I’ve been reading a lot of Mark Twain this summer. In fact, a few weeks ago, I dramatically declared to my husband that “this is The Summer of Twain!” while wearing a straw hat and holding a fishin’ pole (because everything is more fun when you can annoy your spouse with it).
It started out that I simply wanted to re-read the adventures of Tom and Huck on long, hot, lazy afternoons. But then, while searching for my copies of these books, I found seven other Twain books languishing on my shelves. Challenge accepted! I thought to myself as I instantly started searching for fishin’ poles on Amazon so I could properly break the news to my husband.
I’m happy to report that so far it’s turning out to be one of my better life decisions (much better than my decision last summer to sign my toddler up for soccer). It’s also having some unexpected patriotic side effects.
I was halfway through “Tom Sawyer,” for example, when a flood of memories from my semi-feral childhood in rural Ohio crashed into my brain. The next thing I know I’m asking my kids if they want to go down to the “crick” and have a picnic (to which they responded by staring at me with professional-grade disdain).
I was only one chapter into “Life on the Mississippi” before I found myself doing CPR on my ancient, wheezing junior high plans to visit every state in the Union.
And then there’s the quotes. Oh, those quotes. The man would just spit out viral-ready gems like “Loyalty to the nation all the time, loyalty to the government when it deserves it” long before the Internet was even a twinkle in Al Gore’s great-grandpa’s eye.
It’s that last one I blame for convincing me it was a good idea to write a political post on Facebook even though previous experience has taught me that there is only one way that ends, which is with all parties involved concluding this world can only be cleansed by fire.
I knew better. You reading this know better. My dog, who has his own Twitter account, knows better. Yet, there I was, romanticizing in my head how Twain brilliantly shed light on our faults as a country and why can’t I do that? I mean, I know words and stuff. Sometimes even BIG words. And with that fail-safe logic, I quickly assured myself that this Facebook political post would be different.
Not only that but it would MAKE all the difference.
It will be well-thought out, says I, clever even, a bit funny, yet poignant, a chastising that morphs into a rallying cry but with a sprinkling of self-deprecation so as to make the medicine go down easier. I mean, I’m not such a Pollyanna that I think a cheesy little paragraph on social media could truly solve anything (I’m only a quarter Pollyanna on my mother’s side). But, on the other hand, these four sentences could be the wisest and most courageous thing the Internet has ever seen.
I won’t know until I try, right?
So I type it out on my phone while pacing the dining room floor, my fingers flying over the tiny keyboard. I’m excited. Nervous almost. So much so it takes a while because I keep making typos. I reread it. Erase that part. Think it over. Put it back in. NO, SWEETIE, MOMMA CAN’T HELP YOU WITH YOUR UNDERWEAR. SHE’S BUSY SAVING AMERICA. Change the wording here. Is that how you spell “tyranny”? I don’t want to get ahead of myself but can you win awards for these kinds of thing? SO GO NAKED THEN. I’LL HELP WHEN I’M DONE BEING AN AMAZING PATRIOT.
I quickly post it. Before I lose my nerve. But already regret has started to set in. I take a deep breathe and remind myself it will all be fine. I just need to remember not to respond to any comments. I already said what I had to say. Let everyone else sling mud at each other down in the gutters.
And I firmly stick by that. For all of three minutes. It’s just this one guy, you know? He’s so smug. So I gently point out how he’s wrong. And three exchanges later, I gently point out how he can suck it. I’m outraged and also nauseous that anyone could believe the things this random person I now hate believes. But I can’t stop. I can’t just WALK AWAY. I have to win this fight. I have to make them see how stupid they are. Win the online fight, win AMERICA.
Except no one wins. Except maybe Facebook.
Hours, sometimes days, later, it’s all over and I feel vaguely dirty and vow to never, ever discuss politics ever again.
But I will. Because this country has been very good to me and I love it for that. So I’m going to keep fighting to make it good for everybody.
And because I may just be another idiot arguing on the Internet but I refuse to let those other idiots have the last word.