Friday, June 29, 2018

Our Civil War

photo credit: Washington Times
Make no mistake about it: we are a country at war. Not with some foreign power trying to invade us, although one might make an argument that the Russian interference in our election is evidence that we are under an external threat. No, we are at war with ourselves. And unlike the First Civil War, this one has no geographic boundaries, no Missouri Compromise, and it's not based on economies and slavery. It is ideology and our identity as Americans. 

This week's news is a prime example of just how deep this divide has become. On the one hand, we have the supporters of the president who are rejoicing at U.S. Supreme Court rulings that uphold a travel ban on people from Venezuela, North Korea, Yemen, Syria, Iran, Libya, and Somalia. They are anxiously awaiting the opportunity for the president to nominate another hard-line conservative justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, in the hopes that they might finally overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, and strip away marriage rights for the lesbians and gays like me, and continue to undermine the Voting Rights Act, which has protected the rights and ballot access to minorities since the 1960s. While there was much rejoicing from Trump voters, those of us on the other side of the political spectrum have been grumbling and growing more and more depressed as we view these same events with alarm and fear of seeing the basic principles of  justice and equality being eroded in our country.

And then there is the flap over the harassment of the president's minions at DC-area restaurants and the dismissal of his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, from a farm-to-table eatery in Lexington, Virginia. The self-described conservatives complained that these acts were attacks on people out to enjoy a meal. Almost immediately, media outlets were impaneling focus groups and pundits to talk about civility. I can't help but find it ironic that when the leader of the free world refers to African nations as "shithole countries" and has used his Twitter account to attack individual Americans, there were no panels on TV and radio to hash out what it means to be civil. Negative reaction? Yes. But a whole discourse on civility. No. That's just "Trump being Trump." 

This, to me, is reminiscent of the complaints about NFL football players kneeling in protest about police violence. We, the white fandom of the NFL, become offended by their act of defiance as they use their public status to demand justice for black people who feel under threat of being shot by the police.  We are offended by this and say they must stand for an anthem and a flag that represents a nation where they don't feel safe and if they don't do it, our president says they should be deported. Where is the white outrage over police shootings? Where is it over the assault on the free speech rights of football players who are kneeling for those who cannot stand up for themselves? And, again, why no panel and whole hour-long programs on civility when the offensive speech is the president's?

Yesterday, one of my more politically conservative clients was bemoaning the fact that we can't have disagreements with each other any more without it becoming a personal attack, or a food fight. I agree with her. I don't like where all this has gone. I don't like that business owners are called in to ask a person to leave a restaurant because the wait and cook staff are uncomfortable at this person's presence...or that a Colorado baker maintains his religious beliefs prevent him from baking a wedding cake for a gay couple. The increasing tribalism in America is definitely undermining our ability to be civil with one another to the point where we can't even do commerce with one another. And I would like it to stop. I am sure most of us would because it doesn't feel good to be angry at everyone and everything all the time. 

I also want us to stop separating children from their asylum-seeking parents at the border. I would like for us to come up with an immigration bill that recognizes those currently in the country while establishing a saner way for people to seek naturalization status that doesn't take years. I want us to recognize our culpability in the destabilization of these countries in Central America that make innocent people want to flee and come here. I want us to quit using religion to justify treating people like me as second-class citizens. I want a country where citizens in school, work, church, the mall, the movies, concerts, don't have to fear getting shot. I want us to become innovative about energy, and lessen our carbon footprint so that we can slow the destruction of the planet. I want us to go back to the days where those elected to represent us could talk with each other, reason, disagree, and compromise. And I want a president who believes in the United States and realizes that the president often sets the tone and the mood of the country. I believe the political left and the political right would be more civil with each other if those in positions of leadership would follow the wisdom contained in this prayer from the Episcopal Church's baptismal covenant:

"Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons loving your neighbor as yourself? I will with God's help."

We are at war. God, have mercy on us.

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