In the wake of the shooting of a Republican congressman practicing for a charity baseball game in Virginia, politicians from both parties, among others, have called for the end of divisiveness, to come together as a country.
Politicians also bonded together: “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” Paul Ryan proclaimed.
Politicians can’t have it both ways. They can’t purposely, explicitly, and even angrily divide us for votes and then ask us to pull together when that divisiveness ends in tragedy.
President Donald Trump has called other Americans “losers” and “the enemy.” He led his supporters in chants to lock up Hillary Clinton. He tried to impose a travel ban against Muslims and build a wall to keep out Mexicans he described as rapists and killers. Donald Trump Jr. said Democrats weren’t even people.
The country is divided as perhaps never before. Just read the comment sections on national stories — people are mean and angry. They are looking for a way to vent.
I think the American public increasingly feels that politicians put politics and party before people. Previous disagreements with Republicans were ideological, in terms of policy, where opposing arguments were genuine and worth contemplating, even compromising. But today, due to differences in morals and values, it’s hard to warm up to a Trump voter.
Politicians have been sticking it to the poor and middle classes for a long time. They cater to lobbyists and the interests they represent. They help the rich get richer and put the wealth in the hands of a small percentage of Americans while stacking the deck of opportunity and class mobility against the poor and middle classes. The middle class barely gets by; the poor are portrayed as a burden, requiring public assistance and nearly voiceless.
Most of all, politicians take care of themselves. Political money decides elections. Politicians are well paid, with excellent benefits, refuse to impose term limits, and gerrymander districts.
More than ever, politicians are insulting the people they represent. They say some things that are nearly incomprehensible and fail to represent reality. They tell the lies that they know people want to believe. They say they are going to do things they have no intention of doing.
At some point, people have had enough.
I am a certified pacifist, but I understand violence and the reasons for it. I understand that war is sometimes necessary to stop tyrants like Adolph Hitler or terrorist groups like ISIS. It’s self-defense, for the greater good, on a larger scale.
I also understand — but of course do not agree with — political terrorism. Attacks are either random as an ideology, or in the most recent case, directly targeted at political figures. The political terrorist often feels oppressed and the intent is to create fear.
Republicans have canceled town hall meetings and are currently working in secrecy on a health care bill. Protests have broken out all over the country. And now this political shooting in particular, and others in general. In a sense, it is a tiny modern rebellion. It is a little like the American revolution in which the Continental army would disrupt the British army with unconventional warfare, hiding in trees, disappearing into the night.
While I would advocate activism, through peaceful protests and civic engagement, and I still believe in democracy and the integrity and responsibility of elections, not everyone is a pacifist. And the more politicians turn their backs on the people they represent, insult them, even mock them, the more they risk violent protests, angry town hall meetings, and political terrorism.
It is not until politicians decide to stand up to corporations, institutions, the wealthy, and other political interests that America will be what she can be. It’s about doing the right thing regardless of who benefits.
It might be indecorous to note that Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was shot at the baseball practice, is a strong Second Amendment advocate and had an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. He also voted against the measure aimed at keeping the guns out of the hands of individuals with mental health issues. I am sure Scalise will remain defiant, but it is true that often people don’t act until their interests have been affected.
If politicians really want to end the divisiveness that is growing in this country, they need to stop talking and lead by example. We need publicly financed, civilly-debated elections and term limits. We need real discussions, in which politicians can speak openly without the fear of betraying supporters or becoming a sound bite for the other side. We need to stop giving air time on the major news stations to the political surrogates, who often lead the way in absurd partisan commentary.
People need to feel that politicians really understand them, and care about them — and will make the tough decision for them.