Computers and the Innertubes have changed our lives dramatically.
I pay most of my bills online. I buy most of our big-ticket items after finding the best price online. I stay in touch with my family either via email, Msn Instant Messenger, or Skype. If someone set an E.M.P. device off tomorrow and took these capabilities away we'd all be scrambling around like "Keystone Kops" for a while, wouldn't we?
But there's an ugly side of this system too.
Over in my blogroll you'll notice "Bloviating Zeppelin" listed there. As indicated, I do try to check most of the blogs on that list daily. BZ is a kindred spirit... I seldom disagree with him on matters of import.
If you go back and read some of his older posts and you'll see he had a couple liberals contributing comments there. One was mostly rational... although I disagreed with him most of the time on things political, he was at least trying to add to the dialogue and maybe illuminate why liberals think the way they do.
The other commenter was just a "hit and run" idiot...
His comments added nothing to the discussion and ended with childish name-calling. BZ must be a Saint... he was always more tolerant of both these guys than I would have been.
But then the unexpected happened. The guy that normally had something intelligent to add to the discussion stepped over the line... DRAMATICALLY, and "Saint" BZ became "BZ, bringer of Blogowner's wrath".
Much of what is written on Blogs is done anonymously. I have met a few of the commenters that come here in person. I have had email communications with a few more. A few are even listed as "Friends" on my Facebook page, so I obviously know MUCH more about them personally. But the folks that come by and say really nasty things would probably, for obvious reasons, want to remain anonymous. If BZ were a little unstable, (which he's not, thank Goodness!), I can see where saying the evil things his normally rational commenter said might make him go hunting for the guy that said those evil things if he knew how/where to find him. But the reason the guy felt comfortable saying them in the first place was because he knew there was little-to-no chance for repercussions.
So that's where we now find ourselves-
We have this wonderful system where we can easily communicate almost instantly with one another. We can freely express and argue about our opinions. And we can say nasty, vile things about one another with almost no worry of paying a price for being uncivil.
But we're getting angrier and angrier with one another.
We've now had the window of a Republican Congressman shot out. Liberal talk-show hosts are openly suggesting the world would be a better place if Conservatives were killed. Anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head. Our "Uniter" President(?) is fueling the fire.
I'm afraid. Most folks I chat with are afraid. The fear builds and builds. In some, the fear begins to convert to anger. That anger causes more uncivil behavior. It seems to be a vicious cycle.
Our country is bankrupt. We have terrible unemployment and that situation is getting worse by the day. Our leaders are doing nothing to put people back to work... on the contrary, they are legislating and regulating in such a way that businesses are closing or outsourcing their work to countries with more "business friendly" attitudes. Folks who have money also have the ability to move that money elsewhere to protect it.
But the overall atmosphere...
It's one thing to have "anonymous" commenters adding stupid comments on a blog.
It's another thing entirely now to have discussions with relatives and acquaintances and have them suggest that rewarding negative behavior will resolve a problem. (A few members of my extended family are no longer welcome in my home because of comments they have made about "Socialism being a good thing".)
I could never have foreseen feeling this angry with loved ones.
We've seen a guy fly an airplane into an IRS office.
We've seen militants in Michigan trying to fan the flames of revolution.
We see folks on the left trying to further restrict our freedoms of speech, religion, and our right to protect ourselves.
How long can this go on before something really terrible happens?