For many decades, both hate speech and hateful actions against “libtards,” “commies,” “faggots,” “nigger-lovers,” “feminazis,” and many other groups characterized as residing on the Left end of the political spectrum was propagated and amplified mainly by the right-leaning conservatives of the U.S. And you could hear this seething vitriol — with lots of nationalistic sentiment, fear-mongering and Us vs. Them propaganda — on conservative talk radio 24/7 for many years. But the progressives just didn’t use the same approach — at least not in the same aggressive spirit, or using the same threatening and hurtful language. You might indeed hear a fair amount of condescension and dismissiveness from the Left, to be sure: phrases like “Bible-thumper,” “redneck,” “gun-lover” and the like were commonly used by liberals to describe conservatives in the U.S. But you wouldn’t hear the same kind of hate, or raging anger, or irrational fear. And, interestingly, unlike the corrosively derisive language that conservatives employed, many right-wing folks proudly embraced those liberal labels (i.e. “redneck,” “gun-lover,” etc.) as if they were a badge of honor. So even though liberals often raised a “we’re smarter and more educated than you” flag against the conservative’s “holier than thou” standard, that’s really as far as the liberals went in the mainstream. There was disbelief and disdain, to be sure…but not the same deep-seated fear and hate, and indeed a fair amount of compassion could be found among liberals regarding how rank-and-file conservatives were being manipulated and lied to by their wealthy handlers. It was only at the very radical fringes on the Left that you found militant activists willing to use underhanded, vindictive or violent methods to counter right-wing agendas. But again, on the conservative end of the spectrum, such tactics and genuinely discompassionate sentiments were regularly invoked by conservative media outlets, think tanks, and political candidates as they encouraged every Republican into lockstep conformance.
But I think those many decades of one-sided hatefulness may be coming to an end. The 2016 election tipped the scales. When Michelle Obama said “when they go low, we go high,” that was emblematic of the Left’s last stand for compassion and understanding; it’s what a lot of liberals really felt in their heart-of-hearts about the right way to think and act. But it failed. So a lot of folks — especially the young Bernie Sanders supporters who felt betrayed by the DNC — took note of the hateful tactics of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign, and began to spout some aggressive, passionate, condemnatory rhetoric of their own. And, sadly, a lot of that rhetoric has begun to mirror the Right’s longstanding tactics, style and spirit. And so the tide is turning on the Left away from mere condescension, disbelief and genuine pity and compassion for Republicans, toward a right-wing flavor of judgmental anger. It’s very sad for me to see, and it does not bode well for the U.S. political process.
So that would be my first point: yes, each side is becoming ever more polarized in its lack of compassion and understanding….but I think it is important to acknowledge that the Right has held that position for many years longer than the Left. The Republican Party has been such a magnet for hate and fear-mongering that Southern Democrats who were angry and fearful about Black voting rights and the end of Jim Crow switched over to the Republican Party so they could continue to fight against those progressive changes. And you could even say — when you consider things like climate denial, evolution denial, voodoo economics, rejection of science, suspicion and resentment of public education, and so on — that conservatives have perfected a lack of understanding to an absurd degree…an extent where “alternative facts” very disconnected from reality have become all-to-real for them. Clearly, considering how Republicans vote regarding helping the poor, women, minorities, the environment, consumer protections, worker protections, benefits to children, and a host of other issues, compassion and kindness have long been absent from their political ideology. Which is all to say that malicious intent (the will to power of the “haves”) has always been loudly present in the right-wing agenda, and almost entirely absent from the policies championed by progressives on behalf of the “have-nots.”
I do believe, however, that many folks on the Left and the Right are tired of fighting. They want peace…they long for compromise. And yet…the programming and propaganda that energize hateful polemics are very strong…so that may yet have to run its course. So those who long for harmony will have to wait. “It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, when the tunnel is on fire.” Still…I believe there is Light, and that Light will prevail in the end. It will just be a very difficult road for all of us to arrive there.
My 2 cents.
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