In a Trance

Trying to have a conversation with the politically passionate in America today is like running your fingers through a meat grinder. We don’t talk anymore. We scream. We don’t argue; we vilify. We can’t ever agree on any point because then the other side doesn’t lose, and then we can’t be the winners. It’s become a collectivist super bowl of bashing heads, silencing the other with violent rhetoric and, increasingly, physical attacks.

Your political beliefs and your skin color define your individual character. If you don’t agree with my assessment of current events, then you are hateful and I will attack your character until you shut up. I’ll declare that you should be fired and hanged as a warning to others of your ilk. In fact, if I’m a Hillary “progressive,”  I’ll go even further. I’ll stalk you online, post demeaning pictures or information about you, find out where you live and work, send emails to your boss and maybe drive by your house. If I’m a diehard Trumpkin, I’ll yell louder, belittle you and label you a Leftist, regardless your voting record.

White supremacists have garnered press and attention this week. They are, by all accounts, a miniscule number in the American population, and politically right-leaning groups purposely and vehemently disassociate from them. Supremacists are not conservative, not republican, but they are easy to hate, so it’s popular for left-leaning groups to label all “right wing” voters racists.

It’s unthinking. It’s dogs in the red zone. It’s trance-like loyalty to blanket ideology and rumor. Truth doesn’t matter; we create our own. For example, Antifa groups and sympathizers scoured pictures and footage of the rally in Charlottesville, trying to identify participants. When they thought they found a match – or they found one close enough – they “outed” him and began a deliberate attack to destroy his credibility. He works in a university research lab and had nothing to do with the rally. Fortunately for him, the university backed him up and changed the online narrative, but this should terrify us all. What happens when the target is just one of us who doesn’t have the same resources? What happens when the ignorami erroneously identify one of us, track us home, and violently attack? Even if they identify an actual participant, is mob mentality the answer? Vigilante justice has historically terrorized communities. Victims are identified guilty without any due process.

We cannot afford to ignore this precipitous slide into bedlam. We must tell the truth, listen to ideas that we don’t like, know why we believe what we believe, and be able to vocalize it without resorting to ad hominem. Of course we should disagree; diversity of thought is the harbinger of freedom. But logic should always trump emotion.  If we attack and silence and vilify the “other” then what have we accomplished beyond polarization and divisiveness? Wake from the ideological trance and be better humans.

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