Most Americans have little reluctance to state firmly that race-based superiority is wrong.
At the same time, too many fall into the belief that their political opponents are inherently inferior. Distaste based on voluntary choices is not the moral equivalent of white supremacy, but lumping large numbers of people together and labeling them snowflakes, racists, freeloaders or compassionless definitely is a form of prejudice.
That kind of “othering” can cross the line that separates disagreeing with someone’s opinions and dismissing someone’s humanity. It’s a dangerous practice, and there’s absolutely no doubt that it is growing ever more prevalent in the United States of America.
Twice, recently, someone has publicly expressed the wish that Sen. John McCain, who is suffering from brain cancer, would die. From there, it’s really not all that far to the belief that it’s OK to make that happen.
Political discourse has degenerated into namecalling, sometimes without any other message.
When the president himself routinely uses derogatory terms for American citizens and elected officials – who at least knew they were signing on to a system rife with partisan divisions – something is wrong.
Insulting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not the way to craft consensus.
It is now common, and acceptable in some circles, to brand any unflattering opinion as uninformed and untrue, any inconvenient news as fake, and anyone who holds an opposing viewpoint as un-American. The number of leaks from within the Trump administration, as well as the number of people already fired, show that trust is almost nonexistent and relationships aren’t working.
None of this moves our country forward.
The United States of America is – or ought to be – a nation in which ideas are refined through vigorous, respectful debate. Proposals can be made stronger through valid criticism and rejected if they cannot withstand scrutiny. That work should involve everyone’s best effort, not obstruction and obfuscation, and not instant rejection of the work of opponents and predecessors.
Can we all take a deep breath and remember that the process of governing can be accomplished in a civil and humane manner, even while benefiting from sharply divergent opinions?
What we are seeing right now is not America at its best. All of us need to demand civil and responsible behavior from those we have elected, and we need to model that behavior in our political activism and everyday discourse.
We can, and must, do better.