Social media has changed the way we experience tragedy. While my memory may have been rewritten with time, I seem to recall past national tragedies, whether they be a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or space shuttle explosion, being met with collective sorrow that was one part personal mourning and three parts social grief. The tragedy stood mostly undefined, like a portrait on a wall, while we all stood around it - looking. We gathered for candle-light vigils. We called our loved ones. The news media told us what we were to "make of all of this".
Things have changed. Admittedly, so too have the tragedies and the frequency with which we meet them. Now, they are all left to personal interpretation. And, sadly, left/right spin.
It is apparent to me that the only way we will solve the underlying social ills that caused this horror will be to talk to one another where we are. Not where we should be. And that is paralyzingly difficult. Inherent in our own position is the belief that those with alternative views are not only wrong, but are acting to encourage events like this. Unfortunately, it is not enough to direct our scorn at the shooter. We are disappointed and frustrated in a permissive/encouraging/fertile/unregulated culture/society/community and our collective inability to do anything about it. Or we don't care at all and dismiss those who do as grandstanding/politicizing/dramatizing tragedy.
A friend and I were recently talking about getting a group together to talk local politics like we used to do when Dennis was around. The Wine Summits and Pub Politics groups have either been lost or bastardized with false imitation. We talked about pulling together our own group, but I just couldn't think of any Republican friends with whom I wanted to spend two hours discussing politics. I say that with embarrassment and disappointment.
In case you haven't noticed, I've been going through a bit of writer's block recently. This has happened before, but previously I would just "write through it", meaning "this is not good writing, but it's my version of a 'juice cleanse' so either leave me be for a few days or pinch your nose". I just didn't think I was adding anything of merit to the conversation. In that paralysis, I thought back on my six and a half years of writing, what made it fun, what made it not-so-fun, and why I still wanted to do it. It boiled down to the basic premise of all writing - to understand and be understood.
We spend so much time telling each other we're wrong and not enough time thanking each other for the expression of honestly held beliefs. We also assert things as "true" that are merely opinions we are unwilling to scrutinize. My Facebook "news" feed is filled with long form essays that use words like "must", "should", and "cannot". How is anyone comfortable saying anything in such an environment? Why spend time "understanding and being understood" when you can just echo a mandate?
So here's my promise to you, dear reader: I'm going to try to be better about all of this. Pretty weak promise, right? But in all seriousness, the reason you are even here is because at some point in time I wrote something that surprised you or made you think differently about something. The reason I am here is because you did the same for me.
And if you are a Republican interested in getting a beer, the first one is on me.
Have a great Friday doing what you love. It is impossible not to.