I would contend that the main problem with our country is that the extremes on both sides of the political spectrum have become more extreme. The majority of Americans, who lie somewhere center of the extremes, have simply let it happen. Despite what the media might say, most Americans are doing ok. According to definition, we are at full employment. Inflation must be brought under control and gas prices must fall but that is a recent development. The average American family is concerned about returning to normal following two years of Covid restrictions while the extremists are focusing on their agendas. Couple that with the murder of George Floyd, the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade, climate change, the ethics of our system of government, economics and controversies concerning gender and that’s a recipe for serious discourse. We are a divided as a nation.
I have always believed that in order for someone to reach unbiased conclusions, he or she, must start from a place that’s unbiased. One might say, how can anyone really be unbiased? I would challenge that because there are still a few people left who try to look at the issues and draw conclusions based on facts, not emotions. However, those people are becoming harder and harder to find and that’s problematic.
Let’s look at the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade. As someone who detests government interference in our lives, I have a huge problem with it, even as I understand why people might want to ban abortion. If you believe that life begins at conception, then it’s pretty clear cut for you. In my opinion, the life of the mother outweighs the potential life of the fetus, period, end of story. If the government can ban abortion, go after birth control, reinstate sodomy laws and reverse the decision legalizing same sex marriage, what can’t it do? Can it eradicate the 13th Amendment and reinstate slavery, expel all the Jews? I’m obviously using extreme cases but for me, it’s a distrust of government motives. So, while I weigh each issue independently, at the end of the day, I draw a conclusion that most aligns with the reality of the facts on the ground. Let me be clear, I believe government needs to play some role in our lives when it comes to law enforcement, immigration policies and protecting our environment. But it should play no role when it affects citizen’s personal lives and very personal decisions, i.e., sex, religion, marriage, healthcare etc.
The extremes on both sides attack anyone who disagrees with them. They don’t weigh facts and issues, and draw conclusions based on truths, they just act. The truth is, there is no truth when you lead and follow blindly. There is a unilateral position, and no discourse is permitted. They abhor free speech if it conflicts with their mission or their agenda. The left’s agenda has recently focused on bringing down our system and that’s a non-starter. Playing devil’s advocate, one could make the argument that the right wants to uphold and defend our system, even if it means storming the Capital. While horrible and those responsible need to spend time in prison, they acted out of fear. Millions of Americans don’t want to let go of the “American Way.” The left would say that way is racist, Confederate Flags and hatred, but is it really, in every case, racist? Might it just be the desire to pass on happy childhood memories to the next generation?
Antifa, the loosely organized group that first came to prominence during the George Floyd protests supposedly exists to fight rightwing extremism, and its radical agenda. But Antifa’s agenda includes dismantling and replacing Capitalism with Socialism or Communism and eliminating police forces, and any state authority. Members use both non-violent and violent methods to spread their message. They have been violent to the extent that Speaker Nancy Pelosi said members of Antifa should be arrested. We expect progressives to engage in dialogue and to discuss positions on abortion, birth control and same sex marriage. We don’t expect the left to resort to violence.
It’s not ok to stop discourse on college campuses. When I was in college, Hanan Ashrawi was asked to speak by the graduate school association of which I was the treasurer. Despite her being a very controversial figure, I thought it was an opportunity to hear her side of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. For those who may not know who she is, she’s a Palestinian politician who was a member of the Palestinian Leadership Committee and official spokeswoman for the Palestinian Authority. She was an important and instrumental figure in the Middle East peace process. Being that I went to school in New York City, there were many Jewish attendees, including me, and it could have gone badly. Despite some heated discussion and debate, it was all very civil. That’s how problems and disagreements are resolved. I can’t imagine that happening in today’s political climate.
Gone are the days where we allow people with very different opinions from our own, the opportunity to express themselves. This is true of those of the extreme right and those who refer to themselves as progressives and that scares me as much as the far-right radicals. Progressives are supposed to support freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The word progress is the very foundation of progressive. If we are to overcome the current state of division in this country, we’re going to first need to agree to speak to each other, not at each other. We must agree to an agenda of issues and in some cases, agree to disagree. But at the end of the day, we are all Americans, and we will only improve as a nation if we move forward together. I know that might sound like a dream, but I’ve never been offended by being referred to as a dreamer.