Recent events in Charlottesville, VA and other cities across the United States are highlighting the ever-deepening divisions in this country.
It seems to me that the behavior exhibited to the world in Charlottesville is not limited to those events, but is endemic in almost all facets of our society. To a lay person like me, I see that the numerous irreconcilable differences that divide us politically and socially are escalating into an intransience that has led to deeply felt antipathy and even violence on each side.
It would be tempting and easy to blame the election and subsequent administration of President Trump for all of this. And certainly he has, through his actions and words (both spoken and written), added fuel to the fire for both sides. Many see the daily pattern of ill-considered macho outbursts, inconsistencies, half-truths, sabre rattling, non-stop berating of his allies and opposition in congress, condemning the opposition party, and the press, and they wonder how his core of “true believers” stay fiercely loyal and dedicated.
Many point to the same phenomena we witnessed with the presidency of Richard Nixon and his followers. But I would submit that there are equally deluded “true believers” on the left as well. Each side seeks similar simple and quick (sometimes violent) solutions to complex problems and each has a concrete belief that anyone opposing their views must be deluded, ignorant, and/or evil.
But I see something deeper and more troubling in today’s scenario. Where the events of over forty years ago were traumatic to this country, I remember a feeling of both hoping Nixon would leave and take the turmoil with him so that the country could devote itself to healing and hope of getting together to move forward. Right now I see more of a pervasive feeling of “let’s just destroy things as they are”. The most vociferous of each side seem to be adamant that there is no way to work toward a common goal and the opposition must be obliterated.
And like Trump’s core believers who see no wrong, there are core believers on the left who see no wrong in any candidate or spokesperson allied with them. I have asked in the past “how did we get here?” when I noted that we had two very mediocre candidates for President and then elected one with no claim to anything other than a questionable business success.
Now I am asking that same question about how we speak about and resolve our differences. How did we get to the point where we no longer try to see the merits, if any, of an opposing view point, but refuse to even acknowledge that there may be some validity in the stance or even that the person taking that stance is sincere and well-intentioned?
Rather, when we now talk about any of the flashpoints of today: gender, abortion, financial redistribution, health care, confederate monuments, current President etc., etc. the person in opposition to “our” point of view should be silence either by out shouting him or her or with violence.
Are we at a point where there is no turning back from this division?
I am at a loss to see who is making cogent, realistic efforts and plans to unite us. Not unite us in agreement, but unite us in making this country focused on moving forward to a place where we can resolve our differences with sincere compromise through respecting those with whom we disagree. Without such leadership and respect I am pessimistic about the future my grandchildren will be lining in.