If there is to be a word or theme that would best encapsulate the year 2018, unfortunately it seems that it is destined to be “divided.”
Divided is the most apt way to describe many aspects of our current sociopolitical climate, from the national level in Washington, D.C. and on down to the most local level of school committees and city and town councils. From the Supreme Court to whether or not pumpkin spice actually tastes good, everyone has a strong opinion about things, and a healthy dose of disdain for those on the opposite side of their stance.
Nationally, while one side sees the confirmation this weekend of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court as just and rightly done – if not drawn out unnecessarily by the allegations of sexual assault levied against him – the other side views his confirmation as the ultimate affirmation that victims of sexual assault have no recourse when it is their word against their assaulter; even when they endure life-altering death threats from the opposing side as a result of their courage to speak up and deliver a balanced, unemotional testimony.
While the Supreme Court has been the hot burning topic of the past few weeks, you can take your pick from any number of national news categories and find out pretty easily (through selective sourcing) how far apart opposing points of view are from one another in terms of being able to agree.
Locally, the Republican party in Rhode Island has never been more divided, as the former Republican Minority Leader Patricia Morgan enthusiastically endorsed Independent Joe Trillo over fellow Republican Allan Fung. Meanwhile, Fung is being effectively attacked in ads that paint him as a Donald Trump “fanboy,” playing off the obvious division between those who still fervently support Donald Trump and those who believe he’s done more than enough to warrant discussions of impeachment.
When a party as small as the Republican Party in Rhode Island – which as of this election has just 16 Republican members out of 113 total members in the General Assembly – becomes so embroiled with division as to be unable to unanimously throw its support behind one politician, it’s symptomatic of division happening at a much larger scale.
There is perhaps no greater symbol of division in the country than the continued insistence from the president about building a wall – a literal divider – between us and our southern Mexican neighbors. The most recent of these pleas, which begin with “The Democrats have become the party of open borders…” can be seen at the beginning of various YouTube videos, undoubtedly targeted at the younger generation and, without question, intended to sew further division.
If you’re picking up the reoccurring theme of extremism, or of incredibly polarizing points of view, that is because we have also never been more prone to falling into echo chambers, which are ideological places of comfort where we reinforce our personal beliefs through likeminded points of view – normally found online in places like Facebook or slanted news outlets – rather than search for uncomfortable facts that support an opposing point of view.
While the Internet has made the spreading of ideas more possible than ever before, it too has enabled people to completely close themselves off from sources they choose not to listen to. Another factor of division – those who insist that news they don’t agree with is simply “fake” – is certainly to blame for the exacerbation of this dangerous brand of what we deem to be “selective reality.”
The phrase is beyond cliché at this point, however we argue it has attained that status for a reason. Only united will we be able to endure the approaching challenges ahead of us. Ironically enough, one of the biggest of those challenges – climate change – is simply another topic for some to display their stubborn ignorance about while railing against the “other side” as being fools.
We have to be better than this, as divided we will surely fall.