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Levels Of ‘Division And Animosity’ Growing In U.S.

By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News
A North Dakota man is facing two felony terroristic threat counts because he apparently couldn’t stand the political beliefs of a woman whose car featured an Elizabeth Warren bumper sticker. Senator Warren of Massachusetts is a front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Associated Press reported that 27-year-old Joseph Schumacher, of Bismarck, North Dakota, “was charged last week with carrying weapons without a permit, the unlawful transportation of firearms and disorderly conduct.” He is alleged to have pulled up to the woman’s vehicle yelling at her about her Warren bumper sticker, pointing to his President Donald Trump sticker, then driving away while flashing a gun.

Moorhead police arrested Schumacher in a nearby restaurant wearing a Trump 2020 hat. In his vehicle, they found two loaded guns. He claims he was just “flirting” with the woman.

In the same week, the non-partisan Pew Research Center released the findings of a poll showing Americans are more polarized than ever. “Today, the level of division and animosity – including negative sentiments among partisans toward the members of the opposing party – has only deepened,” they wrote in comparing today to the days of the 2016 presidential campaign.

In general, Republicans are more likely to label Democrats with negative characteristics than Democrats are with one exception – 75 percent of Democrats think Republicans are more closed-minded than other Americans. Only 64 percent of Republicans say they return the feeling about Democrats.

Pew also found that nearly 60 percent of Democrats believe in compromising even if it means giving up some of their essential policy goals. Only 45 percent of Republicans express a willingness to compromise in such situations. Meanwhile, 63 percent of Republicans think Democrats are “unpatriotic” though just 23 percent of Democrats think the same about Republicans.

These growing divisions in American political society are spilling over into everyday life. It is more difficult for families in which there are Trump supporters and Trump haters to get together. Friendships between people of the two camps are becoming colder. Civility in conversations about our president is difficult at best, physically confrontational at its worst.

Few can deny that Trump doesn’t help civility’s cause with his often harsh, demeaning, and combative charges against his political opponents. His campaign rallies whip up emotions and deepen resentments. They erode acceptance of those who think differently, making them enemies rather than people who simply have opposing political and social ideals.

“E Pluribus Unum” is the Latin phrase meaning “Out of Many One.” It was adopted as our new country’s motto by the founding fathers in 1782. It is on the Great Seal of the United States and on some of our coins.

Into our polarized nation, the image of liberal gay activist and immensely popular television star Ellen DeGeneres sitting next to conservative Republican two-term president George W. Bush at the Dallas Cowboys-Green Bay Packers football game Oct. 6 thrust. It was unsettling to many on both sides of the political spectrum.

In response to the criticism leveled at her for appearing next to Bush, exchanging laughs and pleasantries, DeGeneres spoke out.

“Here’s the thing,” she said. “I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have.”

“We’re all different, and I think we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different. Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean I’m not going to be friends with them.”

“When I say, ‘be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people who think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone, it doesn’t matter,” DeGeneres told her audience and the nation.

Some praised her call for civility while others criticized it. Those angered by DeGeneres words pointed to Bush’s pulling the U.S. into the Iraq War where more than 4,400 American soldiers died. They point to the torture of prisoners than happened under his watch, his anti-gay stands, and his appointment of conservative Supreme Court justices whose Citizens United opened the floodgates of corporate money into our elections. One Hollywood star said she was being friendly to a “war criminal.”

CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza saw it differently.

“What DeGeneres is advocating there is sort of anti-Trumpism in its purest form,” he wrote. “Because what this president represents, more than any issue stance or policy position, is the idea that people who disagree with you are to be mocked, to be villainized, to be bullied. If you disagree with Trump on, well, anything, you are his enemy. The only way to be in his good graces - and therefore, in the good graces of those who support him - is to agree with him on absolutely everything.

“At the core of President Donald Trump’s political appeal, then, is division,” Cillizza said.

That division is energizing to his base but corrosive to the essential civility that is needed for a diverse nation to find common purpose to create a better, more secure life for all Americans.

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