I’ve been mostly avoiding political things for the sake of my sanity and the fact that this blog is not about politics but could easily fall into being such if I take my eyes off the major points too much, but I thought now would be a good time to talk about what it’s like to watch American politics from afar (with all the major thoughts in bold, if you’re lazy. I know this is really long).
So, I will be very serious for the next little while. To counteract that, here is an adorable puppy:
I get news from a variety of publications, both from the US and the UK, but the thing I see the most is what people put on Facebook (which I probably would not check at all but for the fact that it’s my window into the lives of people back home and I’m not willing to give that up).
WAIT, you may be saying if you’ve paid any attention to controversies regarding Facebook’s algorithms, Facebook shows you things similar to things you’ve read before and people are friends with people like them, so you only see what people like you see, and there’s fake news going around! That’s not fair, is it?
1- If you are saying that, fantastic! Always question if something seems odd or too good to be true, and way to keep up with how social media affects society. If you’re not saying that, that’s fine too! Not everybody can care about everything, and that helps our society to function. However, if you’re curious, Slate has an article that discusses some of the issues, and a Google search reveals more.
2- I’m lucky that I grew up in a conservative area but lean liberal and have many liberal friends. This means that my newsfeed is split not-quite-50-50 between people that are very content right now and people that are really not.
3- This is not about my personal opinions but simply about observations, my opinions of the observations, and how it feels to sorta just be watching it all unfolding…NOT my opinion of the politics.
Now that that’s settled….
Everybody in the country hates people different from them and loves people just like them.
Or so I would think if I believe everything people put on Facebook. I’m not even talking about things like race and gender and sexuality and religion and those really hot topics right now. I’m talking about opinions…like, actual opinions, not falsehoods and people arguing with things that can be proved historically or that have overwhelming evidence for them and certainly not things like how many people were at the inauguration.
I mean actual opinions, and for that I mean social issues. Don’t get me wrong; I have very strong opinions about some social issues, but one thing people keep doing is talking about rights. I’m all for rights. I like people being equal and humans being treated like humans (a statement which could be examined further and looked at ethically if I wanted to get really academic, but I think I’ll leave it). I think civil rights is and was a good thing.
BUT historically those things have been opinions. They weren’t always good things. They weren’t always seen the way we see them, and that means people can have different opinions on them. That doesn’t make them facts, but that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. We can learn a lot of things from the opinions of the people.
Saying that could lead to a lot of challenge from people, so let me give a modern example for what I mean on an issue that is not too contentious: either you support the Women’s Marches or you don’t. Whether they are good or not is entirely an opinion, but it is an opinion that leads to anger and mistrust on both sides, from what I’ve seen.
Those that participated in the marches or support them talk about hope with the women (and yes, men) they marched with and call for continuing to stay aware and work for change…never mentioning things that concern people not in line with their opinions. People that oppose it believe it will do nothing, is simply causing trouble, and/or that the protests constitute whining, disregarding the concerns of those that marched.
Yes, I have seen all of these things on my newsfeed.
The one common theme is that people rally around people they agree with, hate on people they don’t, and rarely try to have discussions with the other side – actual discussions, not arguments.
When I’m in America, I’m able to hear people talking and hear the nuances regarding opinions and the reasons why, and that gives me a better idea of what the people around me are actually thinking and feeling, like people that oppose the march but support the rights being discussed or people that don’t care about the rights but support the march because they hate the government. Or whatever.
However, watching American politics from afar leaves two opposing forces unable to admit when they’re wrong or overreaching at war with each other and few people trying to bridge the gap. I see people telling other people they disagree with to stop voicing their opinions because of their position, such as actors or people that work on sets, as if their job affects their status as a human with thoughts and the ability to use their personal, non-affiliated social accounts to share them….instead of trying to engage with them or just ignoring. (Anyone paying significant attention to some people involved in Outlander might have encountered some of these issues over the past few months).
It is, quite simply, terrifying and stress-inducing. I’m more stressed about America now than I’ve ever been, and I’m not even there.
Which brings me to….
It’s really hard to know what the real issues are when people focus on things that are ultimately less important for days at a time, so it’s really hard to know if people even know what issues are important.
For instance, the intense focus on how many people really did attend the inauguration and how the White House reacted and what the new Obama/Biden memes are as opposed to, say, what got signed since our president was sworn into office not too long ago.
There are people covering it, but I don’t see nearly enough people actually talking about it on one of the most used social media sites out there, even people that are a fan of sharing and discussing politics. Even the women’s marches have overshadowed what’s been going on in the White House, and although the marches are significant, they shouldn’t overtake people being informed about the things being signed.
And even when people share articles, they don’t comment, which only leaves headlines to go by unless you click, and shared posts relating to other things get paragraphs or at least some sentences to elaborate or comment. This affects the perceived importance of posts; people comment on more important things, of course, because they took the time to think of something to say and type it.
Anyway, when I scroll through Facebook, I wonder if a majority of the people even know what’s happening at the top tiers of their country, and I wonder how many people only get their news from one source. Granted, I don’t see everything and I don’t know everything (I never have and I never will), but I do try to read news every day about something major that happened in the last day or two…even though it usually gives me anxiety…and I want to try to start following representatives of my state to find out what they’re saying, although how closely I’ll follow them, I don’t know.
Just like I’m not really sure what the really important news items are.
And this idea of not be sure about the importance of the news I see circulating leads to this last thing….
People outside America don’t really want to return because it’s like a reality show that actually determines our lives.
The number of Americans I have heard about that would love to get a job and a visa that would let them live here for the next four years is crazy considering it’s every American I’ve heard about or talked to. Granted, that’s not everyone or even a significant amount. It’s somewhere around ten.
Watching what people say and how they argue with each other and realizing the topics that are being ignored in favour of ones that are less important makes American politics the realest reality TV show there is, so much so that it makes me feel like I’d rather stay here than somehow end up caught in the action. At least if I’m here I’m not totally directly involved; it’s possible to distance myself from the country like I distance myself from any reality TV (which I don’t watch, but I hope the simile is clear anyway).
These are real people dealing with real issues that will affect real people, but hey, it’s just as far away from me as the Kardashians and I don’t keep up with them.
This is, of course, not a good thing to be thinking, but it’s also not a good thing that it’s so easy to equate American politics and people talking about American politics with shows that make even small things really dramatic.
In summary: Watching American politics and discussions about American politics from the safety of Scotland makes me more anxious and sad about America than actually being there and able to hear people talk about it, and it very much seems as if people are legitimately at moral war with each other even though I know from having previously lived in America that that is not totally true and certainly not true 24/7. Doesn’t lessen my anxiety, though.
This post is longer and more rambling than I thought it would be, but I’ve had a lot of feelings in the past few days, so I’m not surprised. I would try to edit it down and also question if every sentence is what I truly mean but I have some things to read about the Finn Cycle and critical theories in Celtic Studies that have accumulated due to 12 total hours of Scottish Country dancing in the last two days so I’m going to have to let it go as is, flaws and all.
So, if you have any thoughts or something really isn’t clear at all, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You could also comment, and I will think about your thoughts on my thoughts perhaps in order to share my thoughts about your thoughts on my thoughts.
I will not, however, engage in actual arguments or accept hateful or blatantly disrespectful language.
And next week, I will think of something to tell you about that’s much more upbeat and Celtic because although this made me feel better and cleared some thoughts, I certainly don’t want all this seriousness and non-Celticness to become the norm here.
Which lets me call upon this important point to end the post:
Your Wordy Celtophile,