Hyper Partisanship is Destroying Us
Oh, that’s madness. The pusillanimity and vindictiveness know no limits. Shouldn’t bygones be bygones? Surely the sophistication of a society can be measured by its tolerance and ability to forgive."
– Former King of England Edward VIII in "The Crown," after being informed that, despite abdicating 17 years prior, his wife still would not be invited to Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, purely out of spite.
Have we learned nothing over the years? Where are we, as a people, going? And not just any people, mind you, but Americans – the most benevolent and progressive (small "p") people the world has ever known.
Yet we must ask if those accolades still apply. It seems inarguable that we deviated from our path of righteousness some time ago, willfully allowing that which sets us apart – civility and respect for the rule of law – to disappear from the American landscape. If we are to ever excise the cancerous cynicism now so pervasive, we must honestly ask ourselves, "Who are we?"
This author implores readers to avoid kneejerk partisan responses that have become an ingrained part of our fabric, and instead pause to think. If we are sincere about self-reflection, we must seek answers in the one place that never lies: The mirror. Only then can we begin to figure out what we have become.
Lamentably, many Americans have become tolerant in name only, projecting an attitude of "sure, I’ll respect your opinion – so long as it’s mine." Gone are the days when we would disagree civilly, and use that dissent not as a venue for antagonism, but as the building block to solutions.
And quite frankly, it’s never been this bad.
We arrived at our current state in many ways: Looking at the past through rose-colored glasses; playing the blame game; fearing a future where the gulf between haves and have-nots continues to grow; being afraid of change; and harboring an entitled attitude of "let me get mine." Combine those proclivities with full-blown social media whipping the masses into a fury, where outright falsehoods are routinely claimed as irrefutable fact, and you have a powder keg ready to blow. Not since the Civil War has America seen citizen poised so stridently against fellow citizen.
The road to unity – not the trite sound bite so many mindlessly invoke, but true unity as one America – can only start when people step back and take stock of why we are so "valiantly" demonizing each other.
And yes, while that begins with the president, it certainly does not end with him, for we’ve been on this path long before Donald Trump came onto the scene. Failure to see that we are all at fault will only accelerate our decline as the world’s beacon of light. Consider:
• Longtime friendships have completely dissolved over the election, replaced by total silence or acrimonious battling. That’s insane. And we’re not just talking about amorphous Facebook friends, but people with whom we grew up — colleagues, neighbors, family members. What political disagreement can possibly be worth that price?
• Constructive dialogue has been replaced with nonstop protests, bans and boycotts. But to what end? Sure, those things are our right to do. But that doesn’t make them the "right" thing to do.
So Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump’s fashion line. Maybe they did it because sales were declining. Or because its leaders don’t like Donald Trump. So what? If you like Ivanka’s brand, buy it somewhere else. If you want to "punish" Nordstrom, don’t shop there. But why the furious push to boycott? Don’t we have bigger problems to solve than worrying about a billionaire’s daughter? Has it become standard practice to protest and boycott everyone with whom we disagree? Why can’t we just move on with our lives to make America even greater?
Nope. Instead, many Trump supporters are calling for more boycotts, including Coca-Cola and Budweiser because of "diversity" content in their Super Bowl ads. Time to get a life.
And then we have Under Armour models and spokesmen who took issue with the CEO’s statement that President Trump was a "real asset" for American business, leading to the CNN headline: "Under Armour tries to recover from Trump compliment." Have we stooped so low that companies now have to "recover" from an innocuous comment? Since when do employees call the shots about what their boss can and cannot say?
Not to be outdone, anti-Trumpers felt compelled to burn their New Balance sneakers in a display of solidarity after an executive made a positive statement about the president. Let’s get this straight: Millions around the world have no shoes, but these protesters think it’s morally acceptable to burn shoes costing more than many families make in a year?
• Hillary Clinton called upon all Americans to respect the election results. Yet millions still refuse, setting the horrendous example to our children that we should only respect rules so long as they’re favorable to us.
No one is obligated to support the president, but as Americans, we should respect him and the office he holds – not shout obscenities and give him the middle finger. That is unacceptable. As is the action of the New England Patriots’ players refusing to attend the White House ceremony honoring the Super Bowl champs – because they don’t like Mr. Trump. Get over yourselves. He’s the president. Boycotting such an amazing opportunity shows their total lack of class.
• There is a movement to boycott and even cancel the annual White House Correspondents Dinner – a lighthearted affair dating back to 1921. To have such disregard for tradition, and to create animosity where there needn’t be, sets a horrible tone. How will children learn to interact together at school, play, work and on the ballfield when adults act so childishly? And that admonishment also applies to President Trump. He absolutely should attend.
• Our behavior has not been lost on our youth. They’ve become more emboldened to talk back to their elders and disrespect authority.
• And we are hearing talk about impeaching President Trump. So now, when we don’t like a president, we should call for impeachment, despite zero justification? Where did our common sense go, and why are we so hellbent on destroying ourselves and our children like this?
Our culture of disrespect is dividing us like never before. If our children are ever to have a peaceful and prosperous life, we must demand that civility and tolerance once again become the cornerstones of our society.
And that’s worth tweeting.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His print column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected]