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Let’s reimagine the democratic right of voting as a citizen’s obligation.
We are aware that some of us do not see the same things at all. Life in a free society requires us to hone habits of accommodation, but today Americans seem to be losing the knack for living together.We are aware that we can bug others as much as they bug us. Recovering our worn civic spirit would require some major institutional reforms — political, economic, civic and social. But if we seek one simple thing to do for a start, maybe we could make ourselves more receptive to the music of accommodation, particularly by abstaining from the blare of vain and vicious animosity.And yet the nature of culture itself — of what drives these differences, of what drives our ideals and focus and irritation — is poorly understood. If only as a marker of our desire to do this, we should each commit to staying away from social media for a month this coming year.They eat away our capacity for patient toleration, our decorum, our forbearance, our restraint. This won’t transform our society, but it’s not wholly separate from the need for institutional reform.They leave us open to manipulation — by merchants, algorithms, even real-life Russian agents. Social media often act like informality machines, corroding the forms of our social life — that is, precisely our institutions.