If you are a fisherman, and perhaps even if you are not, you can understand the frustration that comes with the sport. That is, you go out knowing fish are swimming all around you. Maybe a lot of them and you are ready to reel them in. You bait the hook and drop it in amongst all those lovely fish and you wait … and wait. Nothing happens. It is as if Charlie Tuna or some holy mackerel was there, warning off all the others to avoid your bait.
“This is good bait,” you may think. “It is big and tempting and the sea creatures should flock to it,” but they just smirk and swim off to visit other old timers to see if their little fishes are off in schools somewhere else.
This is how we should be too. We should stop taking the bait, but sometimes we do anyway. The consternation begins. I am talking about social media and social conversation. There is always someone lobbing bait in the water. It’s up to us to keep swimming. No good comes from getting hooked.
It would appear that many throw out the bait on Facebook or Twitter — or whatever platform they prefer — knowing they will start an argument amongst friends and acquaintances. In this politically charged “us versus them” environment fostered and encouraged by 45 and his ilk, there are always those waiting for someone to take the bait. Their posts can be filled with political arguments. None are worthy of the time, but some play it like a sport. It is almost like taking your boat out on Lake Michigan hoping to land a big one. You are likely to end up with carp or alewives, of course.
Whether you are posting something in favor of POTUS or against, there is someone ready to take the bait and tug on the line. While an astounding number of people are not in favor of the current pretender to the throne, he still has some rabid supporters who are willing to dangle the bait or take it themselves and the battle is on. These battles of back and forth with the fish can get rather rowdy and sometimes Facebook or whoever has to step in and stop the battle from going on.
Soon after the terrible display of hate in Charlottesville, I posted a brief piece I saw about how the USA helped defeat the Nazis in World War 2. I thought it was important to remember (or to learn) what that was all about. I know exactly what my parents would have thought of recent events. My father fought in World War II. It is terrible, in my opinion, that people would carry the Nazi flags on our streets after the 1940’s but perhaps some forgot. I had no idea I was dangling bait for the alt-right.
What followed my post was a long series of comments by a few people who conducted a mean-spirited, name-calling “debate.” I could not keep up with it or monitor the frequent comments, which apparently turned threatening. After someone complained, Facebook stepped in and removed the most egregious comments. At my first opportunity, I removed the post completely. History really is not debatable nor is it worth threatening someone, but that’s the road we’ve gone down.
Due to my stance on some topics, or my willingness to take the bait on a few occasions, I guess I have lost a few friends. I can’t say it really bothers me. If you are that bigoted, whether your opinion is based on some misinterpretation of history or the Bible or some other religion, I guess it’s best I swim on by. I’m too old to have this stress in my life. Be careful. You never know when some fish might pull you into the water.
Until recently, I used to get together a few times a month with someone I have known since childhood. He’s a bit right of center politically, but we had mostly avoided political arguments. That changed in the current social climate. He has taken to dangling bait. I was playing along for a while, but I now see the futility of this endeavor.
It will start with my friend saying something about 45 or other right-wing topic. I might respond, “As a former military man, how do you feel about 45 making comments about North Korea that also seem to give up military secrets?” It is a reasonable question, I think, but it only proves that I have taken the bait.
“What about Obama?” he might reply. “You never said anything about Obama when he was in office.”
“Yes I did,” I usually point out.
“I never heard it.”
“You never listen to my side.”
“And what about Rahm (Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago)? What about that?” He will say in a voice somewhat louder.
“What does this have to do with 45 and North Korea?” I may inquire to try to steer the conversation back around, but it’s too late. I am already on the line.