Rich Manieri, 10/10/2018 [Archive]

The Selfie Destruction of Our Country

The Selfie Destruction of Our Country

By Rich Manieri


What now?

Forget civil discourse. Never mind empathy. So long to compassion.

If the confirmation process of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh revealed anything - and it revealed many things - it is that anger is no longer merely an emotion, it's a strategy. Yell, push, bully, protest. Whatever it takes, as long as the desire outcome is achieved.

Protestors are now following orders and targeting Republican lawmakers. Far-left activists have cornered GOP senators on elevators and harassed them in restaurants and airports. Senators Susan Collins and Jeff Flake have received death threats.

"Get up in their faces," Democratic Sen. Cory Booker said in June.

Indeed.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who had six of his ribs broken last year by an unhinged neighbor, and was hounded by demonstrators at an airport over the weekend, told Kentucky radio host Leland Conway that he now fears the worst.

"I fear that there's going to be an assassination," Paul said. "I really worry that somebody is going to be killed, and that those who are ratcheting up the conversation... they have to realize they bear some responsibility if this elevates to violence."

You'd be inclined to dismiss Paul's concerns as hyperbole if he hadn't been at that ballfield where a gunman tried to slaughter several GOP lawmakers.

It would be understandable at this point to ask how we got here. But I'm more interested in where we're going. Our kids are watching us. What are we teaching them?

I was walking down the street behind two women the other day. Suddenly, they both stopped as if they had come upon the edge of the Grand Canyon.

They stopped so quickly that I had to do a little pirouette around them, or at least what passes for a pirouette at this point in my life.

I looked back and thought, surely, one of them must be stricken and is fishing through her purse for an EpiPen.

I was wrong. It was selfie time.

I'm not sure what inspired the sense of urgency. We were walking in front of a Whole Foods. It wasn't going anywhere.

Personal, anti-selfie indifference aside, the serial selfie trend is becoming more than merely annoying.

The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) recently conducted a survey that revealed 55 percent of facial plastic surgeons saw patients who want to look better in selfies in 2017, a 13 percent increase from the previous year, with many of these patients under the age of 30. The biggest issue for selfie aficionados was their double chin.

Researchers at Ohio State University study found that men who posted more photos of themselves online scored higher in measures of narcissism and psychopathy.

Apparently, a significant number of young people are actually willing to pay a plastic surgeon to cut on them just so they can look better in their Facebook or Instagram posts.

What does this have to do with our current political climate?

We're raising a generation of young people whose self-worth, and the worth of others, is based solely on the external. Perhaps that's why we hear so much about the need for diversity based on physical characteristics but we hear almost nothing about embracing diversity of thought.

But this shouldn't surprise us.

We've allowed our children to live in an unreal world, where social media posts have taken the place of personal interaction. Our teenagers are isolated, disconnected from family, friends and faith. We tweet vitriol without accountability. We take grievances to Twitter and Facebook, not to find answers but to wound and ruin. We drown in debt so we can accumulate enough stuff to make us happy. The problem is it never does nor will it ever. The message we send is that there is joy in the external, but only if it meets our own relative standard for success.

There's no need to wonder how we got here and why our young people continue their destructive pursuit of the ideal self.

It would be comforting to think our children will restore civil discourse. But the Kavanaugh circus has revealed our worst, and it would be a lot more comforting if our children weren't learning from us.

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Copyright 2018 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. His book, "We Burn on Friday: A Memoir of My Father and Me" is available at amazon.com. You can reach him at manieri2@gmail.com.

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