Can you hear your people? Because they are your people, America. The scared, hurt, elated, rejoicing humans on the other side of the screen at which you are staring. Can you hear this divided nation speak? Can you stop typing long enough to listen? We are the PEOPLE.
“Nasty” was the word for this past election. That term permeated many of our avenues of communication and media from the top down. It was used in political advertisements, networks, new stations, news websites, media and social media alike. Historically, elections are “nasty”, but this technological age takes it to a whole new level. Behind a screen and with the tool - or weapon - of a keyboard, our typed words have public and global power like never before. They can pierce the heart and mind of young and old, soaking in the very letters clicking away under your fingers.
The beautiful thing about freedom is we have the “right” to use our voices of influence for good or evil. Our views, concerns, issues and persuasions should be heard. We are better people when we speak up, listen and learn. Though, speaking up and not staying silent doesn’t mean we should rub one another's faces in the mud. The voices that are loud, mean, full of hate and self righteousness stifle the ability to cognitively listen, learn and grow. Empathy is formed with eye contact and face to face interactions. With our culture, especially these younger generations, those interactions are happening less and less.
I’ve been speaking and writing about “The ‘Human’ Cyberbully". The victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying are all people behind these screens. Our kids are reading our posts and comments. They are developing human beings who are learning, watching, taking notice, imitating and acting out.
If we, as adults, forget we are typing these things about real, life-breathing humans - with hearts and souls, history and story - when we are commenting on Facebook posts, then how can we expect our kids to grow up with any amount of empathy for others. What is the point of pushing anti-cyberbullying campaigns in schools when all our kids have to do is hop on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to see mom, dad, grandpa, aunt and uncle tearing people to shreds with their words and self-righteous ideas of how they are RIGHT.
Adults, models, influencers - listen. How can we make laws on cyberbullying to keep kids from committing suicide if we can’t lace our words today with grace and truth? Our babies…babies! (ages 12 and 14) in this country are getting prosecuted in court for their hateful words against their, now deceased, classmates. We have a responsibility.
In no way am I saying for our political culture to be silent. Our voices can be heard in humane and respectful methods. I am just asking us to model respect! Historically, that is the best avenue for change anyway.
So, I’ll say here what we teach 7th and 8th graders in the schools about posting online:
“If you wouldn’t look someone in the eye and say it to their face, full of empathy as a person…don’t post it.”
Here’s to our country speaking with grace, compassion and truth. Here's to listening to one another, moving on and growing. The election is over, now the work begins. Let’s realize our words are a part of our history and our future.