My old man once started an ad agency with a memo telling his new employees, “If we don’t do bad work, bad work won’t get done.”
Similarly, Americans can make this a better country by not being such twits, themselves.
Stop watching cable news, because it makes you into an asshole, even if you weren’t one going in. I used to be a fairly regular cable news watcher. It was an indulgence, like the playful picking of a scab. When the scab is gone, you perversely wish it was back, because now what are you going to do? And Rachel or Chris or Tucker always bring back the scab, night after night. But during Covid, I’ve avoided cable news almost exclusively—originally out of out of sheer anxiety, and now because of absurdity—how obvious it sounds to unaccustomed ears, these anchors’ pure and brazen attempts to make me mad. Because Americans’ problem is, we’re not mad enough. “Did you hear what Trump said about you? He called you a fatso! Are you just going to stand there and take that?” That’s exactly how all cable news sounds to me now.
Stop causing trouble on social media, on the theory that, as one Facebooker put it, “I am a firm believer that sometimes it is fun to be a bit reckless in an argument, and still have the balls to keep going. I know it’s dumb, but sometimes it’s more fun to be less academic, and just let off steam. Not everything can be poised, and perfect all the time because some of these people are not reasonable, and it’s good practice to just be a bit of a rabble rouser just to see who gets mad about what, and not always about if my argument was perfect.” Listen up, and listen good, Sis—even if you think your argument is perfect, it’s probably not perfect. If you know it’s not perfect, and you throw it out there anyway “just to see who gets mad about what”? At this moment in American life? Then you’re no better than—well, a cable news host making a million bucks a year.
And for godsakes, try to add something constructive to the conversation. That doesn’t mean being a smarmy mush-mouth all the time, never saying a discouraging word. But no matter where you are politically, you probably agree that the building is on fire. So every time you go to say, post or tweet a thing, ask yourself what possible good saying it might do. “Provoke a fun food fight” might have been an acceptable answer in the teenage early days of social media, but only a social vandal would think that’s cool now. “Shout fire again” probably doesn’t do us much good at this point, either. Michael Moore once pointed out that preaching to the choir is OK because the choir needs a common message, too. Well, I think the choir is good for the moment, don’t you? Say things that you believe truly need to be said by you—but otherwise, seriously consider saying nothing at all.
Sometimes the easiest way to be the change we want to see in the world is to stop being the asshole you don’t.