Reagan, Trolling, and the Future

I am now retired and hopefully will find more time to write. In order to re-energize my desire to write I am going to just jump right in and start writing. The theme of my blog has not changed, it is still focused on doing business while recognizing the importance of people. However, there now will be elements of stewardship and servant leadership permeating my thoughts. The emphasis of my life will be in those areas, helping me continue developing my thoughts on Social Entrepreneurship and Business As Mission. So, enough preamble, it is now time to begin discussing my topic for this week.

Way back in May, Roger Kimball wrote an editorial describing when Reagan met Lenin. Obviously, this was hyperbolic, but through this description Kimball was able to make an excellent point. The event the writer was describing occurred on May 31st, 1988. Reagan was in the Soviet capital meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, the fourth in a series of meetings used to “work out arms-control agreements.” Eventually this work would lead to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. However, the criticality of this editorial was not in this series of meetings, but in the ultimate goal Reagan was pursuing.

Bret Baier traces the development of Ronald Reagan’s relationship with Russia from his “evil empire” picture to his ultimate work of diplomacy. Kimball adds to Baier’s description of Reagan’s evolution, “In 1977, noting to a friend that ‘a lot of complex things are very simple if you think them through,’ Reagan crisply summed up his theory on the cold war: ‘We win, they lose.'” However, this victory must be recognized, not as one country over another, but of freedom over totalitarianism. This is symbolically illustrated by the picture of Reagan addressing Moscow State University standing in front of a “gigantic scowling bust of Lenin and a mural of the Russian revolution.” As an actor, Reagan knew the power if visual representation.

Reagan would bring these objects into his speech, “Standing here before a mural of your revolution, I want to talk about a very different revolution, a technological and informational revolution that is transforming the world. How much progress had already been realized! But progress is not foreordained. The key, is freedom – freedom of thought, freedom of information, freedom of communication.” Although these words were given to illustrate a very different situation, I think we can apply them to today.

In the world of social media there is so much promise. Events are announced, ideas are shared, and past connections renewed. However, the world of social media is filled with trolling and others attempting to shout down the other.

Trolling involves “the process of making deliberately offensive or provocative online posts with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.” On the other side we have the process of attacking or shaming someone who has a different opinion than we do.

Freedom is a very difficult thing to maintain. I think those of us who were born in the United States often take this for granted. It might be good to remember the words of Reagan once again. Reagan’s understood what freedom and democracy is and described this as “less a system of government, than a system to keep government limited, unintrusive: a system of constraints on power to keep politics and government secondary to the important things in life, the true sources of value found only in family and faith.” I would also like to add to this friendship with the people around us.

Many people have written about the messiness of freedom and democracy and the difficulty of keeping them in place. Nelson Mandela is quoted as stating, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” In 1787 someone asked Benjamin Franklin, “well, Doctor, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?” Benjamin Franklin’s response is well known, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” His words are just as true today.

We live in very confusing times. I hope we don’t let the trolls of social media kill what was created on 1776. Instead of yelling at each other, let’s learn from each other and maintain the Republic for our children and grandchildren.

And that is my thought for the day!

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