Today, July 17, 2019, was not a good today for America. On one hand, the Congress voted to condemn President Trump’s malicious tweets (directed at four female, Democratic, non-white, female members) much to the chagrin of the Republican faction who by all accounts made very vocal their opposition to this effort (kudos to the journalists brave enough to point out the hypocrisy of Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, who’s wife happens to be an immigrant of Taiwanese decent.) A small victory for the many Americans outraged by Trump’s offensive repudiations.
On the other hand, attendees at a Trump rally in Greenville, North Carolina, in response to his negative comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar (least of which: labeling her “anti-semetic”) began chanting, in unison, “Send Her Back” — to Somalia, that is, where she was born, and where Trump has encouraged her to redirect her political attention and energy to try and solve “their problems”, not those of the country she was elected (and has every legal right) to serve. And while we’re on that topic, let’s not overlook who easily these Rebel Rousers dismiss her legitimate US citizenship, not to mention the fact that she was voted into office by her constituents according to the laws of the constitution of the country that they claim she “hates”.
When opposing the messaging and tone of a divisive President becomes the equivalent of “hating your country”, it isn’t hard to imagine what comes next.
It wasn’t long ago that the media (aided by the politicians) planted the seeds of the “Two Americas”: the red states and the blue states, the progressives and the conservatives, standing on opposite sides of the debate on American values and what it means to be “American”: you either believe in the right to bear arms, or you don’t. You’re for gay marriage, you’re against it. You want to see tax and health care reform, you don’t. In comparison to where we’re at now, those days seem downright utopic.
It’s safe to say things haven’t necessarily gone in the right direction. If the general tone and tenor of the conversations spilling out of the coffee shops of Main Street USA isn’t enough, one only has to look at the evidence of an uptick in violence, discrimination, and protests and counter-protests in our urban communities (read: Portland, Oregon).
You can blame Trump, you can blame wage disparity, you can blame the politicians (I certainly do), but regardless of where you point the finger, there’s no denying that we’ve moved into an era of unprecedented polarization, certainly well beyond anything I’ve seen in my short 44 years.
It seems almost as if, where as once we were all patriots despite our socio-economic differences or political ideologies, one can no longer be labeled a “red” or “blue” American. Today, you’re either for a diverse America, or against it, plain and simple. Another way of putting it: you’re either for Trump and his base, or you’re against him, a sentiment that calls to mind that of President Bush’s post-9/11 comments regarding the terrorist attacks in New York City (traced even further back to the Synoptic Gospels, who attributed the quote to Jesus in Matthew 12:30.)
That’s about as much disparity as you’ll ever see between two halves of a whole, and likely explains why the middle has all but disappeared from American politics.
Immigration, the rights of those who have immigrated and seek asylum in our country from oppressive governments, has taken center stage on the battleground for American hearts and minds. You simply cannot be in the middle of that debate, despite best efforts to suggest otherwise, particularly from those who call out the “illegal” asylum seekers as criminals, rapists, murderers and vagrants and vindicate those who do so “legally”.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez incurred a heavy backlash after calling U.S. immigration detention centers “concentration camps”, others are condemning the labeling of such camps anti-semetic (as a Jewish American, I can assure you, it is not.)
When an elected official (Rep. Omar) is being chastised and encouraged to be “sent home” by the supporters of a President who at one time made a major political play by pushing a birther ideology on behalf of our former President when all evidence suggested otherwise, one cannot help but stop and question the state of our union.
There is but little question that our major political parties have escalated tensions to the point of inevitable eruption; something clearly has to give. We are no longer talking about two political ideologies, we’re talking about two very different Americas. Polar opposite, in fact.
All is not lost. A ripe opportunity exists for a new political party to take shape and balance out the extremities. One can imagine the momentum that would inevitably build by a collection of high profile moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats coalescing over a more centrist platform; such thoughts are quickly stamped out by the reality that such efforts, even by the bravest of politicians, would no doubt be the most obvious attempt at political suicide.
So where do we go from here?
We can start by accepting the ugly reality that we are at war with ourselves. Not a violent war, a cultural war. A war that sparked by a surge in extremist movements emerging in no small part as a counter-attack to the unorthodox and downright careless politics of our most unorthodox of Presidents. For every outlandish Trump stump speech espousing the dangerous of murderous immigrants running amok across the land, there’s a corresponding “MeToo” movement; every time Trump’s pudgy fingers punch out another 140 characters about the “fake news” media, there’s a Pride parade raging, an LGBTQ uprising somewhere deep in the heart of liberal America.
We can’t continue like this. There’s too much hate, too much distrust, too much insecurity to keep up a pretty face, even despite the strength of our economy.
As the culture wars rage on, one rejected White House visit by an American sports team after another, I become increasingly concerned about the future of our country, the stability of our democracy, the rights of all, regardless of race, gender or creed. I’m forced to accept the reality that a cartoon character of a President isn’t to blame, but the system that got him where he is, that’s keeping him there, that continues to build momentum and steam, that ain’t gonna change anytime soon.
That’s a scary thought.