The End Result

Well… here we are. There’s no question that January 6th, 2021 will be a day marked in history because what took place crossed a line that most people could never have imagined, but even so, it wasn’t surprising. That’s because where we are in this moment is a natural progression between where we’ve come from and where we’re headed.

Right now, people on either end of the political spectrum are supercharged with emotion and folks in the middle are feeling disheartened while watching the train wreck of the political system in this country rapidly get worse.

When something of this magnitude takes place the easiest thing to do is feel outraged but oddly enough, that outrage is mostly misdirected because it solely focuses on the end result rather than how we got here. It’s the equivalent of staring at an arrow instead of what it’s pointing to.

There’s a reason why people felt so emboldened that they literally smashed their way into the U.S. Capitol building. There’s also a reason why the millions of people who watched it happen were filled with outrage, and here it is…

US Capitol Building

We have paralleling realities in this country. We, as a nation, no longer have universal news or information sources. Instead, we have opinion journalism slanted to our liking. With many news outlets we get partial coverage of events to suit our taste rather than the full context because the full context would be less sensational or dramatic. We have people shouting rhetoric from televisions, social media platforms, and podcasts across the country all day, every day, with no end in sight and we have devices that help us listen to it in endless streams of consumption.

Living in current day America, I feel fortunate to have grown up with news sources that were valued by the American population as a whole. The news was delivered twice a day and presented by reputable news anchors who were respected in their profession for providing factual content about national and global events, while local and nationally distributed newspapers were much the same. The news and the people in it were held to a high standard and they felt a sense of duty to report fair and objective information to the American public.

The news has gone from: “These are the events which took place at this date and time, decide for yourself how you feel about it.”

To the current status of: “This is part of what happened and you should be really angry about it! I’m not going to give you the other half of the story, because it would dampen down your outrage.”

It might feel like a thousand years ago, but it was only around 2016 when fake news stories started being shared virally throughout social media platforms. That moment in time provided an opportunity for people in positions of power to step up and eliminate fake news through legislation making the production or hosting of such content illegal.

In that same era, Donald Trump realized he could refer to any news outlet as fake news if he didn’t like what they had to say and it would essentially discredit them to his supporters, whether or not his accusations were legitimate.

It’s such a simple and small act, but it permanently altered how and where American citizens chose to seek out their information, which just goes to show that small acts by a person in a position of power can generate irreversible damage on an entire civilization.

In both instances, our elected officials failed the American people and what we’re left with is a lack of confidence in varying media outlets, as well as a political arena where lying and the damage it causes is now acceptable so long as it gets the person what they want. Neither of these issues are partisan in nature. They have negative ramifications for all of us.

Facts aren’t negotiable, just as lies won’t ever be the truth.

So, let’s all take a few steps back from the fray and mayhem to look at the bigger picture. Many of the major news outlets (Television, Newspapers, and Magazines) are run by billionaires with their own agendas. Billionaires on both sides of the political spectrum.

There is more to be gained in puppeteering divisiveness amongst political parties than there is in bringing folks together, but what does the average person get out of it beyond higher stress levels and contempt for anyone who thinks differently than they do?

Here’s something to consider before pledging unwavering loyalty to a person in a position of power, whether it be billionaire media moguls, TV or YouTube personalities, athletes, or high-ranking politicians. They will not drop everything in their life to be by your side when you get arrested or shot for following their whim, and they won’t be there to take care of you when you have a stroke, or get into a life altering car wreck either, but your friends and family will. At least, they should be. But with how much things have deteriorated we are becoming estranged from our own family members over verbal garbage that spews out of our televisions. Which prompts the question; how important is your opinion? How much is it worth? Worth more than finding common ground in order to keep people in your life that you care about, who care about you? Worth unraveling a democracy? Worth people dying?

What if we stopped using our social media outlets as platforms to make contentious statements, or to instigate debates that go nowhere? There used to be an unspoken understanding that people had differing viewpoints and everyone essentially agreed to disagree, then they moved on. We didn’t fight over every topic to the bitter end, ultimately resulting in broken relationships, aggression, or violence. Now we all have social media soapboxes to shout from and if someone disagrees with our boldly stated opinion it’s commonplace for a mini-civil war to flare up in the comment thread. Do any of us honestly think that we will successfully change someone’s stance by telling them how stupid they are?

To clarify, this isn’t a call to stop fighting for the things that matter, it’s an attempt to hold up a mirror up to our current reality in order for us to recognize what we should be fighting for; each other.

What happened January 6th was the end result of a lack of oversight in regard to what gets to be called “the news” and wide latitude to lie for our own gain. If something is opinion it should be prominently labeled as such. News segments are just that, news, not politically slanted content. Any media outlet not following the national requirements should get a hefty fine for the first offense, suspended from circulation for the second offense, and removed entirely for the third offense.

A statuette representing Lady Liberty keeps a watchful eye inside the Capitol building.

However, all this would require some hard-sided standards to be put in place by the people in power; a cause worth fighting for if you ask me. Circling back to where we began, it’s easy to be outraged about an end result, it takes deliberation to trace it back to a root cause and attempt to fix the systemic problem at hand. It takes patience and dedication; it takes collective voices to make change. We know this from all our other systemic issues in this country.

You may be asking yourself, what does watching or reading unbiased news look like? For one thing, you should be hearing several different perspectives or viewpoints, some of which you won’t align with. International news outlets are a great place to start if you want to see America the way the outside world does. And let’s not forget that just because you don’t like something or agree with it, it doesn’t make the information any less factual. Facts aren’t negotiable, just as lies won’t ever be the truth.

I fully realize that there is much more to how we arrived where we are, and all of it warrants a closer look but a population living in dual realities requires urgent attention. The divide is so extreme in present day America that we can’t even see ourselves in one another anymore and that is a dangerous place to be. January 6th, 2021 showed us where we are, and now we have a collective decision to make about where we’re going. Some things can’t be undone but putting measures in place for the future is a way to move forward.

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Are you looking for a way to advocate for these changes? You can begin by sending this to friends and family members to read, and most importantly, send it to the people representing you in Washington D.C.