In my day to day search for interesting and, hopefully, relevant content, there are a handful of discussion boards I visit.
The discussions span a wide range of interesting topics from history to how to cook a particular dish to where to find a good deal on wool socks to the best song of the 1960s. However, politics, by far, appears to be the most common driver of discussion.
I suspect it's like this in many corners of the online world.
What caught my attention this past week was a post by a long-time and respected member of a gun-related discussion board. He announced that a heavy burden had been lifted from his shoulders and went on to explain that he had decided not to participate in any more political discussions.
As a recovering political junkie, this caught my attention.
A Shocking Realization
It was fascinating to see another person who had lived and breathed politics for many years reach the point of diminishing returns. It's not an easy thing to admit that, after decades of conversational, emotional, and intellectual investment, one's efforts have likely changed few minds.
I was particularly struck by this individual's recognition that he hadn't even realized what a conspicuous load he'd been carrying until the moment he chose to set it aside. With that shocking realization came the recognition that he could have done so at any time.
"What if I had invested all that research and conversation into things that uplifted myself and others?"
There was no legitimate value found in having spent decades of his life discussing all the gory details about the corruption of certain politicians, political parties, and special interests. In fact, focusing primarily on political malevolence and negativity had, in many ways, made him a more negative person.
The question he asked is extremely insightful: "What if I had invested all that research and conversation into things that uplifted myself and others?"
He then resolved to shift his focus to fixing things over which he has actual influence, starting with himself, his family, and his truly important relationships. He has committed to ramping up his efforts to positively influence the people around him rather than simply argue with them.
Anger Is Easier Than Action
His story struck a chord with me because I recognized that I too had walked this same path and come to a very similar realization.
I learned very early on in my talk radio career that there is a large and loyal audience that loves to be told who to hate and what to fear. The more red meat I threw and the more demons I gave them to wrestle, the more they loved me and listened to me.
It's a tendency that's not limited to any one side of the political spectrum.
At some point, I found myself asking, "Is this really accomplishing anything worthwhile?"
These fear and enemy-driven folks weren't motivated by evil or stupidity so much as by a need to define themselves by what they're against. It's a tendency that's not limited to any one side of the political spectrum.