In recent weeks, Americans have seen the very worst of what happens when our ability to communicate respectfully breaks down.
The horrific murder of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue last weekend unquestionably marked the nadir, using bullets, not words, to send a despicable message of hatred toward Jews. That heartbreak was preceded by several pipe bombs sent to critics of President Donald Trump and the raw materials for ricin poison mailed to the Pentagon — neither of which, fortunately, injured anyone.
This isn’t civil — and it certainly isn’t discourse.
Rather than having the intelligent discussions that once powered our democracy, all too many people have instead turned to indefensible means of intimidation and violence. For those tired of the status quo, break down walls by talking to those of differing opinions rather than fortifying divisions.
To borrow a phrase familiar in Lincoln, we must ensure hate will never win.
Don’t fall prey to those seeking to capitalize on the handful of things that separate us instead of the far more numerous items that inextricably link us together.
When the Journal Star editorial board selected civility as one of our platforms for 2018, we cited the politically motivated shooting of Republican Rep. Steve Scalise last June as a real-life consequence of this degradation. What transpired in the following months continued even further down this dark path.
This era has made it all too easy to demonize and despise those who don’t think like us. Technology has made echo chambers, surrounded by only news and thoughts that align with our worldviews, more attainable than ever. The real-world applications of embracing this closed-mindedness are on full display.
The president routinely denigrates people as criminals or enemies of the American people. Members of Congress encourage people to harass Cabinet and elected officials when they’re out in public. Close to home, activists have vandalized the offices of Nebraska politicians.
Such outrageous acts only breed more division, whether on the grounds of politics, religion or race. This feeling that those who lurk on the other side are somehow inherently evil has inspired a few people — one is still too many — to commit heinous acts of domestic terrorism.
Let us remind you how illogical this hatred is. Rather than discussing politics with someone of a different mindset, the best solution is to mail that person potentially live explosive devices? At no point should this sequence of events enter the mind of a reasonable person.
Yet, we’ve recently devoted far too much space in our newspaper to tragedies that began with this kind of narrow-minded thinking. Too many lives have been threatened or lost as a result of these actions — a trend that Americans of all ideologies must fight to reverse by fighting less with each other.