I am reflecting yet again on the kindness that all of you, my friends, show day to day in your comments on my Facebook posts. Your support, encouragement, your patience and even your challenges sharpen my thinking and attitudes. How could anyone ask more of friendship?
“Social media can be criticized …, but … it enhances freedom and democracy. It puts the 4th Estate* in the hands of the people.”
As I look back over the last year and forward into the full length of this new one, I am struck by what one of my friends, West Doss, articulated so well a few days back. He said, “Social media can be criticized in certain areas, but there is no doubt that it enhances freedom and democracy. It puts the 4th Estate* in the hands of the people.” Great point, as I will show in the next few, short paragraphs.
2016 was full of surprises and changes some of us could not have imagined before now. The mainstream press was outed as purveyors of “fake news,” half-baked truths and outright lies in their efforts to influence the 2016 election. Many things that should have been reported to the public were not, many things that were relatively un-newsworthy were reported and discussed ad nauseum. But I digress – back to the Internet.
The worldwide web, including social media, is an important channel for all sorts of stories to be ferreted out and reported informally. Even if they’re misreported or fabricated (both inevitable, given the wide range of freedom), the fact that tons of stories and commentary get out means that newsworthy stories will be researched by diligent folks, “commoners” if you will, who will ultimately suss out the truth. By this route, everyone is free to find out the truth without the spin, and without dependency upon a corrupted press. So as West said, we individually become owners of the Fourth Estate.
Now turn the corner with me. Today’s January 17, and three respected friends, all of whom I appreciate, have challenged me in one way or other to “move on” from presidential politics because the election is over. Meanwhile, last week I posted short snippets on the about-to-expire presidency of Obama, including concurrent comments on his Chicago farewell speech. One friend characterized my comments as “full of hate” because I took Obama’s remarks to task with facts. I am “hateful” because I question bald assertions made on national TV with facts?! Is there nothing — not anything — to be learned from a close-hand review of a presidency about to end?
Another friend said this in response to my post of the Harvard University chart-analysis of Barack Obama’s “economic recovery”: “It is time to stop looking through a pinhole. We need to swing the door wide open, look farther back and at the same time farther into the future.” Exactly what does that mean — “farther back and farther into the future” — that he’s frustrated because his candidate lost? Looking through a pinhole? Arguably, that’s all it would take to see the whole of Barack Obama’s positive achievements in the White House, but why should we stop talking about the lessons of his eight years?
We seem these days to have lost the ability, the clarity of mind, to argue politics outside of emotions — i.e., feelings are all that matter. But why are feelings so important, so relevant, when we ignore facts? How is it possible that how one feels becomes more important than actual facts? So one’s feelings about his political party of choice having lost a national election becomes a reason to shut down discussion of an outgoing president’s record in office.
Interestingly, historians and writers still study the working histories of the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman et al. Take the writings of Amity Shlaes, a Yale scholar and contemporary author of four non-fiction books, three of which have been New York Times Bestsellers. Of the three, one was about the Great Depression and the New Deal, one about the history of taxes in America, and the third (publ. 2013) was about President Calvin Coolidge.
Talk about “pinholes!” What could be more boring and out-of-date than looking anew at the presidency of Calvin Coolidge (August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929)? Unless, of course, one wants actually to learn something about the man who, upon the death of Warren G. Harding, succeeded to the presidency and restored confidence to the office. Hmmm.
In summary, each of us has different gifts, talents, points of view, interests, political and social values – and even our own share of biases. Why do I personally write about politics? Why do I post opinions and information gleaned from a variety of sources? Why can’t I “just be a positive good ol’ boy” and stick to posting humor, photographs and what I’m eating tonight?
BECAUSE … I have a vital interest in our nation, our politics, our culture, our future. I like to share, to DISCUSS facts, to hear feedback from varying viewpoints. I love to consider the views of others, but I also appreciate and enjoy the right of all of us to see things differently, to approach matters from a different angle, to engage and chew on the stuff offered by others before reaching conclusions. I urge us as a nation to return toward that model.
That’s the way the cookie crumbles in a free land. Long live that freedom!
Carpe diem. Vita brevis!
© January 17, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work reserved.
* The Fourth Estate (or fourth power) most commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or “the press.” ~ Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster Dictionary