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Political differences were not enough to separate American from American E-mail
Opinion
Tuesday, 10 October 2017 08:08

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L&T Publisher Earl Watt



Growing up, my family wasn’t overly political, but they did represent both sides of the aisle.

There were some who were staunch Democrats, others were dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, and some would straddle the fence.

Somehow, we still had family dinners, we worked together, and we didn’t call each other buffoons, morons or idiots.

Today, it seems to be the prevailing rule that if someone doesn’t agree with you politically, then they must be either uneducated, un-American or just plain evil.

Ronald Reagan typically referred to his adversaries as “well-intended opponents.” 

Both sides are trying to do what they believe is right, but in doing so, they have stopped making a case for their agenda and started to make a case against the person or people presenting an alternative view.

It’s much easier to call someone else an idiot rather than believe they might actually have a decent idea.

It has been said that politics is a contact sport, and it surely is, but the recent movement to villainize the opposition is leading America down a dark road, one that won’t end well for any particular view.

Even a phrase as simple as “Not my president” may make one side feel like they are standing for their political viewpoint, but they are paving the road for opposition to their ideology when the political winds change to their favor.

If you offer nothing but resistance to the current president, can you really fault others for obstructing the person you support?

There used to be a time when elections ended, when we simply moved on and allowed those chosen by the voters to govern, but both sides have made that more difficult by taking a no-compromise approach on virtually every proposal.

If you bring up health care, no compromise on either side. Talk taxes and you’ll see a straight party line vote.

Bring up immigration policy, and no one will budge.

We have pushed the envelope so far that once we discover someone’s political affiliation, we decide whether or not we will socialize or befriend them or not.

This is no more prevalent than on social media, where you can simply unfriend those you don’t like.

Over and over, we want to remove the voices we don’t like and only listen to those that we do.

This dangerous echo chamber approach has created the idea of safe spaces on college campuses, and there are even attempts to prevent different views from being discussed on college campuses.

I remember when I started going to college that I was told I would be exposed to liberal views, and that was true. But even when I was exposed to that, I was allowed to participate in discussions with opposite views, and never once did I feel like an instructors tried to silence me or discredit my views.

We allowed an open and fair discussion on the direction of the country, and through it all we felt like we were all proud to be Americans, no matter who the occupant was in the Oval Office.

There were certain principles that transcended politics, the first being that we believed all to be patriots.

That has also been tossed aside. We no longer view the opposition as patriotic. To the contrary, we have been convinced that the opposition is dead set at destroying America.

That has become dangerous to free speech. When we don’t even believe the opposing view should be heard — at all — we feel completely justified in shutting down a basic fundamental American tradition, the open exchange of ideas.

The best idea is not best because it is the only idea. The best way to find out if an idea has merit is to challenge it, to hear the reasons for and against, and to hear alternative proposals. 

We never believed democracy was better than socialism or communism because it was the only system we knew. We believed it was better because we listened to all perspectives, and democracy floated to the top.

We didn’t blindly believe America was the best nation because we didn’t understand other nations. We weighed them all, and we knew the progress made in America, and we knew no other nation has been as open or has had such a positive impact on humanity with the innovation that has taken place here.

These were concepts we used to share on both sides, but that simply is no longer true.

America itself is now considered by some to be unworthy of respect. Instead of looking at the progress made, we pick a single mistake or one bad situation and condemn the entire nation.

This is what happens when we fail to respect the opposition, and the same suspicion causes some to question authority to the point of not following basic requests by law enforcement. Simple traffic stops escalate to much worse than they should be.

When you don’t respect those who see the world differently, they won’t respect you, and the lack of respect for the opposition is leading us to more extreme political views.

After all, if you even think of talking to the opposition, you are a traitor to the dogma, and both sides have done it.

Will we all agree? No. 

But that doesn’t mean we have to hate each other, either. We can disagree and still respect the other view.

 

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