Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to claim innocence or cast stones at the guilty. I will be the first to admit, I am as guilty as anyone of spewing out words that I later wish I could take back, or making swift, bitter, comments in the heat of the moment without slowing down to realize the impact of my words. Therefore, I write this as a reminder to myself, as well as a reminder to others because I think we all need it from time to time.
I feel the world changed for the worse on November 6th, 2012 after a long heated season of campaigning, debating and speculation. It wasn’t the outcome of the election that was the problem – it was the instantaneous explosion on social media. For the first six days of November social media was filled with Today I’m thankful for… in the spirit of Thanksgiving netizens were using twitter, facebook and other outlets to say each day for the month of November what they are thankful for. Joy, happiness and gratitude were instantaneously spread throughout the world as millions focused on the positive.
But around 11:15pm eastern time, Obama was declared to be the next president of the United States of America and all gratitude, warm fuzzy feelings, appreciation and consideration went out the window. The world (by way of the web) exploded with exclamations of the tragedy, the horror, the end of the country we love, the agony and pain that we will experience over the next 4 years and a loss of hope as our country will surely go to ruin. On the other side, there was gloating, pride, in-your-face-suckers smirks, rubbing dirt in the face of defeated opponents.
The morning after the election when I woke up to a news feed full of ranting and raving, I posted this: so much hatred on facebook today. Seriously people? I get that half the country is pissed off, but do we have to be so bitter and hateful? Is that really going to help anything? I ♥ my friends, democrats and republicans alike. I’m glad y’all care about your country and got out to vote. So now show that you care about America and your fellow Americans by having a little respect and making the most of what we have.
Which, again, I should have prefaced with – I know I am guilty as well, just as both sides of the political realm are guilty.
But today, as I read beautifully written blog post by Jo Ashline (click here) and her view on the “Sad and Tragic Day for Our Nation“. I began to think more about how grateful we should all be in light of, or despite of the outcome of our election. I began to think about how my own attitudes and words should be a bit more humble, a bit more appreciative and a bit more grateful. I began to think about how I should stop, think and reexamine my words before I go off on someone, or something in anger, impatience, disappointment or selfishness. How maybe I should think more about how I have been blessed and less about how much better things could be if….. (fill in the blank).
You may disagree with Obama’s politics. You may disagree with universal healthcare, foodstamps and abortion. You may believe that our government is falling apart and only encourages freeloaders who don’t want to work or pay for their own needs. You can believe whatever you want, but maybe you could consider how good you have it to be born in and to live in this country, whether Obama or Romney, Bush or Clinton, or Big Bird or Rush Limbaugh is president.
As Jo mentioned so eloquently in her blog, Some are elated tonight, and some are downright depressed, but know this: we get to pick again in 4 years. Before you bad mouth our country, try living somewhere else, where there is No choice and truly No hope. Count your blessings America, because there are many.
It is only four years, then America can choose again. We have the right, the freedom, the ability to chose. Four years seem like an eternity to you? Why don’t you consider this:
China – where I recently spent 14 months – is choosing a new leader soon who will serve for the next ten years along with a small elite group of individuals from China’s one political party, the communist party. These the leaders will be chosen by 2200 delegates of the communist party in an incredibly secretive selection process in Beijing. What about the other 1.3 billion citizens of China? Oh well, they don’t have a say.
If those other 1.3 billion individuals do want to talk about what they think of the government and politics, they certainly can’t do it freely, not even on the internet. They live in a world where YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and countless other websites are restricted for most people, and their own social media outlets such as Weibo and Renren are heavily censored.
While I was in China, LinkedIn was suddenly shut down without reason or notice for several days, later determined to be because of talks of civilian protests online. At one point, the Chinese name for Hillary Clinton was censored and any comments about her were blocked because of comments she made regarding human rights in China.
Whether or not you think the government should regulate healthcare and payment for healthcare, shouldn’t you be grateful that you have healthcare? Think about the little girl that came to Shanghai to receive medical treatment in the summer of 2011 – I blogged about her and two other children here.
Lu Guo Yin, studies at Qiao Man school, has no medical record. Her eye was injured because a thorn poked into her eye. Because she lives in a very rural area, she couldn’t get treatment immediately, now she has lost her eye sight in her left eye.
Normally, to receive any sort of medical treatment these kids would have to travel over 7 hours. Even then, the treatment would be primitive at best.
She ended up having her eye removed and received a prosthetic eye. With access to healthcare, this would have been a minor injury, easy to recover from with full vision. She, by the graciousness of strangers, traveled for two days far far away from home and went through a traumatic surgery in a run-down Chinese hospital. Yet we complain about healthcare.
India – Another 1.2 billion people, another booming third world economy, another example of oppression, extreme poverty and lack of freedom. Before you talk about how Obama is a terrorist and having him in office is suicide for our nation. Then drive your $40,000 car to the church of your choosing on Sunday, and take $5 out of your Louis Vuitton purse to throw in the offering to do your part for those less fortunate – why don’t you go meet some of the people I met in India last year.
Go talk to the family who lived on $20 a month, and dedicated their lives to spreading the gospel. Spreading the gospel in a place where it is forbidden. Every day facing the reality that they could be beaten, killed or thrown in jail for sharing their faith with others. Continuing to spread the word of God even after being beaten and thrown in jail, and watching the same thing happen over and over to friends and family. Continuing to pack one room shacks with one light-bulb and no plumbing full of people in villages of “untouchables” to hold church services. Go spend time with people who have absolutely nothing but their faith which they are persecuted for and then tell me how awful it is that you have to live through 4 more years of Obama.
Thailand - Did you know this is part their constitution? “The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action… Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”
How would you like to spend 15 years in prison for mouthing off about the president? Be grateful, you don’t have to.
Burma – Did you know that only 0.2% of citizens have internet and only 1% of individuals have a cell phone?
Cambodia – Did you know they were under communist rule until the early 90′s – if you studied something other than Russian or Vietnamese you were thrown in prison. Just over 30 years ago, a quarter of the population of the country was killed. Killed for being educated, killed for having an opinion, killed for the sake of being killed.
The internet has changed our lives, for better or worse. With social media thousands of people around the world can hear your thoughts and opinions within seconds. Your words have a lasting impact on people near and far. I know we have differing opinions, beliefs, priorities and desires, but would it be too much to ask to just stop and think before your next rant online. Let’s go back to being thankful, thankful for being born in a country that provides us with more freedoms than most of the world could even imagine. Let’s be thankful for democracy, even with it’s imperfections. Let’s be thankful for the right to vote and be heard. Let’s be thankful for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Or, don’t. Complain, rant, insult, be hateful, bitter and ungrateful. That works too. Because you have freedom of speech and can say whatever you want.