Vitriol offers nothing. It’s just an expulsion, like popping some huge, festering zit. Sure, you feel better, but only because you’ve blown another stinking wad of psychic pustulant all over your friends and neighbors. And still we rant and we rail and we offer our half-baked, half-formed, wholly uneducated opinions, vomiting them out on the internet as if we were doing something besides adding to the lapping tide of pestilent nonsense that’s rising around us like a diseased flood. Forget global warming and the rising ocean. We’re all about to drown in the sea of our own bullshit.
Obama’s a Kenyan-bred Muslim sleeper agent. Palin is a moronic gun nut who wants to use the Constitution for ass wipe. Conservatives are the dark tools of corporate interests seeking to crush the poor under capitalism’s merciless heel. Liberals are socialist elitists looking to confiscate your every dollar to build their godless Marxist state. And so we all run around, spouting the same prepackaged talking points without checking the facts, without considering their historical or cultural context, without pause, without reflection, without tempering our language, never imagining that we may be wrong, or not wholly right.
We rub our polemic, poisonous hyperbole against the body politic like a child’s balloon, hoping to build up enough of a charge that we can make our point stick to the wall, a stupid, childish parlor trick. But that charge builds and builds and builds until it finds an outlet through some sick, weak soul. And then we all recoil in horror and can’t imagine what we’ve done to deserve such a nasty shock.
No, you didn’t shoot a congresswoman. Or a judge. Or a nine-year-old girl. Neither did I. Some deranged man with a gun did that. But maybe we contributed to an environment where a deranged man might think that an act of heroism instead of the senseless, pointless and heartless climax to a pathetic and wasted life.
Most of my life, if I had something to say, I could only say it to my friends, my family, people I knew. And they could weigh that against my background and mood and separate the wheat from the chaff. Could know when to pay attention and know when it was just Dan going off again. Now look at me. I have a blog. You have a blog. It’s the twenty-first century, we all have blogs. I can clamber up on my virtual soap box and cut loose, and anybody can hear. You can hear. Maybe somewhere some deranged nut with a gun can hear.
We need to mind our tongues and our manners. We need to understand that none of us is completely right. That even those with whom disagree have a point. The next time I get the itch, the next time some bit of nonsense gets under my skin and erupts into a glistening mental boil I feel the need to lance in public, I hope I have the grace to remember that the boil is probably the result of my own poor mental hygiene, and that plastering its content on Twitter is as sensible and as constructive as a monkey flinging shit from its cage.
And I hope I remember that, today, while dozens of families in Tucson are mourning, I felt a little ashamed.