President Abraham Lincoln said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Those profound words so eloquently spoken over 150 years ago ring true today.
The political discourse in this country has increasingly turned vitriolic over the last 30 years. The proliferation of political pundits espousing their views to target audiences has created “information bubbles.” Social media groups have further expanded this phenomenon and have exacerbated the critical issue of confirmation bias, which is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.
News today has become more commentary than reporting the facts and that commentary is laced with bellicose bloviation that engenders hatred for people with opposing views.
Herein lies the problem: We as a society have created a social norm that says we must “demonize” our opponent. One can no longer simply disagree over issues but must impune the character of, or make childish, churlish remarks about his or her political opponent. It is not enough to merely defeat political adversaries, but it becomes imperative to utterly destroy their lives. This “scorched earth policy” has led some political analysts to say we are in the midst of a “cold civil war.”
It has become acceptable to “hate” someone simply because of the color of his or her skin, religious beliefs, sexual preferences, or country of origin. Hate is a dangerous and counterproductive emotion.
The danger from this increased rancorous rhetoric is that there are people that fantasize about a literal “second civil war,” in which the purported evil that exists in our country is vanquished, and their side is victorious.
The recent presidential election highlights the disturbing division in our country. Essentially, half of our country feels the election was rigged and that if the apparent winner, Joe Biden, becomes president, our society will collapse. The other half of the country feels like President Trump is trying to implement a “coup,” and America will become a dictatorship.
A late friend of mine, Lewis Long, who was an Oklahoma State Senator often opined about the days of disagreeing with legislators on the other side of the aisle, but at the end of the day, going out for a beer or a steak.
We should encourage our legislators to work together for the good of the nation and ignore partisan politics. There is no such thing as a Republican or Democratic solution. President John F. Kennedy succinctly stated this philosophy when he said: ”Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
The time has come to unite our nation, to work for the common good, and to love, not hate our fellow citizens, whether we agree with them or not. To quote Martin Luther King Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”