This week I got my first taste of election-year political commentary, Facebook style, and boy has it been a gas. The last time there was a presidential election in the U.S., in 2016, I didn’t have a Facebook account. I didn’t open one until 2017, and I only did that because I wanted to promote a book I’d just published. Pimping my book on Facebook probably helped me sell a couple dozen extra copies, so….Ka-ching!
Anyway, I’d heard all the horror stories about all the horrible things that appeared on FB during the 2016 presidential election, all the fake news and fake ads, the fractured friendships and severed family ties, the all-around gutter sniping that accompanies any presidential election, only with a couple billion people chiming in.
But I didn’t get to see it up close and personal.
Now I can, through the magic of social media. For example, last night Trump gave his State of the Union address. Prior to his speech he refused to shake the hand of House Speaker Pelosi, as is the custom. Why didn’t he do this? Well, one reason is because the House Speaker led efforts to impeach the White House guy, and that made him vewy vewy mad.
And second, he’s a bleepity bleep who does bleepity bleep because he’s a bleepity bleep.
After his speech – which I didn’t listen to, read about, or care about – the House Speaker made a grand show of ripping his speech up in front of the cameras, her fellow Congresspeople, and the world at large.
This all grabbed headlines. This all created a stir.
I first learned about it on Facebook. Here’s some of the commentary I saw (names deleted):
Person One: Nancy Pelosi ! Ripped up the transcript of Trump’s SOU speech at the end!
Person Two: What a disrespectful bitch!!!!
Person One: Disrespectful to a lowlife thug, immoral, lying sack of shit, good on her
Person Two: You can’t think her behavior was acceptable!
Person One: OMG!! This from someone who thinks Trumps self-admitted sexual assault, mocking the disabled, lying constantly, abusing power is Ok? Gimme a break
Person Two: Self admitted sex assault? Stretching on that and he is their boss and the whole damn lot of them are a bunch of sore losers and total disrespect! Her ripping that speech up did nothing but make her look like the buffoon she is! Give me a break!
Person One: I’m done there’s no arguing with stupid
Person Two: My thoughts exactly!
Now, these are a couple of people I’ve known since I was a kid, which has been five decades or so, for those keeping score. I haven’t seen them in forever, and we were never that tight to begin with, and our relationships only exist anymore through social media, but I assume they are still normal people who do normal things. What’s more, they have known each other since they were kids. They grew up in the same neighborhood, as I recall. They probably played together lo these many years ago.
Half-a-century later, they are ripping each other to shreds on Facebook. Just trading hands, landing all kinds of punches.
I don’t know exactly how this moves the ball forward in terms of making an increasingly agitated and divided country whole again. My assumption is that it accomplishes nothing. Person One is not going to change Person Two’s mind, and vice versa. But they’ll ramp up the hate a bit, plant themselves just a little deeper into their respective tribes.
Look, I have no affection at all for the guy in the White House. I think he is a shallow, corrupt con man who would sell out his best friend for a pile of nickels. He cares nothing about the good of the country or the world. It’s always all about him – all him, all the time. His fabricated greatness. His fabricated martyrdom. His stupid golf courses and buildings. I’ve always respected the office of the presidency, regardless of whether I agreed with the policies coming from it. No more.
But at the end of the day, he’s not worth losing friends or family over. He’s not worth the Facebook anger.
At some point – hopefully sooner rather than later – he’ll be out of office. Then he’ll die. And one day nobody will give a crap about him anymore. Seriously, how many people care about John Tyler now? How many care about William Howard Taft? For that matter, how many care about FDR, outside of historians, or starry-eyed liberals who worship FDR but seem to forget that when he was president, he allowed Japanese-Americans to be held in internment camps, and also allowed Jim Crow laws to proceed unobstructed in the Deep South? And honestly, he’s one of my favorite presidents. But he still did plenty of foul shit while in office.
Does government matter? Yes. Does leadership matter? Of course. Do the decisions being made in Washington have an impact on us all? They do. It’s important that everyone do their civic duty, get involved, fight for what’s right, vote.
But I hope I’m strong enough to not get into a million pissing matches with people over politics on Facebook. I hope I’ll delete my account before it gets to that point.
We’ll see how it plays out.