You want to tap into the undercurrent of anger and hate running through American society in this age - and I don't know why you would, except out of masochism or a need to see whether I'm right - all you have to do is look at the comments that appear on a lot of popular news sites these days. I'm not talking blogs; I'm talking about a mainstream newspaper web site like SFGate, and on Sports sites like Yahoo! Sports (in their news/rumors section, which is basically a blog within their site). Reading through the comments in the former, on all walks of news stories - from a celebrity's death to the MSNBC comments on Chelsea Clinton (read the comments there and see if you don't believe me) - and you'll see all walks of commenter, but the general mood there is attack: attack the subject of the story, attack other commenters, attack the "left," childhish, churlish stuff even from people who are clearly adults, often even very intelligent adults. Reading through page after page of comments on any given popular story will leave you with a bad, bad taste in your mouth on the future of society. The Yahoo Sports comments will make you worry more about literacy than mood.
It's not just news sites; ever read through the posts on Craigslist, in some (not all) of the forums? One of my favorite sites since its inception and probably one of yours. While there continues to be a spirit of support and community running through many places on that site, there are many other discussion threads (both in their forums and in a sort of call and response that happen sometimes on the missed connections and so forth) in which people behave downright cruelly, anything but supportive. If that kind of thing is seen on a generally positive community-oriented site like CList, you can only imagine some of the frightening vitriol coming from fingers and keys of anonymous Americans elsewhere.
I don't mean to sound like a schoolmarm nor as a suppressor of free speech. It's more that I worry about this country's broken zeitgeist and how it manifests itself in the way people speak and treat each other online.
What causes this? A more laissez faire attitude towards manners and decorum? (As seen on TV?) General depression, despair, anxiety? Anger about the state of affairs? A president who said he was a uniter not a divider and then spent his entire 8 years in office doing nothing close to uniting any of us.
Red state, blue state, left, right, Black, White -- everyone's angry these days. Even with the light at the end of the tunnel, the genuine excitement and cautious hope that comes with this year's big election, the possibility for change, even with that comes more anxiety, more personal disappointments, financial hardship, job stress, safety, the environment, you'd think we could find more common ground, but instead we act as if we've met the enemy and it is "everyone else but me."
I don't know if this is anything more than a simple cry in the wilderness, a desire to see people treat other people with more respect, both in public and, just as much, in the more anonymous comfort of the internet. We can freely have arguments and debate - it's one thing that still makes this country great - but the hope here is that people realize there are ways of debating that require careful thought, some facts in your arsenal and a willingness to listen to an opposing point of view. And even if they're wrong (heh), a compassion for them as a fellow human being. Have we reached the point where we even have to ask for such a thing? Yes, we have. And it makes me sad.