By Stan Wise
Farm Forum Editor
As I sat down to write this column, my daughter walked into the room. She was in tears. When I asked her what was wrong, she said that she had a bad dream in which both me and my wife died.
As I comforted her, my wife told our daughter that her nightmare was just an expression of her anxieties. That’s probably true, but it’s also odd — because the column I was sitting down to write was about my own anxiety.
See, I have a bad habit. I worry about things I don’t have much control over. I worry about the state of the agriculture industry and what it will look like in 10 to 20 years. I worry about the possibility of war with North Korea (and by extension, China).
Most of all, I worry about the divide facing our country. This worry is made all the worse because I know so many good people on both sides of the divide, and I hear how they speak about each other. What they are saying is not good.
Some might say this is all just politics and that it isn’t any real cause for worry.
But it’s not just politics. The rhetoric has reached a fever pitch. Snowflake. Fascist. I’ve heard the name calling, and I bet you have, too.
When I was growing up, the members of the two main political parties didn’t speak about each other like this. Yes, they disagreed, even vehemently. Yet, all sides knew everyone was an American, and they all thought the other side wanted the best for the country, even if they disagreed about how to achieve it. That kept the two sides from hating each other.
From what I’ve been hearing from the people I know, reading on the internet, and seeing on my TV screen, that barrier against hatred has disappeared.
When I was growing up, the internet was in its infancy, and few people had access to it. Back then, if someone wanted to speak to large numbers of people, they had to get past a few gatekeepers. If you wanted to spout blatant lies in an editorial, a newspaper editor likely kept your column from being published. If you wanted to go on TV and shout lies to millions, news producers likely kept you off the air. You were relegated to fringes of the media — paid advertisements, cable access TV or AM radio talk shows with poor ratings.
Now, in the full glory of the internet, everyone has a voice. Anyone can go viral. Anyone has a chance to reach an audience of millions.
We all know one truth of the internet: If it’s outrageous, people click on it. (Remind me to tell you how well our article about a local man accused of bestiality is performing online.)
This truth only encourages political commentators and columnists to ratchet up their rhetoric and drive the political divide in our country to personal levels.
Yet, how can we succeed as a nation if half of us hates the other half? How can we come together to accomplish anything good?
I keep hoping we will all develop a sudden case of sanity. I keep hoping that we will all suddenly be able to realize we are being manipulated by the voices telling us what we think we want to hear.
As my daughter cried into my shoulder and I told her there was nothing to worry about, I wondered where was the leader who could make our country whole again.
Who is going to help us love our neighbors?