The first article, and what I consider one of the most important articles I wrote for Odyssey was called " The Way to Stop Making America Hate Again ." I wrote it because I saw how quickly and easily our country was becoming divided by political parties and feared things like punching people in the face at rallies might be just the beginning. My fears have unfortunately been proven to be true to an extent I had hoped I would never have to witness.
I write about all this again because I can't help but review it over and over as events unfold in our country today. Just last week the Headquarters of the GOP in North Carolina was firebombed in the night, the mark of the culprits left in graffiti on the wall said simply, "Nazi Republicans leave town or else". This has both saddened and angered me in many ways not because I am a Democrat or Republican but because I am an American.
When I see the ways in which people are trying to now demonize the people of the opposing party I become very fearful and am also reminded of a quote by Ronald Reagan in the opening minutes of his famous and career launching speech, "A Time For Choosing." Back then his words were simple, "You and I are increasingly told we have to choose between a left or right. Well I'd like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There's only an up or down."
We have allowed ourselves rapidly to be sucked into a system of hate, giving into propaganda that tells us to fear and loathe the other side, and this hate most definitely represents a choice to go down. The political divide we are creating is opening up a hundred other divides in its wake. The issue is no longer Democrat or Republican but Democrat vs. Republican. Our party divides are in many ways a root cause of all the other great divides. How can we expect to solve the issues of race, gender, and religion in our country when we refuse to address them as anything but pieces of a political chess match?
I know Democrats are outraged and angered by Republicans and Republicans are angered and outraged by Democrats. But we must understand that Republicans and Democrats in this country are not opposing forces there to vanquish one another, but are two sides of the same coin. Before we are Democrats and Republicans we are all Americans. Just as before we are black, white, latino, men, women, young, old, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, we are all still Americans fighting for the same freedoms, and perhaps before that, still humans who in reality all have overwhelmingly the same hopes and ambitions for themselves and their fellow people. It may also be worth realizing that this coin I speak of has far more than those two sides, in fact it has approximately 318 million of them in each and every face of the American people.
When we decide to divide up a population that is so clearly diverse and whose strength comes from their independence and individuality and place them into two groups and then through years of growing propaganda tell each one that the other is evil, stupid, hates American values and doesn't represent the "real" America then we create a terribly unneeded burden and obstacle for our country, its ideals and its freedoms.
To judge a person based on their political party is wrong, just as it is wrong to judge a person based on so many other differences that make America what it is. Many might argue that a political party is much different, that the choosing of a certain party represents a moral choice and so can be used to judge the content of that person's character. This is bad reasoning because not all Democrats have the same exact view, the same experience on life, they support the same issues for often very different reasons, disagree often on how to go about supporting these issues and which reasons matter most and even disagree on the fundamentals of what it means to be a Democrat. The very same can be said for the Republicans.
It is only when you begin taking violent actions and feeling hate for another group of people solely out of the differences they have and acting on this hatred do we see the true content of a person’s character. Don’t tell me how right or wrong a person is based on their ballot card, show me their actions, what they do when they see a person being harassed because of their religion, insulted because of their skin, misused because of their gender, or denied their basic rights because of the lack of money in their pocket, these are the moments when true character is revealed.
One could argue whether one party does a better job of creating goodness or hate in our country but that is a far different discussion and approach than simply labeling people as on the “good” side or “bad” side. It is also important to recognize that in the end the overwhelming majority of us are all still working toward the same goal, improving America and helping its people. Having different opinions on doing this doesn't represent a plague in our country but, at its best, shows the benefit of having different opinions, and recognizing individuality and a first amendment right to express those opinions and individuals.
I am obviously not naive enough to believe that the two parties are always going to get along, and I do not propose the elimination of such parties as it is obvious that they both have done great things for this country. But it is simply important, now that as this election of negativity comes to an end, to learn from it, learn how to come together and not use half of our country as scapegoats in order to solve our problems.
Many people a few weeks ago complained of one participant's question in the second presidential debate as useless and just there to entertain. The question was asking the two candidates Trump and Clinton to name one positive thing they respect about each other. In my opinion this was one of the most important questions of this election. What it shows is a craving. A craving by American people who want the negativity to end, the blaming, the hatred, the squabbling to stop. When we divide our country down lines of red and blue in a manner that is violent and hateful rather than one born out of your belief in what is better for the country, we make an active decision. We make a decision, to choose not to work toward solving any of the problems in America and mend the divides that threaten the freedom of our democracy and instead invent a whole new problem and risk to our country, to politicize with the rest with.
I am not a Republican or a Democrat because I do not see a need to bolt myself down to one party. America is not left or right it is ambidextrous, we may prefer one side over the other, as I myself often do, but that does not give an invitation to subject the other side to political discrimination. We have been told how terrible and un-American the workings of each side is for a long time now, but I submit to you that a failure to see the other side as more than simply the "other" represents something far more terrible and far more un-American.