I’m fed up with my country, and I’ve never been fed up before. Angry, but not fed up. So, my fellow Americans, I’m going to yell. Be warned.
To the RIGHT: You are barreling down the path of hatred and destruction because you believe the liberals are destroying your way of life. To the LEFT: You are consumed with outrage and anger because you believe the conservatives are destroying a way of life you’ve spent a half a century developing. Both of you bemoan the increasing heat of the polarization you yourselves have created, but what do you do? More of the same.
Yes, you have created the divisions, the degeneration in to tribes. Both of you are interminably self-righteous. All of the right is on your side. It isn’t, and between the two of you, you’ve changed the politics of debate and compromise into the politics of war. As I grew up, my parents had election night parties where Democrat and Republican friends listened to the returns on the radio, argued and laughed, becoming louder and more vehement as the night progressed. You’ve destroyed that culture, and that makes me heartsick.
When did it happen? I know only what’s happened in my lifetime. I came of age in the Cold War. Joe McCarthy decided liberals were a danger to the country—not opponents, enemies. In my civics classroom, while discussing President Truman’s health care proposal, I was called a “commie” because my father, a doctor, wasn’t in private practice. The college I attended was investigated by McCarthy’s “patriots” because we read the Communist Manifesto in our political science class. Students were not to be exposed to opinions different from their own; dissent was un-American. Conservatives began to fly the American flag as though they owned it. I learned the effect of mob-thinking.
Then the LEFT arose. I was raising children in a college town when the Sixties exploded. Everyone over thirty was an establishment patsy or racist, a convicted enemy of the New Age. The new age of racial and social justice was only possible if not contaminated by those beyond that age. The new missionaries arrived at my children’s school, an integrated school in an integrated neighborhood, and black children, encouraged by their new teacher, gathered around my seven year old and pelted her with erasers. The missionary zeal of my own group had had turned on my child.
When I began my professional life as a lecturer at a California university, younger faculty stigmatized all who argued with them. Debate was silenced. Any who disagreed were establishment patsies or racists. I grew up in an academic family. There was no principle more sacred than respect for dissent. Dissent was the most sacred principle of democracy, and debate the core value of the university. I was silenced by a group whose values I had thought were my own.
Is this an unfair picture? Of course it is. I’m angry. The Right is protecting a set of values the country has lived by for centuries, many of which I share. The Left is insisting all people are entitled to the rights born of those values. I believe those rights are goals, and we are all entitled to what the struggles of our people have achieved. Not to perfection. If both hadn’t shut themselves off into isolated communities, defining themselves by demonizing THOSE OTHERS, I might be debating our differences instead of watching perpetual protests and rallies. When President Obama was elected in 2008, I suggested to my fellow Democrats (yes, I am one of those) that we hold meetings with the local Republican organization. “I don’t know how to talk to a Republican!” one member decried. And that was that.
So here we are. With the democracy we deserve. I’m appalled when I realize there are generations who have no memory of a time when things were different. There was one golden moment during the Kavenaugh debate when acrimony ceased. Senators Flake (R) and Coon (D) came up with a solution to the logjam. The media engaged in long discussions of who the hero of that moment was, and no one even noted that the magic was COMPROMISE. Two friends from opposites sides of the aisle who respected and listened to each other. No one remarked it.
Are we all so caught up in mobocracy we can’t change course? Is hatred really so much fun?