from Garrett Swasey’s final sermon by Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe
“The world is too much with us,” opens William Wordsworth’s famous sonnet. “Late and soon/Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” If that was true when he penned those lines more than two centuries ago, in an epoch of slow-traveling news and more restrained societal norms, how much truer is it today, when instantaneous communication and no-holds-barred jousting has turned so much of our public life into ceaseless recrimination?
Most of us, most of the time, talk too much and listen too little. We avidly make use of technology to blast our complaints and contempt to the four corners of the Internet. Not only do we ascribe ugly intentions to those we disagree with or have been disappointed by, but we can’t wait to do so openly, rushing to Facebook or Yelp or the online comment box to post a strident put-down or a nasty innuendo.
Partisan controversy and electoral skirmishing is nothing new. But in our age, when news cycles are measured not in days but in hours, political camps wage nonstop war. To score a tactical gain, anything is permitted; to generate a flattering headline, everything is rationalized; to undermine an opponent, even the most obnoxious abuse is tolerated. And those of us in the business of commenting or reporting on public affairs soak it up and slosh it forward, doing our best to feed — or perhaps to induce — an appetite for calumny that grows ever more ravenous and undiscriminating.