Wow. Where to start? How to tread lightly yet dig deeper than any column I’ve ever written, or maybe even read, in a newspaper? Here goes.
Our country last week – voters in our country – elected a new president, and that man is Donald J. Trump. You can hashtag him, bash him, whatever makes you feel good but the fact is, folks, Trump is the new President of the United States. I’ve been around a while, and I have to say that I have never – no, not ever – seen Americans behave they way they are now behaving. I’m going to chalk the sensationalism of this polarized behavior up, at least a little bit, to our access to social media. There’s no time to think, no time to censor ourselves, just POINT and CLICK, or TYPE and CLICK. Verbal vomit seems to be the order of the day, and that’s never in good form.
I’m chalking up some of the shameful behavior to social media, but not all of it. I can’t (nor should I) address anyone’s behavior but my own, which still shocks and dismays me. Up until Tuesday. Nov. 8, 2016, social media – Facebook, mainly, because that’s all I know how to use – was a toy. A distraction. A diversion from the things that I should have been doing. I love words. I love people. I love dogs and humor and beauty. That was what my Facebook feed rolled out for me daily, until last Tuesday.
I love this country. I love its laws and its processes. The two-party system works, I suppose, but something got broken this time. Somebody threw a wrench into it this time, and I have to say that I had no idea how polarized the people in my beloved nation had become. It sickens and saddens me, but as for myself, I am ashamed.
Oh I love a debate. Not a pointless, mindless argument in which the only goal is to have the last word, mind you. I love to debate with facts and instances and historical examples. But then Tuesday happened, and facts and history were being diluted with fear and hate, accusation and rising anger. I was doing OK, I think, until someone accused me of neither understanding nor respecting the First Amendment. After that, I behaved no better than the people whose comments were making me cringe. And oh, I lamented this reprehensible behavior and blatant disrespect still more, as Veterans Day was all but forgotten in their wake. How did I honor them? More verbal vomit.
Sad, so sad. Angry. Smug. Accusatory – all of it. Just so sad. I prayed, as I did before I voted, as I did all throughout the campaign season, as I did when each party put forth its candidate. I didn’t feel good about either, I’ll be honest. I am more than a political party. I am not a racist nor am I an LGBT-basher. I don’t hate poor people, and I don’t hate the uber-wealthy. Not my area; not my job. But it’s been said that we get pretty much what we deserve, and perhaps that’s true in 2016. Neither candidate, in my opinion, was one you’d want to take home to Mom, anyway.
Still, all of that is a backdrop for what I hope to serve as a clarification, a clear statement from me. I owe it, I believe, to the good people who own and publish this newspaper. I owe it to people who, up until Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning, I called friends. And yes, I owe it to the men and women – and their families – who serve this nation all over the globe and too often, pay the very highest price for doing so. We’re bickering, name-calling, wailing and gnashing our teeth on social media, while they’re taking enemy fire and trying just to live to see the light of a new day. Shame on all of us. Shame on me.
Even so, still not enough. I am a Christian. I am a Christian before I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, an author, a dog lover and a citizen of these United States. I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) in the image of my sovereign Creator. In the image of a loving God, not one who digs into debate, scoring points and “unfriending” people who dare to disagree. Not one who ridicules and accuses and does His best to fan the flames of fear and lies. And in the fallout of this election (which will turn out to be no better or worse than any of the presidential terms that have risen and petered out in my lifetime – exactly half (D) and half (R), by the way), life will go on. There will be factions of people who won’t be able to let go of the panic and fear. There will be factions who thrive on throwing gasoline onto it. There will be factions of people who will rant and chant about how “we” took back “our country,” when all that happened, plain and simple, is that the pendulum did, in fact, swing back the other direction, as it has done since the birth of this nation. History shows us that, if nothing else.
I am certainly not under the illusion that my public and most sincere apology for bringing shame on myself, when my actions and words should bring only glory to the God of the Universe, will go much farther than this ink on this paper, though I pray it does. It will, however, squelch my false sense of pride in knowing and reciting the First Amendment; such tricks have no more value than a preschooler singing nursery rhymes. So what? It’s my business to understand the First Amendment. If someone casually says otherwise, that is none of my business. It’s the spirit of those words that should matter to the citizens of this country. Those words ensure equality. EQUALITY, in the realm of the spoken and written word, in the realm of the words you hold dear as well as the words that you detest. Why debase that? It’s frightfully simple, really.
No matter. I can only be responsible from here on out for the fruit of my own words and actions, because I believe – I have faith – that there is a kingdom far more important than this tiny chunk of real estate just south of Canada and north of Mexico, and citizenship there is given us through grace by our Father, the Creator, the author of design and science and all things good and beautiful. Citizenship is granted to every race, every nationality, every political party, to every person whose heart is softened, not hardened, to the only truth that matters.
For myself, I will be taking a hiatus from Facebook. Why? I thought about this a lot, and I can say without a doubt that it is not because I broke one of my top three rules: “You don’t have to show up for every fight to which you’re invited.” The only reason I got on social media in the first place was to keep tabs on my kids, but they’ve all outsmarted me with this Snapchat thing. I just don’t have the patience to learn another app that’ll be obsolete by the time I learn to use it. If they want their mom to know something, I’m just going to have to believe they’ll tell me and if not, well, I can promise you this, I’ll not cry “foul.”
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was published April 2016. It is the true tale of a crime that took place in Gwinnett County nearly 40 years ago. Her other three books are written with Southern humor. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national true crime radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she’s not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family and living in her beloved South. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.