Politics have devolved into a sort of contact sport these days as bickering, finger-pointing and name-calling have taken the place of civil discourse and constructive debate.
It is widely understood that lawmakers tend to go at each other’s throats like wild animals and use bravado to intimidate one another. What isn’t as common is a sitting president’s controversial actions overshadowing such infighting. Though the blame for this heightened level of contention cannot be placed upon one person, the political climate in the country reflects a trend toward senseless, sophomoric behavior that has further driven a wedge between its citizens.
Anyone who surfs the comment section on any news page online will undoubtedly stumble upon crude or inflammatory remarks, some of which attack others on a personal level. Terms such as “snowflake,” deplorable, socialist and even Nazi get hurled back and forth, creating a hostile environment throughout the Internet. Such cruel and counterproductive dialogue has driven friends away from each other and even caused resentment amongst family members.
Social media is a big culprit in the war of words, but the underlying problem is not exclusive to a certain corner of the country.
Our leaders have a great deal of influence over public opinion and when they utilize such aggressive tactics, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Unfortunately, a prime candidate for this is President Donald Trump. Throughout his presidency, Trump constantly belittles and berates anyone who criticizes him. An example of such animosity that he holds towards people happened in the aftermath of Sen. John McCain’s death.
Shortly after announcing his candidacy, then presidential candidate Trump dismissed the legitimacy of McCain’s designation of being a war hero stating; “He’s not a war hero. He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
McCain was a staunch critic of the president and drew more criticism for his legislative decisions. Trump went so far as to place much of the blame on McCain for the demise of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a vote that McCain had cast after he announced he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
The weekend after McCain passed, the White House and the rest of the country lowered their flags at half-staff in mourning. The next Monday, most of the nation kept their flags lowered, but Trump allowed the White House’s flag to be raised. No one will know whether this lapse in judgement was the result of a grudge, and the flag was later lowered, but the damage had been done. Moments like this get to the heart of what’s plaguing the state of America’s ideological discourse.
So, what can we do to fix it?
There will never be an absolute sense of harmony between opposing ideologies in the political arena, nor will there ever be a universal mindset within it. However, what can change is the way that we approach those people with differing views. Whether it is a politician making scathing remarks about another politician or Uncle Bob picking a fight with you over the border wall, there will always be a situation in which we can all take a higher road. Instead of resorting to name-calling or personal attacks, we can get back to debating with ideas and facts.
People should be judged by the merit of their argument not on whether they are Republicans or Democrats.
In a prepared statement written before his death, McCain hit the nail on the head with a message to the country. “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.”
We do not have to share the same opinions politically in this country, but we do need to strive to be civil and respectful of views that differ from our own. Society cannot function properly with two sides constantly at odds with one another and we are seeing the result of this in recent years. What was once a “Democrats versus Republicans” mentality, transformed into a struggle between extremist group versus extremist groups that turned violent on many occasions.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln; “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”