Do you long for those days when you could have a good honest debate and express your arguments and different opinions with mutual respect? When, despite political preferences you could genuinely acknowledge each other’s judgment and moral clarity was not such an issue. In fact you might even admire the integrity of your opponent’s rational explanations and learn something new that helps you see an issue in broader context. Those debates and our feelings for one another appear to have greatly deteriorated over the past three years as Americans have become more polarized over their support or rejection of this President.
A broad majority of people are not immune from this national virus of distrust infecting our society. Folks seem to have squared off into their respective camps so entrenched in their own beliefs that we are increasingly at odds and commonality is harder to find. What divides us are not just political issues, but issues of civility, honesty, and efforts to reveal or conceal the truth.
The true dilemma is that the foundation of our values has taken such a blow that even truth itself is on shaky ground. Are people not able to discern fact from fiction or know the difference between lies and truth? Or do we choose to betray our own ideals in pursuit of a favored agenda, no matter the cost? Have we forgotten that the way we get to our agenda is as important as the agenda itself?
We cannot ignore Donald Trump’s influence on the American character. He has exhibitted behavior that we would not tolerate from our children, yet we have condoned his. No President has sown such divisiveness, spouted such hate and vitriol, thwarted the law, or sought to undermine the Constitution to the extent Trump has. Still he continues to have the support of many Americans. I struggle to make sense of this. I struggle with how to keep a positive relationship with my fellow countrymen and not fall prey to cynicism.
I believe the overall American character is one of decency and mutual respect for fellow human beings, that a man’s word means something, and that despite our differences we have much more in common. I think most people believe a civil association based on truth and fair representation is essential to a mutually contributing, healthy society. If we don’t have that, if we can’t agree on what’s right is right, if we look away, we’re in big trouble.
From now until the November elections we Americans are going to be peppered by propaganda, subjected to conspiracy theories, inundated by statistics, all run through the gauntlet of biased news coming from all sides. We may have to discern among foreign influences and examine whether what we are hearing is even true. It won’t be easy, but we have to do it. It will depend on how we choose to live in this world and meet real challenges that lie ahead.
Steve Hughes is a longtime resident of Kachemak Bay.