L&T Publisher Earl Watt
If you can overcome the nauseating negativity of social media, there are some key lessons we can learn from intentionally seeking out views that differ from our own.
The idea that minds can be changed on social media is a pipe dream. Those who comment are the most committed to what they believe, and they stand behind those views no matter what.
I am seeing push-back that is becoming more and more of a concern.
To understand this level of difference, we have to go back in American history, and I’m not talking about the Civil War. America was divided worse than that in the late 1700s over the very political question of independence.
While we are all familiar with the Declaration of Independence dated July 4, 1776, there was also a declaration of loyalty to King George III now called the Declaration of Dependence. It was signed by 547 colonists, mostly from New York Nov. 28, 1776.
The colonists were divided into three factions — loyalists known as Tories, separatists known as patriots and those in the middle that remained neutral.
There could be only one victor, and we all know those seeking independence won the day.
What isn’t shared as much is what happened to the loyalists.
Did they embrace their new freedom? Were the eventually convinced that they were on the wrong side of history?
Maybe some did, but almost to a man, the loyalists were kicked out of the colonies. Their property was seized, their bank accounts taken, and they were no longer welcome in America.
Many headed to Canada and Nova Scotia. Some went to England while others headed to the Caribbean.
But one thing was certain — they weren’t going to remain in the United States. In the eyes of the patriots, they were traitors, and allowing them to leave the country was mercy in what many patriots thought should have ended in a hangman’s noose.
Fast forward to the Civil War and examine the treatment of the South during Reconstruction.
President Abraham Lincoln had a plan for leniency on readmitting the rebellious states back into the country.
But when he was assassinated, those plans changed, and Southerners were not going to get an easy road back.
Instead, many leaders, even military leaders like Robert E. Lee, had their property confiscated. Arlington National Cemetery is actually on Lee’s confiscated land.
Southerners were stripped of the right to vote, property was seized, and the only difference between the Revolution and the Civil War treatment of the losing side was eviction.
Our politics have pushed America to another tipping point today, and the impeachment inquiry is accelerating the divide in ways only discoverable on social media.
On one side, you have people convinced the President of the United States abused his power on a phone call with the Ukrainian president.
On the other, you have people convinced the President of the United States is the victim of a partisan attack trying to undo the 2016 election.
Both are equally committed to what they believe to their core.
The inability of compromise in Washington, D.C., has always been a concern of mine, but it has fallen short of being willing to split America in two.
The rift on this issue may never be repaired, and no outcome will satisfy everyone.
Many believe the fight is worth it to energize their side, not even conceiving that it is equally energizing the opposing side as well.
What happens when an unstoppable force collides with an unmovable object?
This is exactly what many of our enemies wanted to see. The Chinese, the Russians, those in Middle East theocracies — none of them believed a multicultural, politically diverse nation could survive. They all believe in unilateral, one-party rule.
Our experiment is being tested like never before because of this most recent move, and because these politicians have headed down this one-way street, there is no turning back.
We all know the end result — a vote to impeach in the House, and a vote to exonerate in the Senate.
From the hatred seen on social media, those who vote to impeach, and those who vote to exonerate will become live targets.
Neither side will be safe from the other.
Those who started the impeachment process will say the division is caused by the president. Those who support the president will be equally convinced it was the impeachment that never had a chance that caused the civil unrest.
And the hatred will surpass the differences felt between those who wanted independence and those who wanted to remain loyal to England. The hatred will eclipse the question of secession and slavery.
The regions of the country will become divided even more than they already are as people start to concentrate by political lines. Those who differ will not want to remain in areas where they and their families are at risk of physical violence.
Someone, somewhere, from both sides will believe their view of the nation to be superior to those who oppose them.
And both will believe they are fighting to protect their way of life.
In the end, only one will be victorious. We’ve seen it before.
And then what?
Who is willing to have their property seized, their lives in shambles?
When we reach the point that people are willing to make that sacrifice, we will have a civil war on our hands the likes of which we have never seen before.
We already use lines to divide Americans by race, by income level and once that reaches political affiliation, we will have proven that self government is in jeopardy because we aren’t willing to compromise. We aren’t willing to put the campaign aside and try to work on solutions for all people.
The nation will come apart at the seams. This is the natural outcome of opposing forces believing themselves to be right about everything.