I want to say something about the whole #WalkUpNotOut argument being pushed by some people on social media. On the surface I have no issue with the idea of students reaching out to each other and as a teacher I’ve encouraged them to do so many times. If we lived in a more caring society, we’d all be better off.
But here’s the thing:
- The tacit or implied argument being made here is that school shootings wouldn’t happen if students were nicer to each other, and/or these kids are somewhat responsible if there’s a shooting at their school. Two words: Sandy Hook. Should those little baby elementary school kids somehow have known that the crazy fucking lunatic who gunned them down needed a hug? Give me a break (actually there are a number of mass shootings we could apply this logic to: Las Vegas, Aurora, Pulse Nightclub, etc). This also ignores the fact that this is a uniquely American experience–mass shootings DO NOT HAPPEN in other countries like they do here. Does the #WalkUpNotOut crowd think kids aren’t bullied or sometimes mean to each other in Germany or Japan or Australia? No, they are–the difference is those countries don’t allow maniacs to buy assault rifles.
- Perhaps more importantly: the people making this argument also tend to be supporters of Trump and the Republican Party, who’ve done everything possible since the election of President Obama to fan the flames of racism, sexism, and tribal politics through hatred to win elections. So it’s awfully hard to take seriously what is essentially a “be nicer” campaign from people who are so regularly hateful toward so many communities in our society, whether African Americans, women, young people, LGBTQ+, etc.
- The point of protest is to call attention to an issue. We have a gun problem in this country. Students walking out of school to call attention to that issue is Constitutionally protected speech they have every right to exercise (and for those that worry school are sanctioning or sponsoring it, they’re not–that’s a lie concocted by the usual suspects). Furthermore, I’m getting really tired of folks who claim to love freedom and the Constitution so much yet regularly oppose any kind of free speech or protest they disagree with; please understand, the First Amendment does not exist to permit speech, press, religion, organization, or protest we agree with–it exists to permit speech, press, religion, organization, or protest we disagree with. So instead of lying about #BlackLivesMatter or maligning the student walk outs or getting all pissy when African American athletes kneel during the national anthem, listen to what they’re saying and think about why they are saying it.
The larger point we all need to understand is this: the disagreements we have in terms of politics today aren’t the product of honest disagreements about fiscal policy, states’ right vs. federalism, or anything like that, which is what characterized much of the debate between Republicans and Democrats in prior eras.
No, what we’re talking about is who we are as a nation. Are we a backward looking nation willing to undermine the rule of law and the sanctity of our government and its institutions to serve the interests of the most rich and powerful people in society along with a nasty streak of white nationalism and the police state that’s sure to come with it? Or, do we want to be a diverse, inclusive society where people have equal rights, we value the environment, base government policy on science, reason, data and what’s in the best interest of the largest number of people, making sure that every American child has the opportunity to succeed and thrive?
What conservatives who feel like they can’t watch the NFL or Oscars anymore need to understand is that when those two visions of our future compete, people are going to weigh in heavily for the latter. Remember, Donald Trump did not win the popular vote and his approval rating is in the toilet for a reason: people see what he’s doing–along with Republicans in Congress–and it’s not that they just don’t like it: they fucking hate it, because it is so corrupt, awful, divisive, and frankly, evil.
I’d also point out that there are conservative approaches to governance we could apply to the latter vision–the society that we should aspire to be–but that’s not what we see from today’s Republican Party.
I hate to say this on my author platform, because what I’m really hoping for is that people enjoy my daily thoughts (which again, will be mostly non-political) enough to consider buying my books, and in that respect I don’t want to alienate anyone. But that said, someone who currently supports Donald Trump and the Republican Party has values more in line with a terrorist in Afghanistan than they do with me. That hasn’t always been true, but it’s unfortunately true today, and if that means I have a few less fans or sell less books, I’ll live with it.
Last week we were talking about the meaning of life and one of my students quoted John Lenin, who when asked about it, said this:
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
What led me to today’s rant was this overwhelming feeling of negativity I had after seeing some ridiculous posts on Facebook, and I realized after awhile that I just don’t want to feel that way. More importantly: there’s no reason I have to. I’m all for seeing a diversity of opinions–and in point of fact I follow a lot of principled conservatives on Twitter, people like Rick Wilson, Evan McMullin, Jennifer Rubin, Joe Scarborough, etc.–but I don’t need to hear from people who are closet racists or gun nuts or anti-government lunatics. Sorry, but I just don’t–and neither do you.
My advice: as much as possible, remove those kinds of people from your social circle, whether that’s social media or otherwise. Life has enough challenges and crappy things that happen on its own–there’s no reason we need to invite any more negativity in than necessary. In addition, figure out what triggers negative emotions and again, as much as possible, stop doing those things. There was a period where I rarely got on Facebook or Twitter and I have to say, when I stay off social media, I’m generally a much happier person.
And that’s the whole point of this adventure, right? TO BE HAPPY!
Anyway, thanks for reading! And cheers!