by Rick Thompson/ originally appeared in The Rolling Paper August 2020
There are only a few months left before the November general election. We currently burn in the summer sun and that heat isn’t going away until the election. As the warm months fade into autumn the nation will stay hot due to friction between the two major political parties in America.
Democrats and Republicans have their candidates selected and those two men are jawing at each other, pointing out real or imagined flaws in each other’s character and political record. Similarly the members of each party seem to revel in sparring on social media, in the pages of newspapers and in media interviews. As the rhetoric among leaders becomes more vile, the behavior of the party members escalates. Friends are no longer friends due to the politics of today. Family members are not speaking to each other. Neighbors become disgusted with each other as lawn signs for candidates appear on roadsides prior to the August primary.
Generally, conflict is good. The best decisions come from things you thought about and fought about for a while. The conflicts today between progressives and conservatives go far beyond the normal disagreements of yesteryear. Our frustration with the American government has driven us to a new level of desperation, one that influences the way we talk to each other, the way we interact, the way we socialize. That desperation has made us a mean society, a place where we value winning an argument more than we value the feelings of our friends and associates.
The pursuit of winning the argument at all costs makes us adopt the craziest positions- and then, when our detractors force us to own our words, we find it impossible to apologize or to correct your own personal proclamation. A woman fought with me about whether it’s okay to call another woman a fucking bitch in the workplace and in front of others. Clearly it is NOT okay to do that, ever, in any circumstance, but because the person being insulted was controversial Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the man doing the insulting was a white male Republican, this woman on social media decided it was perfectly fine to do that. For a moment this social media keyboard warrior stopped being a woman, stopped being a thinking and caring human being and was just a Republican. She embraced the behavior because she devalued AOC as a human, as a woman and as a representative of her constituents.
The keyboard creep will have to own her words forever, and should she decide to run for office, her words will certainly be used against her. They are indefensible. The attitude is disgusting. Moreover, as the conversation became novel-length and dozens of people jumped in to either support or criticize her claims that AOC deserved it for being liberal, this person dug down deeper and revealed the core of who she is: someone who does not value her fellow Americans as equals.
America is struggling with that right now. Racially, people of color are crying for equality. Migrants and immigrants are demanding they be treated with basic human dignity. The poor are showcasing their plight and begging for assistance. In response the federal government is ending payments for the coronavirus relief package, suppressing protests with secret police and tear gas, sending in federal troops to make warrantless arrests in cities where the Republicans have not had political success.
It’s time for a reminder of the basic things that make America who we are as a nation. If we are to survive after November, we’ll need to hold this in our hearts, every one of us.
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. We hold these truths as self-evident: that all humans are created with certain inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.