Be The Change

Welcome to Week 75 of Be the Change

This week I look at how meme-based online discourse is a problem for our democracy, and propose five possible solutions. I also share a poem!

- Andy
Meme-based Political Discourse is...Bad

Meme-based Political Discourse is...Bad

The advent of the Internet in general, and tools like Google search in particular, heralded an age in which instant access to all the world's knowledge would enhance discourse, remove the traditional gatekeepers to information, and lead to greater human flourishing.


Image of a lightning storm
Somewhere over Tulsa the pilot warns
we’re passing through a storm. Experienced
in flight, trusting the engineers who designed
and built this plane, we pop headphones back
in our ears, turn to our movies and TV even
as, out of habit or suppressed nerves, we
pull our seatbelts a little tighter, recalling,
perhaps, that story about that flight—was it
London to Singapore? So much of what transpires
on this populous, complicated world, reaches us
but briefly, like the wan light from a first-quarter
moon—where a passenger died. I am lost in some
forgettable show about a murder and a hardened detective
doing all he can to solve it, when my head is jostled
such that, out of the corner of my eye, I notice
flashes of brightness, each a nuclear blast rippling
through a miles-long arterial vein, eviscerate the perfect
darkness. I have never seen such color, a dozen bolts
of lightning, blueish-white and hotter than the sun, each
coming to life and dying in an instant, over and over
and over. I think of near-death experiences, how people
report seeing heaven, how fMRI has shown that
this is but a brain shutting down, how there are nearly
two hundred of us here, warm blood in our veins,
roughly alike in our need for love and wonder and the
prolongation of life, heads down, passing so close to
the great unknown, it could blind us in its glory.

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The self-help book says life
is a set of competing priorities:
If this is more urgent than that,
do this. I nearly flunked out of
high school, ignoring such advice.
Teachers always giving homework.
Parents signing me up for clubs.
Friends wanting to study or hang out.
Problem was, I couldn’t get over
my dreams: dawn would come just as
some great mystery was to be revealed,
the alarm sounding, life's exigences
pouring in through the windows.
If I could just trap that dream
in a jar, I might emerge like a firefly,
beholden to nothing, a light unto myself.

Mr. Williams said I would amount
to nothing, if I didn’t get my head
out of the clouds. I must be a disappointment
to so many. Nearly forty, I think I
get it now, what they were all
so antsy about. We arise to a to-do list
a mile long and think salvation
is a mile down the road. So much ink
and blood spilled over that simple mistake,
I can almost understand intolerance, even war.

I have a recurring dream that I’m in a garden,
so vivid I taste the jasmine and mist clinging
to the grass and petals strewn about like
jewels. There’s a decrepit wall made of brick,
slick with moss; If I can just scale it, on the other side
I will find...perfect, eternal peace. Always,
just as I gain a foothold, I suddenly awake,
as though some part of me knows there’s no wall,
as though the self-help books, the Bibles, the poems
need only say, If it’s more beautiful here than
there, stay here, for goodness’ sake...stay here.

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There are a lot of ways we can work to stop Trump. These include writing letters to voters through Vote Forward; donating to Biden's campaign and other great groups, such as Swing Left, Voters of Tomorrow, Black Voters Matter, Next Gen America, Run for Something; knocking on doors, calling voters, and engaging friends and family. Let's make sure Trump never gets close to the levers of power again!

- Andy