(ATLANTA) —- There are many mentally unstable Americans living amongst us. They are listening to the hatred resulting from the phenomenon I call 'the politics of demonization.' Let’s be clear: Both political parties are guilty of demonizing the other.
However, today, we are reeling from the chilling effect of the assassination attempt of Republican congressmen while practicing for a charity baseball tournament outside of Washington, D.C.
Wednesday's shooter has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois. He was a retired home inspector.
Hodgkinson is a Bernie Sanders supporter whose page indicates that he believes "Pres. Trump is destroying our democracy." He likes/follows shows such as "Real-time with Bill Maher," Ed Schultz, "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" and "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC. All of these shows have one thing in common. They display a daily and visceral-rhetoric slandering the president and distorting the news to their viewers.
To a great extent, shows like these are the 'dog-whistles' to unstable individuals like Hodgkinson. They are a call-to-action (likely intended to create disruption not violence) that is misinterpreted.
This shooting is just the beginning. If each side of our political discourse doesn't stop demonizing the other, we will incite more deadly violence and increase our potential of nationwide civil-unrest.
Just recently, comedian Kathy Griffin made headlines by posing as a member of ISIS holding a prop meant to resemble the bloodied and severed head of Pres. Trump. These sorts of images are at least suggestive (to unstable Americans) and cross the line of "just free-speech." She lost her job with CNN and her comedy tour was canceled, but the cultural damage is lasting.
Instead of outright rejecting her acts and maintaining a professional distance, actors like Alec Baldwin and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) served as a character witness to Griffin. Their deduction was that "she made a mistake." Creating and posting this sort of image is much more than a mistake; it's deeply rooted hatred and destructive to our culture.
This past week, Delta Airlines and Bank of America expressed discomfort with a play by the New York City Public Theater called 'Shakespeare in the Park.' The play ended with the assassination of our president.
To its credit, Bank of America released a statement that said "the public theater chose to present Julius Caesar in such a way that was intended to provoke and offend. Had this intention been made known to us we would've decided not to sponsor it."
The demonic portrayal of our politicians needs to end. Not only is it dividing us, it's infecting our culture with deeply rooted, ignorant hatred stemming from a growing population of mentally unstable or simply ignorant citizens. Differences of opinion do not necessitate the projection of someone as evil.
Hodgkinson, whose Facebook cover-page portrays an image of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), suggests that he subscribes to the wealth-shaming that was a central theme to the Sanders campaign. Wealth-shaming is a form of 'politics of demonization.' It invigorates jealousy, self-loathing and the result is deeply-rooted hatred.
Almost all of the posts on Hodgkinson's Facebook page revolved around his support for Sanders, his disdain for Republican legislation and his hatred for Trump. No one's life should be consumed by politics with such little personal balance. Individuals should not be defined by our politics.
This is the 'canary in the coal mine' for Americans. It says to us that there is deep trouble within our mine (re: culture). The average hard-working American who is trying to earn a living, save for retirement and raise a family can't possibly spend the necessary time to fully understand the complexities of our government and fact-check our punditry.
Regretfully, many pundits, some in the media and a large number of our politicians have chosen to take advantage of the complexities of our government in order to further confuse, distort and manipulate the American people psyches.
This deceptive group collectively uses demonization of the opposition to polarize hearts and minds. As an example, they will take a powerful piece of legislation such as the American Health Care Act and highlight only the negatives. The intended goal is to evoke fear in at-risk Americans that their life is in danger and that the "other" wants to steal their access to live-saving healthcare.
In the foregoing example, this takes a potentially negative unintended consequence of legislation, ignoring the many positive effects and projects it on supporting-Republicans as being the sole, deviant intention. Democrats would be well served to make the point of ‘risk’ without demonizing the creators as if it were their intention.
The American people are confused by what our government has become. Historically, we elected the best public servants because they had a track-record of being honorable and righteous. Now, we have been beaten into submission insomuch as we choose the ones we fear the least.
'The politics of demonization' has turned winning away from being the best choice to being the one who can create the most fear regarding the opposition (re: Demonization).
This is our existential threat; not ISIS or Russia.