Conflicted States of America

While Americans have grown accustomed to the increasingly entrenched red-blue divide, our more polarizing wedge has become the division between those who strive for empathetic human decency and those motivated by self-preservation anchored in fear and antagonism.

Those driven by compassion and cooperation can span the full spectrum of the traditional ideological divide. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, liberal human rights organizations and conservative church groups all came together to help Gulf Coast residents rebuild and recover. Also, when looking at our nation’s hunger and nutrition crisis, both sides take action to support those in need, from soup kitchens and food drives managed by religious organizations to those who support funding for the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

On the flip side, the extreme right and the extreme left actually have quite a bit in common. Both sides are fueled by an intolerant, moral superiority that feeds the debilitating flames of hostility and close-mindedness. Whether watching Fox News or listening to a judgmental food practitioner, both extremes have a myopic definition of what they consider to be right and wrong. Their competitive natures breed distrust, disdain and intolerance of others, fracturing discourse into self-segregated communities built upon combative self-righteousness.

Liberals too often condescend and belittle conservatives for being stupid and irrational. Their overbearing pretentiousness oozes with fuming disrespect. On the other extreme, the conservative fear-mongering that breeds a distrust of the “lame-stream” media fuels a dangerous ignorance and a violent hatred toward those deemed different, and therefore threatening. For some reason, those who fight for equal rights somehow threaten those who view that fight as a danger to individual rights.

Yet when you step back and think about it, we all want the human right to have individual rights, and it doesn’t have to be at the expense of others. But somehow all of this mounting fear and distrust has created an increasingly volatile environment where arrogance pummels reason, defensive combativeness wages war against respectful human decency and hatred suffocates love.

Extremism of any kind is dangerous. Instead of oversimplifying others into broad categories of me, us and them, we can alternatively open ourselves up to tolerance and nurture a united state of inclusivity.

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