The Great Divide

Ever stop to think about what it is that divides us? I’ve been thinking about this for some time now. Trying to decide if I had anything worth saying on the topic, or even if I could put my thoughts into words in such a way that I didn’t inadvertently widen the chasm.

As a police officer I’ve seen more than my share of hate and violence. Watched people do and say horrific things to each other. Witnessed families torn apart by abuse, both the domestic and substance variety. Sometimes both.

I’ve seen the ugliness of death and the ache of despair. I watched people publicly champion a cause and then turn a blind eye to those in need. It’s the human condition. None of us are immune from its hypocrisy.

Back in 2012, after nearly three decades as a cop, I made the decision to get out. Being a cop and witnessing the worst humanity had to offer day in and day out took a toll, as it does on every first responder. Quite honestly I was tired. Tired of other people and the way they treated each other. Tired of trying to make a positive difference in their lives, and never quite feeling that I had.

Hanging up my gun and badge was cathartic, and it worked for a while. My focus changed, along with my experiences. It was nice to spend time with people who weren’t drunk, or bloodied, or crazed. No longer was there a need for me to act as referee while adults, acting as children, attempted to inflict physical harm on one another over differences of opinion.

Lately however I feel as if I’ve traveled back in time. I’ve gotten repeated glimpses into the ugliness of human nature. Social media has become a place to strike out at others who disagree with our points of view, on literally every single topic. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. You’re either with us or against us. Sound familiar?

I’ve heard others express the same feelings of lament over these interactions, then go about their business as if they played no part in it. People I look up to and consider friends have written and said things to and about others that I would never think about writing or saying.

I submit to you that we all play a part in it. The way we treat others, the way we respond. Has the need to be right, at all costs, become more important than the need for compassion? Is it possible that the very people we are condemning have had vastly different life experiences from our own? Perhaps we could actually learn from one another instead of shutting each other out, blocking, or unfriending. I shake my head each time I see that word used. When I was growing up we never had need of such a word as unfriending. Oh, you could be “on the outs” with someone, but that was really only a temporary status. You could be pissed at someone but still be their friend. Maybe it’s because there was more to earning friendship than clicking accept in an electronic box.

Have we become so cold-hearted and distant as a society that we can no longer be bothered to take the time to make real and lasting friendships?

I’ve watched fellow writers struggle with a bad review or writer’s block, and I’ve felt for them. We all know how difficult it is to invest so much of ourselves and our feelings into the books we write. But then I’ve looked on in amazement as these same people piled on when another writer had some “undeserved success”, or garnered some “undeserved accolade”, or crossed some imagined “territorial boundary”. I don’t pretend to know what any of my fellow writers have been through in their lives, but I know that we all have stories in need of telling. And I will defend the right to tell those stories. 

Perhaps the way in which we, as a society, can begin to heal is through reflection. Before we post another provocative tweet, or share some inflammatory meme, or say something we will later regret, maybe we should pause and ask ourselves is this really necessary? Would I say this if the person was standing right in front of me? Am I part of the problem?

Are you like me? Are you tired of what the world has become? Would you like to have a more positive outlook on life? Ask yourself what you can do, or not do, today that will brighten someone else’s day. Perhaps we would all do well to heed Otis’s advice and try a little tenderness. Let’s start with that.

11 thoughts on “The Great Divide

  1. I was talking to my barber about this very subject last summer following the Thin Blue Line Flag controversy that was very divisive on community social media sites.
    I pointed out that I admired her consistent positivity when she occasionally chose to post. Her reply was “I just try to be the sunshine in the darkness”. I like that, and try to follow her example.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Timely and spot on. For better or worse, social media has become a necessary staple in the author’s marketing toolbox, yet sometimes I dread even opening the App for fear of coming away feeling depressed, or like I need to take a shower to wash away the nastiness.

    Thanks, Bruce, for the shout-out for civility. I’m all-in.


    Liked by 2 people

  3. Bingo. Particularly the part about writers tearing down another author’s success. Or friends tearing down another friend’s triumph. An old college chum of mine has become a huge success as a sports talk radio and TV host and sports analyst. Didn’t happen overnight. Some of our buddies would knock his accomplishments. Not me. I still smile every time I see him on the boob tube.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Bruce. Like you, after three decades of seeing the worst side of humanity, I can’t stand the divisiveness I see in social media. I also despise the current political landscape where elected officials continually trade personal insults, thus conveying it as appropriate behavior to the rest of our population. Our society is becoming increasingly “tribal,” where if you belong to the left-wing tribe, you must hate everything (and everyone) right of center, and if you belong to the right-wing tribe, you must hate everything left of center. I’m a believer in the adage that what pulls people together is much more desirable than what pushes us apart, and I try to find commonality in people rather than differences. I believe I can be friends with people whose world views are different than mine, and I don’t demand people hate the same people I do (which is actually very few) for us to be friends. I strive to listen much more than I talk. I’m also growing increasingly disappointed in some fellow authors who attack and insult other authors on social media, whether it’s over their different political or social views or for their writing. This work is too hard mentally and emotionally for us not to band together and support one another.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. We’ve talked about this before, Bruce, and you know I agree 100 percent. It would be a welcome development, too, if people would realize that their political views are not universally shared and, thus, they are potentially alienating many of the very people they look to for support (whether that be fellow authors or potential readers) when they disparage those whose views don’t align with their own. If “every villain is the hero of their own story,” why can’t we extend that same benefit of the doubt to the actual human beings we encounter every day? True civility demands no less.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When you’re a kid, summers seem endless and horizons go on forever. You make friends like you make dreams. There are so many! The older we get, the fewer we have until, well, there are almost none left. Finding a new friend is like finding a new dream. And you, Bruce, are a new friend who reminds the rest of us to dream. I’m thankful to know, and read, you!


  7. You and I have yet to meet, but thanks to Charlie Black II, your post is an introduction for me. I have been noodling around with a similarly themed essay for my writers’ critique group, in particular regarding our haste to slap labels on others in an effort to prove our superiority. But my piece is still under construction. May I have permission to include a quote from this piece of yours if one stands out to me as apropos?

    Thank you for this level of thoughtfulness and discernment. And thank you for your police service!


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