America seems to be in big trouble. Not only are there demonstrations that at times turn violent and destructive, differences are impacting families and friendships that previously have weathered many divisive elections. It may not yet be a red vs blue civil war, but anger is real. Disagreement has given way to distance and heated dissension.
Daniel J. Boorstin, the University of Chicago American historian, wrote: “Disagreement produces debate but dissent produces dissension. Dissent (which come from the Latin, ‘dis’ and ‘sentire’) means originally to ‘feel apart from others.’ People who disagree have an argument, but people who dissent have a quarrel. People may disagree and both may count themselves in the majority. But a person who dissents is by definition in a minority. A liberal society thrives on disagreement but is killed by dissension. Disagreement is the life blood of democracy, dissension is its cancer.”
That cancerous dissension is on display almost every day. On the extreme left, many demonstrators seem unhinged in support of never-ending resistance. They rally around the word “Resist” while failing to explain or to stand for what they are for. Reporters write about the reprehensible growth of Muslim hate groups, but what of the exploding nature of organized Trump hate groups. Anger unchecked against any person or group is truly a low-brain function where disagreement over issues take a back seat to name-calling and taunts of anyone daring to support their target. Should not an attack on a person just wearing a Trump shirt or hat be a hate crime? Of course!
Signs and shouts of “Nazi,” “bigot,” and “tyrant” are common. A Google search of “Trump is a Nazi” gives you 41,100,000 hits, well ahead of “Hitler was a Nazi” at 21,700,000 hits. But then Hitler was a Nazi and had a 75-year head start! To be fair and balanced, President Obama did fairly well in the “Nazi” sweepstakes with 33,100,000 hits. Poor Hitler loses to both with little chance of catching up!
With such open anger, most of those who voted for President Trump are staying silent, but some are not. In response to the predictable comments in Hollywood attacking Donald Trump at the Grammys or at other award ceremonies, Joy Villa, a self-described singer-songwriter, courageously took to the Grammys’ red carpet wearing a “Make America Great Again” dress with a train emblazoned with President Trump’s name. The Trump supporters seething as they watched rich artists demean their candidate were quick to reward Miss Villa. Her album sales exploded 18,106,633 percent within hours of wearing her “Make America Great Again” dress.
We are living in a world that rewards disagreements with television coverage! Commercialized news and political cable shows can’t help themselves. Footage of aggressive demonstrations is irresistible eye candy for the 24/7 TV news cycle demand for violent displays. The demonstrators are getting coverage, but we’re not moving closer together, just further apart.
Singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris calls for civility: “As citizens, we have to be more thoughtful and more educated and more informed. I turn on the TV and I see these grown people screaming at each other, and I think, well, if we don't get our civility back we're in trouble.”
When a fire is raging in an area where it can do little real damage, you let it burn itself out. Anger is hard to maintain for months. President Trump would be wise to let freedom of speech reign. Keep his focus on policy priorities and working with those on the left willing to find some common ground. But “we the people” need to collectively call for more responsible civil dialogue.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.”
President Thomas Jefferson said, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” Most responsible Americans on both sides of our political divide reject hate. It’s time to “love” our neighbor, our fellow citizens, no matter what their political persuasion.
But whether we like it or not, Donald Trump was elected our President. Any President faces daily challenges that can impact the safety and future of America. The blanket rejection and promise to resist every move is a recipe for chaos, not sound decision-making. Care enough to strongly confront Trump’s policies where you must, but support him where you can. Diverse perspectives and courageous disagreements are treasured in a functioning republic. Dissension unchecked is a cancer.
Yes, elections have consequences, but soon there will be new elections. Let’s join together to give President Trump a chance to lead and let the mid-term election be his report card.