(originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)
The latest thing in political discourse is a doozie. The liberal “Squad” has become the hate target of the week, revving up the President’s campaign rally in Florida. Charges of racism are flying all over the place after the “Send her back” chant. Thirteen seconds went by as the President sat back and took it all in. While push back was furious with much “racist” name calling applied to Trump. He disavowed those chants the next day and claimed he’d immediately started to talk fast to silence the unruly crowd. Talk show hosts had a field day with that one. The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah inserted a video of Olympic track star Usain Bolt winning a medal in the same time it took before Trump spoke.
Trump basked in the congratulations of a right-wing British commentator known for hateful anti-Muslims and anti-Semitic remarks. But I doubt anyone in the UK or the US was surprised when Trump immediately turned around and ranted about the Squad’s anti-Semitism and racism. Our political warming is producing unprecedented heat waves, stoked by increasingly divisive leadership.
It’s been more of a cyclone than political spin as “Send her back” was replaced with “Love it or leave it”. This latest chant supposedly circumvents the racism issue, but us sixties folks know full well that it targeted protesters for civil rights and against segregation. Yet the disavowal of the implied racism continues to be a popular talk show feature even as we moved to a new level of accusation: un-American. Not quite ready to wage a cultural war yet? No worries. Trump tweeted that the Squad doesn’t even have the ability love America. That should make our collective blood boil.
We’ve become a national talk show on steroids, frenetically throwing out every politically charged term in history. Is the tidal wave of accusations rational? More to the point, does anyone care? Attempts to make logical arguments, point out discrepancies, or call out lies apparently fall on deaf ears. Why would a nation that prides itself on being a beacon of reason be reduced to Gotcha Mode? The answer has nothing to do with reasoning and everything to do with power and control.
A psychiatrist friend likened the situation to an eight-year old in a group therapy session who’d say something he knew would get everyone all riled up. Then he’d sit back and enjoy the unleashed fury. His impulse to instigate chaos came from a deep, primitive place, triggered by fear of being overlooked and ignored. It didn’t matter which side of an argument he took. The point was affirmation of personal power from the divisive rage generated. If emotions cooled down, he’d step in with something else outrageous. The room went wild with accusations and the Blame Game went beyond cruel.
Folks looking for civility and tolerance may be chasing their tails. Their goals are admirable, but our giant melting pot is over-heated and exploding. Until we all recognize the root cause of the chaos and our role as pawns, intolerance will only intensify. The temperature can be lowered with peace making efforts, but they need to be intentional and constant. Expect that attempts to chill will be countered with super-charged tweets. Be inspired by those who resist being sucked into the maelstrom, even as rage becomes the new normal. True civility may not be achieved until, and if, instigators are side-lined. Even then, don’t be too sure. This fiery talk show isn’t going off the air anytime soon.