A House, Dividing

The first of those gunshots rang out across a baseball field in Virginia. According to one representative, Rodney Davis from Illinois, it sounded like a metal pipe being dropped at a nearby construction site. That loud crack of exploding gunpowder declared our collective entrance into a more violent era. With each following shot, the civil society we believe in was eroded.

I was working last Saturday at a picnic outside Chicago, talking politics with a colleague, when he told me if he could assassinate Trump, he would. How profound those words seem now, how telling. Trying to murder politicians is no longer a matter of jest. A Congressman lays in a hospital in serious condition, a few others injured, more still traumatized. A nation, shocked, and afraid at what looks back at it when it gazes into the mirror.

Politics, especially in a pluralistic, democratic society, is meant to be an exercise in compromise. It is meant to be collective decision making, good negotiating, where neither side feels they got what they wanted, but at least most people get something. But that is changing. Our politics is no longer about compromise, but crushing the enemy. Every issue is a battleground where no inch can be given, and all must be taken. We are convinced we are engaged in a basic philosophical struggle, a battle between good and evil. And if all sides see it that way, can anyone be right?

Eric Trump says that he does not look at those who criticize his father as human. This failure to recognize our common humanity, our common heritage, our common goal for a better country is our country’s epidemic. Without a cure, there is no way forward. Seeing the other as less than human breaks the psychological barrier that would prevent us from resorting to their demise. To understand those different than us in a shallow way, to imagine them as something other than a member of our species, is to say I could end your life without a qualm. I could shake off your death with the shrug of my shoulders.

This is a frightening time. The shooting in Alexandria should worry us to our core. This is the country we are becoming. Our news is filled with a circus parade rather than reasonable and responsible leadership. And people would rather shout than listen, rather silence than engage. There is no will to understand one another. The camps are no longer ideological, they exist in alternate realities. We watch one news channel and say the other news is fake. There are now facts and alternative facts, acceptable ideas and unacceptable ones. The most basic common ground, a shared country, is no longer valid. We are edging closer and closer to a national struggle.

What kind of country do we want to be? What values and ideals, what myths and sense of nationhood do we want to accept? Forced to ask ourselves these questions, which can only be solved as a single set of united states, Americans finds there neighbors no longer live in their world. And in policy debates, lives are on the line, the cries from the pundits that “People will die”. And we are a country built by political violence, uprising etched into our bedrock. Why do we have more guns than people? To overthrow tyranny. And, nowadays, everyone is a tyrant in someone’s eyes.

The anti-fascists are shutting down free speech and burning college campuses. And then a man in Portland stabs three people on a train that stand up for the Muslim women he was harassing; on trial he screams free speech or death. Wealth inequality is growing, the liberals have lost their way and the conservatives pander to the poor while giving to the rich. And so a man who volunteered on the campaign of an independent democratic socialist goes to a baseball field and guns down Republicans. Black people are killed by law enforcement and officers go free, and then in Dallas and Baton Rouge, madmen kill cops

The more radical elements of American society are proclaiming give me liberty, or give me your life.

Freedom is an American birthright, so when politics becomes so vile, when polarization so wide, we see the other as an existential threat. The progressives say “Not my president” when of course he is your president, that is what it means to live in a democracy. The same rights that allow you to resist are the same reason you must accept his victory. And others feel so neglected by the system they believe that only through demolishing our society can their problems be fixed.

This shooting is the moment when the person across the table says something so horrible that, no matter how profusely they take it back, no matter how sincerely they apologize, nothing can repair the relationship. Something is forever altered. So here we stand, a country faced with our demons of today.

What is so worrying about this act of violence is not the violence itself. There doesn’t appear to be any imminent threat of civil conflict that will erupt from this shooting. What is worrying is just how far we are drifting from one another. It has come to the point where we do not fear absolute power in the hands of a leader or weakened institutions as much as we fear one another.

We allow the President to assume imperial powers, as long as it’s our man in office, and we recoil and march when someone we dislike ascends to that position, those powers waiting for them at the desk. We call for our Congressmen to obstruct the process of government, and then in turn rage when the other side follows suit. As our politics continues to turn into a war of attrition, as we fear our fellow Americans more than we fear despotism, more than we fear the crippling blows dealt to our democratic institutions, we open ourselves up to oppression. We no longer fear the coalescence of power into any single group or single pair of hands. Instead we cherish it when our group holds it, and the moment it slips from our grasp, we refuse and de-legitimize any expression of power until our hungry clawing for it returns it to our clutches.

If we continue down this path, one day we will gaze upon the relics that were our Constitution, our democracy, and wonder how it all fell apart so suddenly, not realizing the collapse began long ago.

What will it take for us to turn around and walk away from the precipice? What will keep us from tumbling down, down into the chasm?

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B just dropped the hottest summer single yet. It's called "WAP" and we're going to get into all the intoxicating lyrics.

This song empowers females and their sexuality. These women put the ridiculous music industry female beef to bed, and I mean tucked away in a coma.

Keep Reading... Show less

How To Write Down The Holy Grail Recipe Everyone Begs You To Make

Because everyone has a signature cocktail, cake, or pasta they bring to every potluck.


From back when I used to bring my mom's classic white chocolate chip cookies to preschool on my birthday to now stirring up my signature tequila cocktails at every friends' barbecue, I've always had a couple of standby recipes in my culinary rotation.

Keep Reading... Show less

Meet My Cat: Cheshire, The Stray Turned House Cat Who Lives in Michigan

I never considered myself a cat person, but Chess immediately stole my heart.

Madelyn Darbonne

In 2016, a stray cat gave birth to a litter of three grey kittens on my aunt and uncle's property. I had never considered myself to be much of a cat person, but these furballs immediately stole my heart. I got to watch them grow up until they were old enough to leave their mother's side.

Keep Reading... Show less

How To Binge-Watch A TV Show —And Then Write A Review About It

Writing your favorite and least favorite things about a show could not be more fun.

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

Looking for a new show to binge? Stop scrolling through your options and listen.

Sometimes a good show doesn't come down to the genre or the actors involved, it comes down to the fact that it is simply a GOOD show. If any of these things sound appealing to you, you should definitely watch.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

11 Reasons Why Getting A Cat Is The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Mental Health

Cats may mess up your puzzles but they'll always love you unconditionally — as long as you have some catnip, that is.

Scout Guarino

Alright, everyone, it's time to stop spreading the rumor that all cats are mean, aloof, and hate everyone. Like dogs, each cat has its own personality and tendencies. Some like a lot of attention, some like less — each person has to find the right cat for them. As for me, my cats Bienfu and Reptar have seen me at my worst, but they've also helped pull me out of it. They're a constant in my life and they give me the strength to get through the day in spite of my depression, and there's even scientific evidence to support it!

Keep Reading... Show less

I've been bleaching my hair since I was in seventh grade. Yes, you read that correctly, seventh grade. That's nearly 10 years of maintaining a very light shade of blonde that too-often brings about dryness and brittle strands.

Keep Reading... Show less

Chances are if you're here, you're probably interested in writing an open letter. Yay! We're excited to have you.

Of course, not all open letters are created equal. In fact, there's a recipe to writing one for Odyssey that'll get featured on one of our many verticals. When it comes to Swoon specifically (for those new around here, that's our dating and relationships vertical), we receive dozens of open letters each month, many of which are all very similar.

Keep Reading... Show less

With a new phone comes great responsibility: Do not break it! And the best way to do that is with a case. However, picking a case can be a challenge. No need to fret, I am here to help break down some of the best cases for the new iPhone SE 2020. Honestly, I think it's going to be impossible to choose!

Keep Reading... Show less

To some who have been out of the dating world for a while, it can be hard to get back into the swing of things after being single for some time. So, I asked 26 people what they think is important to know before looking for love again, here's what they had to say.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments