Swimming In The Swamp

I opened Facebook this morning ready for a deluge of political negativity, judgment and accusations. Unfortunately, I was not disappointed.

If you are like me, then you are tired of trying to scroll past, navigate, manage and control the political swamp that now exists on social media. Regardless, who or what has caused the massive cesspool, it is apparent that no matter where I jump in and no matter how hard I struggle to keep my head above the waves, I am still swimming in some pretty dirty water.

Funny story, I have a friend who wore a white swimsuit in the Tennessee River. By the end of the day, her white swimsuit had turned grey. I think this is one of the best examples of how spending time in any place, and for any length of time, has an effect. It’s not if a place will affect us but how it will externally and internally affect us. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do or where you go. The truth is that anywhere you spend time, it has consequences. At the very least, it will expose you and cause a reaction or demand a response.

With this in mind, I wonder how many of us jumped into Facebook with white swimsuits and have yet to climb out to see what they look like now. Not only have we been swimming in waters that are way more polluted than the Tennessee River, but we have been getting it in our noses and eyes, and swallowing huge mouthfuls of pure cynicism, hubris, hypocrisy and anger. As a result, it has exposed us and we are unknowingly reacting or knowingly responding.

Let’s go out on a limb here and assume that the amount of toxicity that we ingest on social media is a level of accusation, judgement, and ignorance that most of us would not allow from our kids, spouses, family or friends. I also doubt that we would allow it in our churches, schools or businesses, and I hope we would not allow it in ourselves. 

So, why do we do it?

I have realized that I am not just voluntarily swimming in the swamp but I am voluntarily becoming a swamp monster and I am just as blind, angry, judgmental and self-righteous as everyone else. I cannot count how many times my natural reaction to political posts was to answer with deeper accusation, harsher judgment and greater ignorance. Of course, not in person and not directly to a person but passively aggressively and indirectly on my own platform. You know the place, in our modern day public arena where real human beings do not exist, just soundless, out of context, lifeless and spineless post.

I have really tried to control myself. 

Initially, I avoided actively participating in a political discourse on “social” media out of fear of losing life, brain cells and limbs, I mean likes. I have been very careful not to throw fuel on the suppressed fear, angst, despair and anger that is deflected into many political rants. Yet, as much as I have tried to avoid reacting, I am still scrolling and arousing my own suppressed fear, anger, despair and angst.

The longer I have been exposed to the political diatribes, the more aggressive reaction I have had both internally and externally. For sure, I started out strong and committed to ignore and avoid as much political commentary as possible and it seemed to work. That was until the shrieks and gnashing of teeth grew louder and louder. Thinking I needed help processing what was going on, I decided to reach out to a handful of friends with my own political diatribe. In these private places and amongst people I know and love, I raged and I judged, and I did everything I was witnessing and disapproving of. I justified my behavior by saying that it helped me to keep my sanity. Not realizing to much later that it was this type of behavior that revealed not only a loss of sanity, but I was becoming exactly what I was exposing myself to.

Not ready to give up my daily swim on Facebook and still believing that I could control myself and protect myself from being too contaminated, I turned off the TV, deleted twitter, quit reading the news and hid the biggest political commentators on Facebook. Then I attempted to carefully and indirectly address the shallow arguments and hate-filled posts that came from “friends” with my own commentary. I resurrected people, whose wisdom transcends time and whose truths would help (if applied) filter out the political nonsense. I even appealed to the political teachings of Jesus, which do not exist, because he did not talk about politics. I repeat, Jesus did not talk about politics. Rather, he spent his time helping, healing and telling folks …”Do not judge, love your neighbor, love your enemy, sell all you have and give to the poor, etc.” 

But even with all that and my greatest efforts to limit or control my exposure in the swamp, I finally realized it wasn’t working. We may think that we are different and we are not participating in the swamp because we aren’t posting about politics. But when we log on and swim around, we are being affected and when we get out, we are taking the swampy water on and in us everywhere we go. We take into our schools, churches, work, gyms and into our homes.

After climbing out of Facebook and taking a look at my heart, mind and spirit, and how the political posts were affecting me, I decided to start asking some questions. Obviously, social media effects me externally but what is it doing to my internal self? It seems that it’s not making me a better human being. It certainly doesn’t make me more tender or help me to love my neighbor. If I am being honest, then I can see it’s having a very negative effect and it is pushing, prodding and priming things in me that are not good, excellent or true.

How long are we going to pretend that the swamp is not real and it’s not affecting us? Surely, we can all agree that we cannot daily witness the degrading political commentary and not at some level acknowledge that we are willingly exposing ourselves, ingesting and regurgitating this crap. 

Surely by this point, we can see that we are not only freely participating in the chaos, but we are helping the chaos to churn, grow and spread. I was thinking about what we could do to protect ourselves and this is what I have so far:

  1. Get off social media, go vote and dig into your real life in the real place you live with the real people who live with and around you. And love your real neighbor and your real place like you love your real self with all your real heart, real mind, real soul and real body.

That’s it! 

Social media is not a real place and it should not be somewhere that we are spending large amounts of time or energy. There’s no such thing as controlling how social media is exposing us, while completely exposing ourselves to social media. Somewhere along the way, we have been led to believe that we can control how things affect us. This is not true. We can only react or respond to the effects.

If we find ourselves taking lots of measures to control something, then chances are we are trying to control something that cannot be controlled. It might also be a good indication that we are in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, and for the wrong reasons, because we have completely forgotten who we are and how we are naturally designed to be and live. Social media will never replace the real community and the real relationships that we absolutely need to be our real selves and discuss things that really matter. 

I wonder how much time we have wasted on social media. My great grandmother could have probably sewn 10 quilts, planted and put up 10 gardens with the time I have wasted on social media. I don’t think social media has made us better Americans. What has anyone tangibly done with all their hate or love for Donald Trump? Has it made us get healthier, go pick up trash in our community, volunteer, help our neighbor, bake a casserole for a single mom, help someone find employment, read more books, plant a garden or sew a quilt? What do we have to show for all those passionate feelings?

Seriously.

Personally, I don’t think posting counts as doing something. But given our epidemics of diet-related disease and sickness and loneliness, I think one of the most American things each one of us could do right now is GET HEALTHY and get off our phones and spend some time with another person. How can we judge anyone for tearing down things when we have daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and for decades torn down our own bodies? Do you know that the cost of diet-related disease and sickness is $1 trillion annually? Do we think it’s ok for other people to pay for us destroying our own health?

88% of Americans have some form of diet-related disease and sickness. We are the most unhealthy we have ever been. So, for the love of God- GO VOTE- then take all the energy for ranting and raving and do something that will make you a better person, your family better, your community better and your country better. You want to make America great again, we’ll let’s start by making ourselves healthy again and take care of our own health and the health of our families and friends. If that’s not enough to keep us busy and fulfilled, then move out into the community to create healthy businesses that care more about people’s health than making a profit.

By all means vote for who you believe will make this a better country, while remembering that no government has the power to save us from ourselves. A country will never be great if 88% of it population is physically unhealthy because of what we are freely choosing to do. Truth is that we cannot drain a swamp, while we are all swimming in it. I doubt we will even realize it is a swamp or how it has affected us, if we have never gotten out to look at ourselves, ask questions and answer honestly. You know I do think social media can be a better place if its a place where we see the ways each one of us are encouraging, inspiring, nourishing and helping to make ourselves, our families, friends, neighbors and our places healthy. We can use these platforms to show how we can clean up the waters, restore our soils, resurrect our communities, repair broken relationships and rebuild the foundations of love and truth that we need to be great human beings in our real life communities.

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