The Toxicity of Our Politics

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The Toxicity of Our Politics

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By Jimmy Sullivan

On Monday, the President of the United States described an FBI raid as “an attack on our country.” Sadly, no one batted an eyelash.
Those words are appropriate for terrorist attacks, mass shootings and acts of war that take place on American soil. On Monday afternoon, the FBI raided the office of Michael Cohen, the president’s lead attorney, in relation to his business records related to porn star Stormy Daniels. Daniels is suing the president over a non-disclosure agreement that he didn’t sign after the two supposedly had an “intimate” relationship after Trump married his current wife, Melania.

The FBI also wanted documents relating to Russia’s potential meddling in the 2016 presidential election. And, most importantly, the agency obtained a warrant when it did all of these things Monday. That’s not an attack on our country. That’s the FBI doing its job.
Sadly, our president’s comments (which also included another public rebuke of his own attorney general) are emblematic of a larger problem in America. Our politics — and more specifically, our discussions of them — are toxic. Actually, they can more accurately be described as a cesspool.

We disavow friends and even family members if they have different beliefs than we do. We don’t listen to each other. We yell at each other without even understanding what the other person’s position is.

And, worst of all, we listen to respond and offer a rebuttal to our interlocutors instead of listening to understand where they come from and why they think the way they do. This problem is not a Democrat or Republican one. It’s an American problem.

Unfortunately, our elections have also become about who can yell the loudest and who can lob the best insults at the other side. No longer do we elect leaders based on their intelligence and fitness for their jobs.

There is human proof of this trend in the White House, and chances are he’s in the residence watching cable television right now. If you really think that Trump was elected because he was the best person out of 320 million Americans to be our president, then I offer you these words he actually tweeted after his unprecedented 2016 election victory:

“China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act.”

This tweet shows that we do not value intelligence, contemplation and nuance in American society any longer.

Here’s a fun exercise: watch CNN for ten minutes on any weeknight. There will likely be a panel discussion the size of the last supper, and many of the panelists will scream at each other at the same time. But, most importantly, there will likely be one conservative voice on that panel, and that individual will likely be struck down very quickly. This person will not have a chance to further extrapolate his or her points beyond an initial statement, and if said analyst is a Trump supporter, then he or she is really in deep trouble.

Of course, if you turn on Fox News and you see a liberal, chances are that person is engaged in a shouting match with Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity or the woman who told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble.”

Here’s another problem with what is going on today: in addition to choosing their own sides, people now choose their own facts, as well.

If you decide to watch Fox News as a respite from the garbage being thrown around on other networks, you will find multiple segments devoted to a “deep state” within our government that is somehow serving to undermine President Trump. This, of course, is not true; there is an entirely legitimate FBI investigation going on right now as to whether a foreign country compromised our elections, to say nothing of a porn star suing the president. The left is not innocent here, either; many on that side have a predetermined outcome in mind for that investigation, which does not appear close to a conclusion.

I say all of this not as an elitist snob, but as an independent, concerned citizen living in the greatest country in the world. We, as a nation, have gone to the zoo of believing what we want to believe and pointing blind vitriol at the other side, regardless of what they are actually saying. We need to put our own opinions aside and listen to others, regardless of whether or not they share our beliefs. This is a legitimate problem for obvious reasons, and it also opens the door for unqualified people to reach positions of power like Donald Trump did in the 2016 presidential election.

Of course, social media has exacerbated this problem as well. We can call people we don’t even know every insult in the book without having to face any real-world consequences from doing so.

This problem is something we need to figure out, not just for the 2018 Midterm elections, but also moving forward. As a famous TV president once said, “Decisions are made by those who show up.” Let’s show up in seven months. Let’s be smart. And let’s not blindly cast a vote for an inexperienced, unqualified individual because he or she happens to be on our side of the issues.