Hello America! – I am writing to you on this special day to ask you to put down your pens and your swords for a moment and to reflect upon the country and world you want to live in. I am not writing you today as a liberal or a conservative, rich or poor, strong or weakâ€¦ just American. Perhaps a little vulnerable, but just American. And right now, pardon my discretion, I am not liking the country I live in. I love this country, deeply, but at this very moment I donâ€™t like it. We have become mean and thoughtless on a scale never before seen, we are talking past each other, on social media, trying to score points by backhanding others we donâ€™t agree with, and have lost our ability to listen â€“ to truly listen to each other. All at a time when there has never been more at stake, and never a time where our unity would serve us more.
So much of what I see and hear on social media postings, and in the news, and in living rooms and coffee shops is based in fear. Fear that the government is going to take away my health care, my guns, my social security, my rights to marriage equality, my clean drinking water, or my childâ€™s education or future away.
Yes, all of this is on the table, and we need to talk about it, but fueling those genuine fears beyond a reasonable threshold of reality is not only inhumane but profoundly destructive. Using our fellow Americanâ€™s fear as a tool to wield over them to push for compliance with our objectives is short sighted, erodes our legitimacy, and I think may destroy a unique opportunity we have to band together for the good of our country. It is not just the politicians and those who campaign for them that are guilty of this. Our day-to-day interpersonal interactions have become untethered, and disconnected like there are no actual human beings across from us, or on the other end of the line, or reading your words on their social media account. It is a problem of scale, of choosing the right tool to get the job done.
– We are all guilty of hyperbole when a sober self-reflective rebuttal would do.
– We are all guilty of shouting when a courageous, chin-up, square-shouldered response would do.
– We are all guilty of escalating, and screaming because we are rightly scared and confused as very little of what we read or hear seems true or right â€“ and as human beings we want to be OK and piece together a narrative that makes sense for us and our families. And we have an innate need to be heard.
Where does this lead us? At some point the cacophony proves too great and, as we have seen, we are reduced to consuming the bit sized bumper sticker slogans that our candidates, and advocacy organizations, and media feed us. And we repeat them and yield them as a club until we have laid waste to everything slightly threatening or even challenging around us. And after the smoke settles, we retreat to our echo chambers for self-affirmation and the soothing words of those that agree with us that confirm how evil and stupid and crazy â€œthe otherâ€ is out there.
Unfortunately, all of this venomous activity depletes all of the oxygen, and poisons the wells of creativity and of civic-minded participation. Weâ€™ve gotten to an alien level of toxicity where nothing can survive â€“ certainly not sincerity, or nuance, or new ideas.
To bring it down to the most common denominator: I think our problem is that we are not taking care of each other. Not taking care of our common spaces like the water cooler at work, and social media and our mainstream media. We are not being good enough stewards of those spaces and we are not demanding enough of others to do the same.
To the point, I think that social media is a valuable space, a potential tool for very good things, and one that we should work to defend and nurture. What do I mean by this? There was a concept brought forward by a guy named William Lloyd back in the 1800s and he noticed that when everyone acts independently according to their own self interest, that they behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource through their collective action. This became an economic theory called â€œThe Tragedy of the Commonsâ€. It is very likely that we all need to find a way to abandon the scorched earth tactics that have driven so much Internet communication over the last several years.
Social media is a tool that can be used for good or evil plain and simple and I happen to believe that we can flip the script, tap into our better nature, and through collective action make it a habitable place again. As one of the primary place where so many Americans congregate, I think it is imperative that we figure out a way to make it a habitable place again.
Today many of you, collectively perhaps millions of you, were out marching Americaâ€™s streets to fight for the things that are important to us. There is nothing more American, and I applaud this. It is critical for our voices to be heard. But it is also critical for us to listen and mend fences and be humble. It is critical for us not to have to be â€œrightâ€ all the time. In fact I think there is much to be gained by pro-actively putting down the megaphone, turning on your ears as we ask our elementary school children to do, and sincerely ask others to talk to us and make their case for the things that are important to them. Now that does not mean that you should ever suffer hate or indignity, but it does mean that you should hear out the other side. You may discover that, unbeknownst to you, they may feel that they have been treated with hate or indignity.
SO THIS IS MY PLEA.
I would like for us to fight to Make America GOOD Again – decent, and kind, and humble, and industrious, and hard working, embracing, supportive and above all reasonable. And that means all of us. And letâ€™s start with the space we all share called â€œsocial mediaâ€.
I am sincerely afraid that some of our darkest days are potentially around the corner – and I have been a politically aware American through the Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, GW Bush, and Obama years. I am not going to get into the specifics of why I think this is so â€“ there has been enough of that (and in some cases amplified by me) over the last year. I am a grown man telling you that I am scared. And I know that I am not alone. And fear unchecked and unresolved is most unkind. It begets anger. And anger causes people to lash out, often unreasonably, and I think that I have seen enough lashing out to last me a lifetime.
What I would ask of you, and I know I risk ridicule by making this request, is to respond to me (this post lives on my Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BradRoweOfficial/) and say â€œBrad, itâ€™s going to be OK. Iâ€™ve got your back and we are going to MAKE AMERICA GOOD AGAINâ€. Iâ€™d like to hear it from everyone, but especially from the Trump supporters. For you guys, it is your moment to shine and show us your better nature and to lead the rest of us and show us how we can get to greatness through goodness.
So humbly I ask that the response to this letter is not snarky one liners, or a dismissive attempt to put points on the board, rather I hope you have heard me and are willing to extend a hand to me as a man, a father, a husband, a hard working fellow American: â€œBrad, itâ€™s going to be OK. Iâ€™ve got your back and we are going to make America GOOD again.â€ And if you ask that of me, I will make that same pledge to you.
And my final request would be that you extend this decency to one person you have, perhaps inadvertently, cut with your words in person or on social media. I would ask that you reach out to the last person you traded barbs with and say â€œFriend, itâ€™s going to be OK. Iâ€™ve got your back and we are going to make American GOOD again.â€
Thank you for your precious minutes, for indulging me, and please enjoy the waning moments of this holiday with your loved ones and in the spirit of love, empowerment and reconciliation that was the hallmark of Dr. Kings life.