Our country sits in an uncomfortable position. We have faced much suffering within the past few months, yet, remarkably, the state of conversation around sensitive topics has grown more and more insensitive. Hasty generalizations replace pragmatic decisions, and outrage replaces opinion.
The motive has become, for many far-left and far-right activists, hatred towards a faceless victim, a generalized target with no respect to specific reasoning as to why. The lack of humanity exhibited by the perpetrators is, in fact, what makes such tragedy so heartbreaking. Blanket motives are not tangible motives for the population between the fringe. This is not a difficult idea to grasp, but it makes a dramatic difference when social capital is considered. The blurrier we make our neighbors, the easier it is to disregard them.
In Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone:The Collapse and Revival of an American Community, the historic use of bowling as an affiliated social activity represents how Americans have begun socially pushing others away over the last half-century. In the 1950’s, folks flocked to the alleys for “league night.” The activity was not a random instance, but instead a tradition upheld by the integrity of those attending. This group integrity bore many names—the league, the church, the neighborhood barbecue—yet all were the same iteration of association.
At the time, the value of in-person interaction was much more frequent rather than the now, trendy, lack of face-to-face interaction or participation.
However, as the passage of time enveloped a new generation, mistrust towards our fellow man germinated. After the introduction and widespread use of the television set, visible news media affected the atmosphere of the home. McCarthyism, civil rights, Watergate and Vietnam built the pressure, but the media popped the balloon.
First came the technological wonder, next the bombardment of a chosen image. The first 24-hour news cycle began in the early 1980’s and, with guilty parties growing faces, this meant that the available heuristic normalized devastation. The more gruesome a picture painted to the public, the closer it hits home. Slowly, things changed. Parents no longer allow their children to wander far, front doors are now locked in small towns and strangers have become, well… strangers.
Association is also a powerful factor in the subconscious opinion of the invisible enemy; it is no mystery that human beings crave a sense of belonging. Hyperbole dictates imagery and, while some would argue that stereotypes no longer provide a script for our interactions, modern society toes the line for voicing pride in similarity and embracing variety.
While we typically shun the tainted word “label,” we fail to understand that labels signify identity and association doesn’t cancel out the individual, but rather fortifies him. With a cartoonish sense of reality, the public becomes apt to accept singular storied bulletins to describe all similar events into one, compound narrative, rather than pragmatically assessing events as they happen.
The direct solution to catastrophic tragedies may not be available through the mending of the social fabric, but regaining a sense of trust to one another would bridge the gap in communication. Where communication is, voices are heard, and progress is pursued. By being in each other’s presence, we open the doors to other states of mind and learn to care about the human instead of the opinion held by the human.
A substitution for face to face interaction cannot be simulated by electronic forum, for nothing can replace the company of another person. Human life is precious, and, therefore, an individual’s presence is valuable. We all have something unique to bring to the table, but maybe it’s worth considering that the table itself needs to be tangible.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.