Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Barack Obama is on Twitter. To be more precise, the office of the President of the United States has a Twitter account. I will pause here a moment while you race on over to that site to catch up on what our chief executive has to say, one hundred forty characters at a time. There are plenty of ways to reach out to the people of America, like reasserting his appreciation for the graduating cadets of the Coast Guard Academy. The ones he hopes will work with him to meet big challenges like climate change. It's also a way that the people of America can reach out to their commander in chief and let him know what is on their mind, in one hundred forty characters. If you're the type who has opinions and solutions that run a little longer than that, you might have to find a different outlet. Twitter has a bunch of rules, and if you're not into that whole parameters thing, you might want to consider Instagram or standing on the street corner, yelling.
It is the kind of thing that makes that whole Free Speech thing work. One hundred forty characters or just one big vowel movement. But there are always limits. Like jeffgulley49, who sent a picture of the president with his head in a noose along with the caption: Rope for Change. That got Mister 49 a visit from the Secret Service. Just like the way a kid at my school would get a visit to the principal's office if they sent a threatening message to their teacher. Limits. That is the bottom line. 
"We have nothing to fear but fear itself." That would work. Nothing offensive. Less than fifty characters. You could probably toss a video in on top of that and still get re-tweeted for days.
"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." You've still got some letters left, and it will live on in bumper stickers and T-shirts.
The Gettysburg Address fit on the back of an envelope, but it wouldn't make it onto Twitter. You would have to sit still for the two and a half minutes it took to give the speech, and then you might have to take the time to consider just exactly what it meant. 
Am I happy that our national discourse has shifted to Twitter? I can answer that in two characters: No.

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