We are a culture that has come to depend on 140 character soundbites and is increasingly enamored with “viral” distribution of our pithy one liners. We seek after a glimmer of fame in the sea of voices clamoring to be heard and validated. Honestly…it is more akin to a toddler’s tantrum than adult interaction.
Could you imagine saying to a 2 year old…”Stop kicking your feet and crying. Just give me three compelling reasons not to make you go to bed.” Of course not. Toddlers don’t have the vocabulary. They’re babies. They cannot form an argument. They cannot consider all sides of an issue. They are limited in their ability to express themselves. One day they will be able to do so, but for now…a tantrum is likely their very best option. Expecting a toddler to do differently will leave both the toddler and the parent exasperated.
But if a teenager did the same thing, we would immediately brand them as childish, immature, and spoiled (to say the least). We would take away their cell phones and banish them to their rooms to read a Charles Dickens tale. (Well, maybe that last part is far-fetched). We would consider that they were communicating well below their abilities and far below the expectations of social convention. If the same person were a 26 year old…well you get the point.
So…everything we do communicates. One of the things about the President-elect that bugs me is his inability to stop (or calculated willingness to embrace) firing off snarky tweets or off-the-cuff comments that are…childishly beneath the Office of President. “Lyin’ Ted” or “Crooked Hillary” is a ploy to pander to the lowest common denominator of the culture (or an indicator of a woefully undeveloped vocabulary). [Hears a resounding chorus of PREACH IT from the Trump haters of the world]. Here is the weird irony though…if those comments are intentionally planted to fire up people on an emotional level…how is that any different than blocking traffic or burning a flag? How is the conduct of the President-elect any more offensive than the childish expression of stomping or burning a flag to fire up your base emotionally (yes, pun intended).
When adults want to get a point across, they have a conversation. When they want to sway others to change their minds, they use vocabulary. They form ideas into coherent positions and they think about issues from multiple perspectives. Then, they talk respectfully to other people. They reshape their ideas as the process of communication evolves and then…maybe…if their view is valid…if others are listening and open to change…the changes they desire are implemented and the world is a better place.
Or, they choose to get their 15 seconds of fame on Twitter, Facebook, or whatever social media venue is readily at hand…and they disappear into obscurity along with what may have been a great idea. They’ve expressed themselves, but they have changed nothing.
So choose…sit in the middle of the room and stomp your feet while wailing about what you want and don’t have…or go get some lighter fluid and a flag and set it ablaze while you friend records it and posts it to YouTube…or act like an adult and form your thoughts, choose to use words, and have a respectful conversation seeking to sway others with your ideas.
Always remember, as mama used to say, “Be Nice.”