The selfie de­struc­tion of our coun­try


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 de­sired 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 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 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.

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 ama­ You can reach him at

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