A couple of weeks ago, my husband, Garrett, decided to get more active on Facebook. One of his motivations was a realization that our friends are, for the most part, like-minded—Democrats, fairly liberal, etc.
He decided to send friend requests to anyone with 50 or more mutual friends—people with whom he likely had something in common, but didn’t necessarily already know.
His Facebook friends list grew by hundreds over the next few days … and this led to some interesting things. A few of his new “friends” instantly hit on him. He had a couple of nice conversations with people regarding their common connections. And he discovered that some of his new Facebook friends were rather fervent Trump supporters.
For some people—many people, actually—this would have led to an instant click of the “unfriend” link. I’ve seen a lot of my liberal friends brag with glee after unfriending Trump supporters who had chosen to speak out on Facebook; I’ve even heard some talk about unfriending people who merely clicked “like” on Trump’s page, even though people “like” Facebook pages for a lot of different reasons.
However, Garrett’s goal was not to simply become “friends” with yet more people who shared his opinions—so rather than clicking “unfriend,” he decided to engage.
I asked Garrett what he has learned so far from his Trump-supporting friends. His rather depressing response: “They’re self-isolating and aren’t interested in other opinions.”
In other words, they’re just like our liberal friends.
There’s a lesson to be learned here: We should all be a little more like Garrett, and reach out more to our neighbors who may not agree with us. After all, we need to share our roads, our stores, our cities, our planet; shouldn’t we at least make an effort to understand each other? As Garrett said to one of the Trump supporters (who, alas, went on to unfriend him): “If we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.”
I am going to repeat that, because it’s important: If we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.
Today and tomorrow, the Independent is joining hundreds of newspapers and news websites around the country in publishing editorials calling on President Donald Trump to stop his near-constant attacks on the freedom of the press. Since before he took office, Trump has repeatedly, and angrily, denounced the news media as a whole—even, as I recently mentioned, going so far to refer to the media as “enemy of the people.”
I could go into details here about how this rhetoric is right out of the authoritarianism playbook. I could elaborate on how the news media is not one big, cohesive entity, but instead, many hundreds of publications with all sorts of different editorial philosophies and viewpoints, ranging from sharply liberal to staunchly conservative. I could go on and on … but I won’t. I’ll just again repeat Garrett’s words: If we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.
The nation’s free, unrestricted press is one of the ways we communicate with each other—and the unwarranted, unspecific and potentially dangerous verbal attacks by the president on the free press must stop.
We all need to do better. As citizens, we need to do a better job of understanding other. As newspapers, we need to make sure we’re being as diverse as possible—inclusive of all valid viewpoints and concerns. Our public officials need to do a better job of representing their constituents—all of them—and being leaders.
Of course, leadership starts at the top, and in the United States, that means it starts with the president of the United States.
No matter what your politics are, I hope we can all agree: Journalists are not the enemy. Because if we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.