Can’t we all just get along?
I’m going to take a break from the political races and talk about an issue that concerns me greatly: the division in our country.
Nationally, an example of this divide can be found in the response to daytime talk show host Ellen Degeneres sitting next to former President George W. Bush at a football game. The two are friends despite their differences — Ellen is gay and liberal-leaning, while Bush is a Republican and at least had some socially conservative stances during his two terms.
The reaction to Ellen and Bush sitting together taking in a football game is telling and sad, with many in the woke crowd laying into Ellen for hanging out with an alleged war criminal, corporate stooge, who hates the LGBTQ and doesn’t like black people and on and on.
On the other hand, the reaction this week to Charleston attempting to rename their Christmas parade the “Winter Parade” was also pretty appalling. It’s one thing to believe the name shouldn’t be changed, but purported Christians were leaving some of the most abhorrent comments attacking Mayor Amy Goodwin.
While both incidents are not equal, they do share similarities. Both involve the fringes of the political spectrum. Both of these fringes are loud, amplified by social media to give the impression they have a majority. It reminds me of the tricks the Mongols would pull to make their small army look and sound bigger in order to scare their enemies to surrender.
For example, it’s easy to be scared of the Twitter mob when they come after you for whatever. Yet, according to the Pew Research Center, 10 percent of Twitter power users — people who tweet a lot — create 80 percent of all tweets. Knowing that, how can anyone take a right-wing or left-wing Twitter mob seriously.
Facebook isn’t much better, and foreign governments know this. During the 2016 elections, Russian-affiliated groups created Facebook pages and events meant to stir up the fringes of political society, going so far as to create protest and counter-protest events for the same city to rile up both sides of a particular issue.
I’m still convinced that Russia didn’t care who won the 2016 election, because even if Hillary Clinton won, do you think there wouldn’t still be discontent like we have now? The Russians wanted their fingerprints on the election, and they knew exactly what buttons to push. We were already divided.
We live in a world now where we must signal our virtue. Tip O’Neill, the former Democratic speaker of the U.S. House of Representative, once said “all politics is local.” That’s not true anymore. People now are bombarded so much with national politics that we have to go around identifying ourselves by either party or national political view. We’ll shout it from the rooftops of our social media accounts.
We don’t take enough time to think about the things we immediately want to spew out on the interwebs. We just want to tell the other side they’re wrong, and not only that but we want to “own” the other side. As Khan said to Admiral Kirk in Star Trek II “I’ve hurt you and I wish to go on hurting you.”
I honestly think people are closer to the middle of the political and cultural spectrum. Some are center-left, some are center-right. Most share a mixture of conservative and liberal values. But this majority isn’t going to pipe up, because to the left these people appear to be those evil conservatives and to the right these people appear to be socialists.
When you’re already on the fringe, anything to the left or the right of you will seem like your enemy. We’ve regressed in our evolution, returning to the tribalism that dominated our ancestors’ lives. Anyone not part of the tribe is a threat.
There is only one way to really combat this, and that is being kind, having some empathy for people who might feel differently. We need to control kneejerk reactions and try to understand where the other person is coming from. It doesn’t mean you have to believe what someone else believes, but it does mean understanding not everyone that believes different is bad.
Something has to change, because this division will get worse before it gets better.
(Adams is the state government reporter for Ogden Newspapers. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)