THERE is an undercurrent in the recent debate about hate and the role it plays in our nation today.
It has nothing to do with political agendas, 15 minutes of fame or people who have a lot to say because the cameras are on, but who have no serious plan or workable solutions.
For them, it is about attention, not sustainable change, and it is the same modus operandi every time there is another one of these incidents.
The true work and the real discussions include all the stuff that doesn’t fit into a 30-second soundbite, the stuff we wonder about as we sit and talk about the country we are leaving our children and grandchildren.
The honest, real stuff comes out of moments at the dinner table, among friends or at family gatherings. And make no mistake, we are talking about it.
It is when political correctness and political spin are replaced with what we see as the realities in the world today.
Our perspective depends on the generation. But the bottom line is always the same.
There are some things that are wrong about the way our society is headed.
Generation after generation of Americans have talked about how much better the good old days were. Sometimes they are right. Progress is not always what it is cracked up to be.
Enter the internet age. In a moment, and with the click of a mouse, you can connect to anyone, find out anything and make your feelings known without an editor, without having to think too hard about how you are going to say it.
You can spew hate — and find other fringe elements who feel the same way.
You surround yourself with violence, gore and hate. You convince yourself that you are on a mission — and your reprobate comrades in arms cheer you on.
You glamorize those who have come before you and plan your own “statement.”
You head into a store, a mall, a school and you shoot. Damn the consequences. They don’t matter because you have convinced yourself that people don’t matter.
That isn’t about an issue or a politician. It is about a sickness. And even though we are talking about racism in El Paso, we are also talking about the extreme left in Dayton.
And just like the shooting in Virginia at the Congressional baseball practice was not about Bernie Sanders and the Dayton shooting was not about Elizabeth Warren, El Paso was not really about Donald Trump.
All three of these events — and the school shootings that have accompanied them — are about where we are as a nation and how we treat each other.
The world is coarser these days. Violence is accepted, and our entertainment industry spews it. And if you can’t find it in primetime, you sure as heck don’t have to look too far to locate it. Streaming services and alternative networks, not to mention the internet, make it just a click away.
And yes, it matters.
It matters because we are not teaching compassion anymore. And we are not modeling it either. Listen to all sides in the debates these days. Look at the attacks. Look at the bad behavior.
It is why we find it hard to talk anymore.
It is much easier to hurl an insult from behind a keyboard.
There is a word for it now — cyber-bullying.
It is affecting our children. It is affecting our relationships. And it is changing our country.
It is why we can’t talk about the factors that really are hurting our families, why so many children seem disconnected and alone, why we don’t have communities that stick up for each other anymore, why we allow people to attack who we are and what we stand for.
And it is also why we can’t listen long enough to create a roadmap for change.
We need to talk about what we need to do for those who need a hand to change their lives.
We need to talk about our experiences, our shared history and what our next act is going to be.
We need to say the hard things, the stuff that we talk about when we feel safe — about race, about tolerance, about compassion and about expectations.
We have to stop being goaded into guilt that advances nothing and helps no one.
We have to be able to expect people to respect who we are as a nation and as a culture, while making room for what we can learn from them. And, by the way, we have done just that for generations — even if its manifestation has not always been perfect.
We can expect those who come to this country to do so legally, and yet be willing to make a place for those whose dream it is to become American citizens.
We can love our country — and admit that some parts of it still need some work.
We can be “connected” without continuing to be disconnected.
So let the politicians battle it out.
We don’t need their leadership to change this country. It happens every day in every neighborhood and community when people come together, ignore the noise and get to work.
It is how this country was built in the first place — by patriots who put their personal agendas aside for a bigger purpose.
It is time we did the same.