Editorial: Anger, hatred and the making of American political dysfunction

Published: 8/15/2018 12:09:30 AM

Why are liberals so angry? We’ve seen that question, and its variations, frequently over the years in online comments on the Monitor’s website and in reader-submitted letters and columns. We have also seen its inverse from time to time: Why are supporters of Donald Trump (or Republicans in general) so filled with hatred?

The questions are not meant to be answered; they are intended to be disqualifying.

The architects of these two distinct camps, the angry and the hate-filled, are unwittingly united in their embrace of disharmony. To add a little bit of farce to this tragicomedy, each side appears to be blind or numb to just how much they rely on their foes in the construction of their own political identity. In that one sense, at least, 21st-century America has its perfect president: Anger and hatred is what keeps Trump up at night and gets him out of bed in the morning. If you don’t believe that, take a look at the time stamps on his tweets.

But Trump’s reality, although an irresistible draw for pundits and trolls, isn’t reality for most Americans. From our perspective, the day-to-day actions of most people are not driven by anger or what and whom they hate. Not only that, most people don’t really think of themselves in terms of whether they are pro-Trump or anti-Trump (as much as that fact may disappoint the president). They are mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, grandmothers and grandfathers or any number of other identifiers that mean so much more than Republican or Democrat, progressive or conservative.

There is not a person on Earth who deserves simplistic categorization; everybody has been shaped and continues to be shaped by a jumble of experiences and circumstances. If you are aware of your uniqueness, why would you deprive anyone of theirs regardless of how much you disagree with them on the issues of the day? There is only one answer: to disqualify them from debate and win by forfeit.

In moments of unexpected national tragedy, Americans have tended to rediscover, however briefly, their shared humanity. Anger dissolves, hate recedes and differences are celebrated for their contribution to the whole. This plays out on a smaller scale daily and throughout the country – at the scene of fires and floods, accidents and tornadoes. We witness acts of generosity and kindness, and never once wonder where these heroes of the day exist on the political spectrum.

It never seems to matter all that much in the great scheme of things.

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