The United States is having a mental breakdown. Two mass shootings in a single day is a sure sign that the polarization and viciousness of our politics is a reflection of a broader social sickness. Social cohesion is disintegrating. Mistrust is spreading. Rancorous rhetoric is displacing reasoned discourse. People are seeking refuge in tribal identities and wallowing in hate. Our national psyche is the most venomous it has been since the 1960s — the difference being that we don’t even have a massively unpopular war as an excuse for our divisions.
President Trump is part of the problem. The nation looks to its presidents to unite the country. Trump’s tweets are calculated to inflame his enemies and drive them to excess. And they succeed all too well. Democrats, shouting through their Mainstream Media bullhorn, depict Republicans and Trump supporters as bigots, racists, traitors, and xenophobes. Doubt me? Just watch MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” which feeds its million viewers every day with two hours of invective and bile.
The economy is booming and we’re engaged in no major foreign wars. Americans ought to be feeling good about themselves. But we’re miserable. People have advanced a variety of theories for our increasing division. Gerrymandering, some say, is creating safe districts for extremists in both parties. The fragmentation of media allows people to live in information echo chambers. Those play a role, but I think the malaise runs deeper. Society is atomizing. Civic society is in decline — more and more people are “bowling alone.” More people are feeling disconnected and alienated. The ties that bind us are dangerously fraying. Mental illness is endemic.
This viciousness is most evident in our national politics, but it is increasingly prevalent here in Virginia. One way to combat it is to engage in respectful conversation with those of differing views.
Here at Bacon’s Rebellion, we refuse to succumb to the rhetoric of intolerance. All of our contributors have strong opinions, and we will continue to express them, but we will continue to do so in a civil and courteous manner. Perhaps there is a shrinking market for a discourse based on the reasoned exchange of views, but that is where we stand, and we will not retreat from it.
Update: A column by Jeff Jacoby with the Boston Globe expresses many of my views. Read it here.There are currently no comments highlighted.