What is happening to America? Why are we yelling and screaming at each other in town hall meetings? Why have television and radio talk shows degenerated into shouting matches? Why do hate-filled messages permeate the internet? What has happened to us?
There is a poison flowing through the body politic of America and it will cripple our democracy unless each of us acts as an antidote. Those on the far-left accuse the far-right of being fascist Neanderthals while those on the far-right accuse the far-left of being heathen communists. This kind of infantile stereotyping threatens to tear the fabric of America apart.
Actually, the far-left and the far-right have more in common then they would want to admit. Both sides are absolutist in their ideology and uncompromising in their politics. Each side believes that they possess absolute truth and each side refuses to compromise on its beliefs.
But the fact is that America is built upon compromise. Our great experiment in democracy is founded upon the belief that each issue has many sides and that the most workable solution comes from a compromise that blends together many disparate views. Compromise is the glue that holds America together.
What is particularly troubling in today's political environment is the level of anger and even outright hatred that is being displayed. I have been trying to figure out the source of this anger and hatred for some time now. Some of today's rabid emotionalism can be traced to old-fashioned racism but I think for many people it goes deeper than that. I would suggest that this anger and hatefulness is really a response to the fear of change. Fear is an emotion we don't like in ourselves and anger is a way of covering up our fears with an emotion that makes us feel more powerful.
We live in a world where society, technology, the economy and demographics are rapidly changing and this change is deeply threatening to many people. They are frightened that the world they have known is disappearing. This deep internal fear of change produces an anger response that is directed toward an outward target such as Wall Street bankers or immigrants. We repress our fear by directing our anger toward someone or something outside of ourselves.
If we want American democracy to survive, we need to grow up. We need to stop projecting our fears onto other people. We need to stop yelling at each other and learn to start listening to each other. We need to accept the reality of change and begin working together to find productive ways of dealing with a world that is constantly changing.
Change is inevitable. It's the way the universe is constructed. The fact that time exists means that change must occur. Rather than fear change, we need to make it work for our benefit. Rather than trying to go back to the past, we need to work together to create a better future. If the American experiment is going to grow and mature, we the people have to grow and mature. We have to put our irrational fears behind us and start working together as mature adults in order to deal successfully with the challenges that change presents to us.