On Oct. 27, 2018, the United States was shaken by a heartbreaking attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This marked the deadliest act of anti-semitism to happen in the United States to date. Around the same time, pipe bombs were sent to various political figures across the United States, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. These attacks have served as the latest wave of American extremism. Acts of violence against political groups appeared to have spiked in recent years. Groups centered around taking action through violence such as Antifa have added to the political tension that has spread across the United States. There are many different factors that have caused the growing political polarization. Two of the largest problems that cause polarization in politics is the current lack of general education of politics in mass population, and the disintegration of the use of decorum when discussing political ideas.
The first point is the lack of unbiased and reliable news sources to help educate the general population. The problem in the United States is that we, as a nation, rely on news sources such as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC to inform us on national news. I caution against blind acceptance of these sources. These are nothing but propaganda machines that spew rhetoric used to increase ratings. The problem caused by these news outlets is that they tend to only cover the side of the story that their demographic serves. For CNN, this is seen as a more liberal agenda as opposed to Fox, which is labeled as conservative propaganda. This inherently causes division by isolating the other side and being unwilling to accept any other source other than their chosen one channel. While this does seem like an overstatement, there is a proven truth to shows such as Fox and Friends have gained notoriety for being propaganda machines. This leads to misunderstanding in political standings and causes false information to spread around and dilute political thought. Take the group Antifa as an example. Antifa is a group claiming to “fight against fascism.” The only problem is that the group uses fascist tactics to fight against “fascism.” Antifa uses violence to silence their opposition, the very style that fascist regimes have historically used. This is caused in part by a misunderstanding of the term “fascism,” often being thrown around by news sources such as CNN. This is problematic, as it not only stigmatized a demographic, but it also inflames people into acting with violence against other members of society, when they truly just have diluted information. The same can be applied to the hateful rhetoric that prompted the killings at the Tree of Life Synagogue and the attempted bombing of important democratic figures. We see an extreme right movement rising up, caused by the fear and hateful speech that has encompassed news sources today. The damage that this extreme right has done is not just on a physical level, but on a political level as well. With extremists causing harm to innocent people, it gives a misconception of peaceful and respectful right-wing oriented politicians and individuals. This continues the spread of false information on both sides of the aisle, and builds the growing divide between parties.
The second issue is the loss of decorum when discussing politics. This has been a growing issue in recent years, peaking during the most recent presidential election. Anyone who has read my articles understands quite well that I am not a President Trump supporter. His lack of decorum is a critical issue for me. During the election season and his tenure as president, he has clearly shown a lack of decorum with his comments towards various individuals. This is highly concerning, especially when these comments come from the most powerful individual in the United States, and one of the most influential political seats in the world and should be seen as concerning whether you agree with his statements or not. When the president speaks in such a manner, this emboldens others to speak in a similar crude manner, causing a further divide in the United States and setting a challenging leadership mold to rewrite in our future leaders. His actions are seeming to have a trickle-down effect and imprint on children. They have also been recently used as justified actions for terroristic violence abroad where group leaders say that their crude actions are inspired by our leader. All people should hold our president to higher standards, whether they wish for a break from “scheming” politicians or not. I reflect back to when former President Obama was first on the campaign trail, running against the late Senator John McCain. While they were on different sides of the political spectrum, there was still a sense of dignity and respect established between the two senators. This gave role models for those who wished to engage in the political sphere. More than ever, it is important that we, as members of society, practice decorum and respect when engaging in politics with our colleagues, friends and family. Having politicians, including our president, act in undignified ways only leads to more tension with allies and issues abroad when respect is not considered a priority.
More than ever, it is crucial that we combat political extremism in our community, especially when we see these actions currently seeping onto our campus. I believe that there are several ways to do this. For news sources, I highly recommend sources such as BBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the LA Times where news is the closest example to neutral and all-encompassing. Speakers such as Meghan McCain, Ben Shapiro, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Barack Obama are all highly educated, have a firm grasp of politics and support their arguments with factual evidence. This great republic is built for and by the people, and now is the time to stand up and hold our leaders to the high standards we put in place many years ago in both uninflated news and decorum shown by our leaders. For the sake of the United States, and to help stop the virulent spread of hatred and polarization from moving across the land, I urge you all to take action. Let us bring back the decency and respect that is crucial in the realm of politics and make America truly great again.