said precisely what I felt, I would likely have been banned from Facebook for life. Yesterday morning, though I had many things that I needed to do besides write, I spent three hours without so much as looking up from my computer to get the piece on Donald Trump’s faux pas (alternative fact) about Sweden written and posted because I felt it was too important to wait. I skipped both breakfast or lunch (one daytime meal is all I ever eat anyway), was late doing the grocery marketing, and was still folding laundry at 1:00 a.m. this morning. But I prioritized and did what I thought most important first.
Then yesterday evening, I took a few precious minutes to log onto Facebook and within about two minutes saw no less than 15 memes about the Sweden remark posted by friends. Some were only silly, fairly harmless, others mired in half-truths, and one was blatantly untrue. Not a single one of the people who posted these had read my post, and likely none had any actual facts about the ill-conceived remark or bothered to seek facts. I was tired, I could barely see, I had a house full of rowdy teens playing video games, chomping pizza, and knocking over lamps, and seeing all those inane memes was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Now, I realize that in these dark times we all need to laugh, we all need some humour in our lives, lest we completely lose our perspective, our balance. It is why I write my Monday morning posts, it is why I read, per Hugh’s suggestion, a few comics every morning, and it is why, despite their rowdiness, I enjoyed my house full of teens last night – they make me laugh! But Donald Trump and his ‘team’ of villains are not funny. We cannot turn their lies and bad policies into our source for humour, for in so doing, we neutralize them, make them nothing worse than an object of ridicule. It makes them seem funny, ridiculous, but rather harmless. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I thought a lot about the situation during the night and well into the morning, wondering if I was making a mountain out of a molehill, wondering why I keep writing to try to inform. My conclusion on the first is that no, I am not over-reacting, though admittedly I could have taken an hour or so to think before I ranted. But the reality is that we are facing a potential disaster and it is not a laughing matter, cannot be summed up by a silly picture accompanied by 15 words or so. The danger in this, I think, goes beyond the fact that these things neutralize the situation, though that is also important. But the greater danger is that when people post a meme that attempts to compress a complex, serious situation into a comic, that person is as guilty of spreading faux news as any others. It costs us our credibility. When one does not check their facts, just says, “Oh look … a cute meme that ridicules Trump … I shall share this,” even if there are no untruths involved (and usually there are), it reduces the seriousness of a situation into a one-liner. And where facts are incorrect, it reduces the person sharing those lies to nothing better than a Breitbart writer.
Almost every person whose meme I saw last night are intelligent, well-educated and knowledgeable people, so one might brush it off, saying it was merely a joke. BUT … each of those people have Facebook friends, many of whom are neither particularly deep thinkers nor knowledgeable. THOSE people are just as likely to believe what they read in a Facebook meme as not, having no other point of reference. So no, I don’t think I was making a mountain out of a molehill, I do not see it as harmless fun, though I’m sure the same people will continue to post the same types of things. Perhaps a few will think harder before they do it next time … I don’t know.
As to why I keep writing to try to inform … a dear friend has commented a few times that my blog doesn’t reach enough people to make a difference, and that anyway, I won’t change the minds of the Trump’s supporters. To some extent, both of these are true statements, but I realized as I was over-thinking at 2:00 a.m. … it isn’t the trumpeters whom I’m trying to reach. The person I am trying to reach is the person who sees what is happening, but does not see where it could lead and does not make a stand. The person sitting in a group of friends who does not speak up when lies are told, who does not ask questions and force people to think in order to justify their position. I’m not suggesting that we all go out and be obnoxious and get into barroom brawls, but simply that we cannot afford to remain silent. We need to continue contacting our representatives and senators to let them know our position, to remind them that they work for us. We need to challenge friends when they choose to believe the pack of lies they are being fed by Trump and his minions. We need to use the tools at our command: facts, intellect, civil discourse. If we sit in silence now, some day a group of students will be asking their teacher “Why didn’t they speak out … why didn’t they DO something? Why didn’t they see it coming?”
The situation is becoming more grim by the day. We have a narcissistic lunatic at the helm, being guided by an anti-government white supremacist. Our government, a government that represents all of us, has insulted nearly every one of our allies, while forming close attachments with those who would do us harm. Our free press is being badgered and denigrated every single day. We have a man in charge of our environmental regulatory agency who is committed to removing most of the regulations that protect us and our earth. We have a woman in charge of public education who is both under-educated herself, and against public education. And we have a blatant racist in charge of enforcing the laws of the nation. That is not funny. It is not a laughing matter. It cannot be summed up in a cartoon, nor should it.