Let's talk vaccination. There is a debate on whether or not its good for children. Some parents feel it can be harmful. Others feel it's more harmful (for everyone's kids) not to.
So how should this be discussed? I would assume through documented research, appropriate analysis, and a discourse on freedom and responsibility. Instead, we get memes.
Those on the side of vaccination will throw around pics of anti-vax-er, Jenny MacCarthy, with phrases like, "not a doctor." Then comes the one-liner about anti-vaccination being based on a, "singular, debunked study." My favorite, however, was the comparison to allergy rules in public schools, in which the person asks, "why can't my kid bring peanut-butter to school, but yours can be a petri-dish for disease?"
This all leads to an educated response, right? Sometimes. Though, often, drawn out explanations will include the outrage of being spoken too like a villain, and the questioning of the intelligence of those who are pro vaccination. And of course, out come the memes for their side. There will be a picture of actress Mayim Bialik (famous for her role as Blossom, but also a neuroscientist), with her quotes on why she doesn't vaccinate. Then comes the one-liner, "if vaccinations are so great, why are you scared your kid will catch something from mine?"
I'm not trying to debate vaccinations here, but it's a hot topic that perfectly illustrates this point. Rather than discuss a situation, have a spirited debate, and agree to disagree, it has become one said explaining how idiotic the other side is for not thinking the way they do.
Maybe that doesn't sound like vilification, but in American rhetoric, it's the stupid people who ruin it for everyone else. It's the idiots who don't vaccinate that cause your children to come down with illness, or so they would have you believe.
And why is this the case? Because it's easier to vilify someone than it is to persuade them. This is everywhere in politics. Republicans aren't trying to save the lives of unborn children, they actually hate women. Democrats aren't trying provide quality healthcare, they're purposefully creating a welfare state. Christians hate gays. Muslims are terrorists. Don't like global warming and you're a science denier. Etc, etc, etc.
But who is this rhetoric for? No one can possibly believe suggesting someone is stupid, ignorant, or intentionally evil, would make them change their minds about their stance.
Really, it's for two people. First, it's for those who agree with the author/sharer if the statement. It's meant to get them to pass it along, and reinforce that they are good, smart people, because they believe the way this meme suggests they should (which is kind of ironic).
Second, it's for those on the fence because they don't know what to believe. It's meant to shame them for ever being open minded about the subject. It's meant to scare them into being labeled as stupid, as a sheep, or as a hater. Like the cowboy with the cigarette, it's meant to show them how cool they can be, simply by hitting the like button. It's about bullying them into conforming
The discussion of America today disgusts me. Everything is rhetoric, satire, or hateful. We belittle each other in the name of comedy, and when someone is called on it, they tell you to lighten up. But these aren't laughing matters. They are every day decisions that shouldn't be dictated by social media popularity, or comedy central ratings. They should be informed decisions, that are respected by our peers, even when in disagreement. And our motives should not be in question. We should not be called evil for taking a different path, nor should we lay that charge against others.
I hope I see a day when respect joins our conversations. I hope that I can live up to my own standards.