“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Zeitgeist” Chapter 56
By Bruce Williams
the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.
“the story captured the zeitgeist of the late 1960s”
I was contemplating what the most defining element of our current epoch might be, and many things swirled about in my mind. TikTok. Covid. Keto. Our rapidly diminishing environment. Reality TV. The one thing that kept eddying about was the massive division that we all find ourselves in now—the two Americas that we live in. The coasts vs. the flyover states. And before you drop this column like a sack of dog turds because you think I might say something you don’t agree with (I usually do), I’m going to attempt to show you that we can find common ground amidst the rubble…that deep down most of us are unabashed patriots who love this country and wish we could still love one another.
Several years ago I (essentially) stopped any of my political commentary on social media—I found that it was polarizing and people found it off-putting, and my core goal of finding things that we can all laugh about was being severely compromised. Several of my longtime friends and acquaintances had retired to their political corners, becoming less and less interactive and more and more associated with the outrage machine. As a result, their interactions dwindled—with most people opting to “not climb that hill today” as they went about their daily business. As these individuals got deeper and deeper into their echo chambers, they would often be put on month-long probations for posting items so inflammatory that even Zuckerberg couldn’t abide them.
So I stopped. I began to unceremoniously pare down my contacts—not because I felt you had to agree with me but because it was so obvious that you required me to agree with you. Since when did we all have to see eye-to-eye on everything? Then I started to weigh in on the things we all probably do agree on. We all like to laugh. We all worry about our aging parents and desperately love our kids. We love movies, books and music…and good food! We’re all seeking better lives for the ones we care about. And generally we love the idea of this country—with its stresses on individuality and freedom, its moral backbone and place on the world stage, its innovation and inclusiveness. We’re proud of it. We know there’s ugly stuff in our history, but one thing we always admired was our ability to try and do better. To put the next generation in a better spot than ours was when we started.
So I vow to meet all of your contrasting opinions with stoic indifference. If no amount of evidence will dissuade you from your stance, I’m going to love you anyway. I may not engage you on incendiary topics anymore, but I will always continue to vote and live with the consequences. I’ll still watch your house when you’re away on vacation, even if you had a yard sign that I didn’t particularly agree with. It’s your yard. It’s your rugged individualism. My wife frets about losing some friends because of their insistence on “going there”, but I assure her that we can always be the bigger person. That we don’t always need to convince everyone that we’re right and they’re wrong when we don’t agree. It takes a little practice, but if any American nostalgia needs revisiting, it’s the era when people held their beliefs a little closer to their chest and put family, neighborhood, church (or no church), and community at the top of their priorities list.
Thus endeth the soapboxing. See—you don’t even know which side of the fence I’m actually on (though if you read this space regularly, you might have an inkling). So I encourage all of us to read more (I tell my daughter Lou that that’s the answer to everything), listen more, laugh more…to stop sledgehammering each other with politics or religion and to celebrate what’s always made us great—our wild, unbridled sense of independence, individuality and ability to navigate our vast and oscillating differences, and to stand together when threatened by outside forces. Remember how it was right after 9/11? Now let’s go fix that environment…