Another hallmark of our current social media climate is using the extreme factions of each side as a way to demonize the entire other side.
So, for example, we have those on the left of the political spectrum pointing to the Nazis and white supremacists and saying, “See, there’s your conservative Trump supporters, all a bunch of fascists.”
And then, on the right, they point to violent Antifa protesters who riot and set fires and punch Nazis in the face and say, “A-ha! There’s your Lefties, a bunch of violent, anti-speech thugs.”
This vilifying of the extremes of each side as representative of the whole is truly what’s tearing this country apart.
A Democrat is thinking, “Yes, I believe we should have universal health care, but I don’t believe Americans should all sit at home and get paid by the government not to work.”
A Republican is thinking, “Yes, I believe we should have voter ID to prevent voter fraud, but that doesn’t mean I’m racist and want to keep African-Americans from voting.”
But when the extremes of each side paint everyone with the same broad brush, that’s how we end up with such a polarization as we have in the country right now.
Instead of having reasoned debates about voter ID laws, universal health care, immigration law or environmental regulations, someone takes a position or expresses an opinion one way or another, and the other side starts screaming, “racist!” “snowflake!” “fascist!” “if you don’t like it, you can leave,” etc. You see this (base) level of “debate” every day on Facebook.
I am reminded of a moment in one of the town halls put on by U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador a year or so ago.
At one point, a gentleman in the audience got up to ask a question and made the statement that he and Rep. Labrador were the only ones who have read the U.S. Constitution, that the Democrats and those on the Left had never cracked open the document.
Labrador responded by saying that wasn’t true. Democrats and those on the Left have read the Constitution; they just have a different interpretation of it.
It’s reminiscent of the clip that’s surfaced upon the death of John McCain, the one in which an audience member during the 2008 presidential campaign says she doesn’t trust Barack Obama because he’s an Arab. McCain shakes his head and says, “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”
That’s the Great Middle. We can have disagreements and have different visions, and that’s OK. That doesn’t mean the other side is trying to destroy the country or hasn’t read the Constitution or wants to disenfranchise black voters or whatever other accusation gets thrown around.
On the editorial board, we have a wide array of political viewpoints, and we don’t always agree (we often don’t agree). But when we start talking about the issues and get down to the details, we at least start understanding the other person’s perspective. We still may not come to final agreement, but each person’s final assessment is certainly more nuanced, more balanced, and the person with whom he or she disagrees is not an evil person; they just have a different reasoning and perspective.
I could only imagine what our editorial board meetings would be like if we sat down to talk about an issue and it proceeded like a Facebook comment section. I shudder. And that, my friends, is really what’s wrong with America.
So I ask that we try to have a reasoned debate here on a whole host of issues, immigration reform, tariffs, health care, tax breaks and more. It’s OK to come out of hiding, to express a viewpoint. Someone may disagree with you, and I hope that that person who disagrees with you can offer a calm and reasoned rebuttal, a different viewpoint that may or may not change your mind but at least lets you better understand the reasoning behind an opposing view.