It’s a sad reflection on Americans to see what our political discourse has devolved into. If you review my political posts, you’ll see that I am careful to keep them fact-based and don’t resort to personal insults. I do this because I can have a substantive, reasoned discussion about politics when it’s based on facts and devoid of fallacy. But I also disagree with others’ politics in a respectful manner and avoid publishing commentary that is emotionally driven and hostile so that I don’t make enemies simply by exercising my freedom of speech.
In spite of my diplomacy when discussing politics, what do I get in return? Vitriol and ad hominem attacks—and this from people who don’t know me from Adam and often make false assumptions about my politics. For example, I voice a lot of criticism of Donald Trump and some people mistakenly assume that means I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter. As expected, Trump supporters respond to me as if I’m their enemy. Just this morning, someone I never met called me an “idiot” for simply stating a fact that did not resonate with her preconceived narrative about Trump’s virtues.
But I’m far from the only one being attacked personally for voicing a political position and it happens on both sides of the spectrum. Trump opponents often make derogatory comments about his followers, calling them racist and worse, even though they don’t even know the individuals they denigrate. Even Clinton said, “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it.” You’re right, Secretary Clinton, that is gross.
Americans are segregating themselves into tribes and, now more than ever, demonizing any American that doesn’t share their ideology. They feel as if it’s “us against them.” Although many of these fellow Americans are their neighbors and family, they see them as enemies if they’re not part of their tribe.
Social media is only exacerbating this effect. People say things online to their fellow Americans that they would never utter if they ran into that same stranger face-to-face on the street. I often feel like I need to take a shower after reading some threads of political commentary on facebook posts, YouTube videos, and tweets. All sense of common decency and empathy for fellow Americans is thrown out the window in these media.
But the truth is that we are all Americans and we are far more alike than we are different. We all love our family and (real) friends and just want to live in peace and prosperity. We all feel blessed that we live in a country that, despite all its follies and foibles, is far preferable to living just about anywhere else on this planet. And we all need to respect each other’s personal opinions and positions, especially those with whom we disagree politically, if we are to retain this sound democratic foundation that America is built upon. In the words of Rodney King, “can we all get along?”