We Americans are getting far too accustomed to tragedy!
But as disturbingly commonplace as these violent and hateful events are becoming, last week - with the mass shooting in Pittsburgh, the Kroger’s shooting in Kentucky, and the mail bomb attempts in various cities - was a particularly bad week.
In the aftermath of these terroristic events, the media and social media chatterverse are abuzz with reactions of sorrow, outrage, and, as we are also becoming far too familiar with, blame.
It is not surprising that we are horrified and heartbroken by the hate crimes that claimed the lives of innocent citizens who were attacked unprovoked on account of their ethnicity, beliefs, or political persuasion. While there is an upsurge in extremism in America, the vast majority of us still find this type of violent bigotry reprehensible. That is a good thing.
It is also not overly surprising that these events are followed by blame and even political posturing. While many have expressed the opinion that it is exploitative to commandeer these tragedies for political gain, it is not unexpected, particularly in this virulently charged political climate, to find many people attributing the perverse actions of extremists to whichever candidates or party they would like to malign and defeat.
There is certainly even some truth in the connections that many are drawing between the uptick in violence and the downturn in civility from officials and civilians on both sides of the aisle.
Yet blame will not make us more secure. Hate will not be resolved and abolished with hate.
Of course those who react to these events with accusations of blame and calls for urgent action will contend that we have reached a boiling point where civility is less important than clarity and principled vehement opposition. This stance is not unreasonable. It is commendable and even admirable that many are rising up to passionately defend the democratic values that they believe in.
But there is a false duality that is being offered up - a choice between apathy and inaction on the one hand, and devotion and resistance on the other. The reality is that engagement need not go hand in hand with antagonism, and civility is not a codeword for capitulation. One can be passionately involved in working toward a solution while simultaneously committed to mutual respect and transpartisan cooperation.
What is essential to bear in mind is that the declarations of blame, demonization, and emphatic mobilization are precisely the tactics which the “enemy” is utilizing, and which we are theoretically fighting to counter. Does it stand to reason that we will overcome these abhorrent qualities by adopting them ourselves?
The solution to the hate and violence that we are experiencing is not further division. Rather it is a reunification and a commitment to forming a strong common ground that will marginalize and drown out the extremists at both ends of the spectrum. Those of us who have had enough of tragedies and bigotry should band together to eradicate them rather than allowing ourselves to become further entrenched and thus more susceptible to polarizing forces.
Blaming each other will not restore our security and liberty. Joining each other will. We should gather the passion, the outrage, the love, the fear, and the vestige of hope which is roiling within us, and we should direct it toward the productive cause of unity and reconciliation. It is not too late. It is the only way that we are going to get through this, together.
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What can you do to bring America back together? There are a number of terrific organizations that are working overtime to help us all do just that. Some of them include:
All Sides, Better Angels, Bridge Alliance, Common Party, Heterodox Academy, Living Room Conversations, Listen First Project, Make America Dinner Again, National Conversation Project, Natiional Conversation for Dialogue and Deliberation, National Institute for Civil Discourse, Open Mind, Serve 2 Unite, The Village Square.
Learn more about these and other opportunities at The Common Party.