Column: Threats and intimidation become commonplace in American politics | Opinion

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A friend sent me a list of “Outrageously Funny Thoughts to Get You Through Almost Any Crisis”. However, one sober thought on the list struck me: “Be nice. Everyone you meet is fighting an uphill battle. It reminded me of a discussion I had had with a former colleague — a colleague, but an ideological opponent. We disagreed on almost everything except enjoying each other’s company and caring about our country. In the 1972 presidential election, he led the Greene County, Pennsylvania campaign for Nixon. I ran Greene County’s campaign for McGovern. Our store offices were side by side and we were outside joking every day until the election.

Her man won – the first time the county voted Republican – but that didn’t affect our friendship. We played on the same college basketball team in an intramural league. We played several one-on-one days, where there was a lot more hacking than scoring. We were good friends without seeing each other.

He was fiercely conservative, and he told me why. He hated change. He believed that when you change things, you kill them. I argued that things die when they don’t change.

We were having a beer at his house one day after one of our basketball bloodbaths when he said, “Come here.” He took me down the hall to a child’s bedroom. It was clean and orderly. “This is Jill’s room,” he said. “Jill? ” I asked. I didn’t know he had a daughter named Jill.

He told me she died years ago, at the age of six. They hadn’t changed anything in the room since that tragic day. He and his wife commemorated the loss of their child by freezing his room in time. It took my breath away.

I always thought that things often die if they don’t change. But I understood his point of view. Now I think we were both right.

Be nice. Everyone you meet is fighting an uphill battle.

Who among us, at various times in our lives, has not suffered a devastating and devastating loss – the death of a family member or close friend, betrayal of trust, painful injury or illness, divorce or financial stress? It can be debilitating. For some, it’s an opportunity for growth; for others it lets the spirit wither and die.

Something similar is happening today. Things in America are changing. Fear and trepidation afflict people of all faiths. Some fear an America that is becoming less white and less Christian. Others fear an America losing its constitutional character to autocracy. Fear breeds hate; hatred breeds violence; violence breeds more fear. And the cycle intensifies and begins to spin faster and out of control.

It may be too late to break this cycle. It certainly becomes more difficult to see an opening. At a political rally in Idaho, a supporter recently shouted at the speaker, “When are we going to use guns?” He wondered how long we had to wait “before we could kill these people”. Local, state and national politicians across the country are threatened with beatings and death. Many leave the public service out of fear for their lives and those of their families. Who will take his place? The gunslingers? If so, then what?

Unless a substantial number of hitherto cowardly Republican lawmakers find the courage to sanction or expel fellow right-wing radicals who spew hateful rhetoric and condone violence, democracy will falter. The conditions are not good. Communication and trust between Democrats and Republicans is virtually non-existent. This makes compromise impossible, especially since Republicans consider the weakness of compromise. Politics, for them, has become a zero-sum game fueled by lies big and small.

Worse still, they openly and tacitly accept threatening and hateful language from their base, hoping to scare off sober officials — Republicans and Democrats alike — and replace them with more demagogues from the gun fringe. If they succeed – and they can – America will become a government by threat and menace.

Significantly, Donald Trump is positioning himself and the Republican Party to overturn the 2024 election (see Barton Gellman’s article in the December issue of Atlantic Monthly). democratically.

So, yes, everyone we meet faces a battle, but the most important political battle we face today, in the words of Jon Meachum’s book, is for “the soul of the America”. But it can also be for “the body of America”. And since it’s rare these days for people of different opinions to disagree pleasantly, benevolence will be in order during this battle.

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