Musings on a Gawker Interaction

“Fuck you, scum.”

That was the abrupt end to a comment I received today. There was a bit more to it, but that was the salient point.

Since the exchange occurred on Gawker, it would be easy to make this about Kinja – dismiss the exchange with a lighthearted joke that this must be the elevated discussion I keep hearing so much about, and then move on. But it’s not Kinja: “Fuck you, scum” is the state of political discourse in the United States today.

I was an English major and have been a writer so it’s no surprise that I believe words wield tremendous power. Proclamations of war and treaties restoring peace both are built with words. Two simple words, I do, have been the beginning of families throughout the ages; three solemn words, rest in peace, memorialize those who've gone before. Words have formed more perfect unions, and they've ripped them apart when, in the course of human events, it’s become necessary.

We hold these truths to be self-evident… Four score and seven years ago…I have a dream…

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Words form our national identity. They elucidate our values, govern our actions, and chronicle the stories that make us one united nation woven from disparate pasts.

You are either with us or against…

Words can just as easily rend: North vs. South, Democrat vs. Republican, Liberal vs. Conservative, Black vs. White, Gay vs. Straight. Labels — and all of the baggage with which they’re fraught — divide us, creating strife from unity and obscuring those self-evident truths on which our nation was founded. The differences are real of course, and our diversity fosters unique perspectives that have – despite our many flaws – made us a successful and fairly free nation that even manages to be a global agent of good from time to time.

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And yet the state of our verbal union is in shambles. Screaming pundits and scathing op-eds alike spew downright scandalous invective at anyone deigning to disagree. Respect? None. We’re awash in a sea of voices growing progressively louder, hyperbole drowning out reason, poisoned polemics the new prescription for sound politics.

If we hope to continue striving for that more perfect union, we cannot allow our productive diversity to become an incoherent cacophony of Babel-esque proportions. Differences can constructively divide, but only when they don’t devolve into a dissonant chorus of fuck yous.