In undergraduate school, my Race, Gender and the Media class participated in a social experiment.
For the experiment, we watched a film wherein aliens had landed and offered to save our planet - all environmental damage done would be undone, poverty and hunger would be eradicated - all they were asking for in return? Was our black people. All of our black people.
The aliens never said what they'd do with the black people, only that they wanted them and, if the human race as a whole acquiesced, we'd be given all of the aforementioned "gifts."
To decide the quandary "democratically," a worldwide vote was instituted. Naturally, a campaign was launched to "save the black people," wherein commercials/endorsements etc were made, pointing out the many social and scientific accomplishments of black people and stating how the human race would suffer without them...
And by all accounts, the campaigns appeared - on the surface - to be working. On-the-street polls showed no one was going to vote black people away. That would be unconscionable!
But our hero, the protagonist, knew better. He knew better because he realized something: people put on a public persona - a socially acceptable mask that they feel is "appropriate" because no one likes to be ridiculed. But in the privacy of our own homes, we "take off he mask." And we're hideous underneath that plastic visage.
When our hero learned that the vote would be conducted online - when he realized it would be anonymous and that people could vote from inside the comfort of their own homes and prejudices without fear of admonishment - he knew the black people were doomed.
Ladies and gentlemen, on more than one occasion I toyed with running for public office. Despite (and often because of) covering members of public office, I thought I could do better - that I could at best help and at least not hurt the electorate I would represent. I'd build parks and fix roads and fight for historic preservation. How glorious it would be! How Utopian!
But today, dear readers, I have changed my mind. Because of Facebook.
I'm not the first person to acknowledge that internet comment sections are little more than an open forum for swill, the mouthpiece of the most uneducated, where the closed-minded, bigoted and big-mouthed among us go to air their rancid opinions and pick futile fights.
In stumbling across one such comment section today (I did not opt to read it. Facebook displayed it in front of me), I realized that I could run for office. On some off-chance, I might even be elected. And I could build my parks and fix my roads and preserve the few historic treasures Atlanta has left. And it wouldn't matter. Because I could be the very Second Coming of Christ and some folks would still just write off all of the efforts and successes with a hate-filled decry of "damned Jew liberal." And that would be it.
Because that's all there is for them.
It's a "die-hard support my guy, fuck you!" society we've created. And I now refuse to participate. Because, frankly, you don't deserve my park anymore.
I'm sick to death with this electorate, and so are many of my contemporaries. You care to know why Millenials are overwhelmingly opting out of our Democratic system? It's because there is no Democratic system.
The leadership presented by way of our election system is little more than an oligarchy of the wealthy - many of them only looking to become wealthier and further self-interest, and the electorate is so willingly uninformed on key issues, as to warrant a label of social and political illiteracy.
Rather than actually research issues, we Google our own viewpoints and wallow in the hits that come that validate our biases. And the American news media caters to this. Because it's a big business, and big business seldom (I'm being kind) puts the interests of the people over its own bottom line.
Not that there seems to be much of a market for truth out there...
Two more things and then I'll exit this soap box.
1. Michelle Nunn is running for Senate. I worked as a volunteer with her organization, Points of Light, (it's bipartisan, but she was/is on the board), and can say it was a truly uplifting experience. The organization itself if great and Michelle was very kind. I like the way she is running her campaign. No partisan politics/sticking only to talking points about her platforms. It's a refreshing change, as I think most of you can attest that you've seen all the political mud slinging in recent weeks.
Now, you don't have to vote for her. If her policies aren't pleasing to you, if you disagree with her platforms, then more power to you. See you at the polls. But if you continue to throw swill at this woman - calling her a "liberal whore" (What does that even mean? Do you have some form of intimate knowledge of her sex life?) and attacking the fact that she chose to keep her maiden name, then you are beneath me and beneath political debate. Because that? Is not debate. It's not about the issues. It's about you being an asshole.
2. The Race, Gender and the Media experiment. So what happened? In the film, the world voted to get rid of the black people, because those in the majority - people of any other race - stood to gain from the arrangement. So they voted in their self interest. And when the time came for the class to make a similar vote - so did I.
With your vote, you could write your reasons behind it. Here is a paraphrase of what I wrote in mine: "I don't actually want to rid the world of black people or of any other race or minority. But I know every single person in this room - despite the faux "anonymity" afforded with a write-in vote - will vote to have black people stay because there are still social pressures to conform in this classroom. We are all here, present for the tally. And, if we dissent, we may be asked to defend our choice. Many people are too cowardly to face the opposition of their peers, and so, make the socially acceptable choice. But I also know people, and, like the movie demonstrated, eliminating the social consequence of an unpopular (and, indeed, unhumanitarian) choice, will allow people to vote not their conscience but their own self-interest. I truly believe that, if this vote were conducted world-wide today, there would be an astonishing number of votes to offer up any social or racial minority to the aliens. Knowing this, I want my vote to represent those people because, to sit here in mock social piety, claiming that no one would vote away something perceived as "other" if it would benefit him/herself, is naive at best, unapologetically pandering and ignorant at worst."
As I predicted, I was the only person in my 300+ person auditorium to offer up the unpopular vote. Naturally, I was crucified by my peers. Despite the fact that I am obviously opposed to eradicating the planet of any minority group (except idiots. But it could be argued they are a majority.) the criticism affected me. (I'm sure there's a thesis to be written about the effects of social pressures of conformity on social progress and/or change...maybe I'll do that for my doctorate...) But, as I sat there fielding criticisms, I knew the entire time that if the vote had taken place on an anonymous internet forum, a solid number of those folks in the auditorium that day would have voted blacks, Muslims, liberals/conservatives, me, you - whoever wasn't "them" - "off the island."
And you need only look to the comments section of Michelle Nunn's campaign to see that I'm right. Because it's not about whether or not Nunn has good ideas or would well-represent the needs of Georgians. It's about whether or not she's a "liberal whore." And, as we all know, you can't send a liberal whore to Congress.
But you surely can send black people to the outer reaches of the universe.
Hey black people - see you on the space ship! Because I'm pretty sure I'm off this planet too. Because didn't you hear? "Liberal whores" are out of fashion. And don't even get me started on the Jews...