Political opponents aren't enemies

“Conservatives are evil.”



Do any search on social media or the Internet and you’ll probably see at least a dozen articles or memes making one such claim or the other. I remember friends of mine, from both sides of the aisle, complaining about Congressional Republicans and Democrats being friends. One leftist told me once she was shocked to learn “they’re real people,” after taking a road trip with some conservatives. I’ve seen both Republicans and Democrats say they can’t believe why anyone would be pro-abortion or pro-life. There are memes suggesting Colin Kaepernick should be shot for sitting for the National Anthem. Conservatives, liberals, libertarians, and socialists spout off snarky comments about the intelligence of opponents, whilst propping up their own beliefs. Christians, Muslims, pagans, atheists are all called backwards or just plain morons for their thoughts, especially when violence happens. The man who opened fire on the GOP congressional softball practice apparently asked if Republicans or Democrats were practicing.

Enough of this nonsense.

A part of me wants to think it takes a special type of crazy to physically commit violence against opponents, but maybe it’s just human nature. History is wrought with violence between one faction or another. European Catholics and Protestants waged war for 30 years in hopes of conquering one another. Muslims and Christians are fighting it out in Africa. Muslims and Jews fighting in the Holy Land. Christians forced Vikings to convert at the point of the sword, while Stephen was stoned to death by Jews. Vikings raided Catholic shrines, wondering where their God was. The Romans persecuted Jews and Christians, and let’s not forget what Nazis did to their opponents. The Red Scare. So-called anarchists bombing government buildings. Church shootings, riots, and police officers being massacred. Brawls between so-called anti-fascists and Donald Trump supporters. Turkey’s crackdown on political opponents, and the disappearances of Russian political opponents. Unions suggesting Republicans are going to throw the elderly off a cliff, while abortion clinics are bombed. It’s probably not going to stop until Christ returns or Ragnarok (whichever comes first).

Are hippies right, and all we need is love? How do you convince people to go along with this idea, when it’s easier to lash out and hurt others?

Perhaps we are better than the past because of the reaction following such tragedies. Democrats offered prayers to Republicans after today’s shooting of Steve Scalise. Republicans offered prayers to Democrats after Gabby Giffords was shot in 2011. Christian and Muslim leaders are quick to denounce violence when it’s perpetrated by someone who claims to be one of them. The fact we’re all shocked whenever violence happens against innocents shows we’re not so jaded just yet.

The response to what happened today is going to be key. How many people are going to try to push some anti-gun agenda, now that a Republican has been shot? How much attention is going to be put on the few who are going to celebrate Scalise’s shooting, or will they be ostracized as the fringe whose opinions don’t matter? Are we who are shocked and horrified by what happened the actual fringe, because we don’t want to hurt our opponents?

The hardest things for us to do now is become reactionary. We can’t go off half-cocked demanding an equal and opposite reaction to the violence. It’s not smart to make blanket statements suggesting the left is all about violence, while the right is full of saints and vice versa. People have to remember the other side is full of people. There’s nothing wrong with getting into heated political arguments, and there are going to be plenty of trolls who try to needle their opponents. That’s human nature. But we have to be better, and get outside our bubble. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having friends from all sides of the aisle, even if you disagree with them. Political parties and philosophies aren’t meant to be cults, but just a difference of opinion.

My father used to tell me, “Be nice,” and he’s right. We do need to be nice, even when we just want to smack someone, figuratively and literally. It’s easy to ignore the face behind an ideology and just see some sort of demon. It’s easy to consider opponents “the enemy,” and want to see them destroyed. But we’re better than this, and it’s time to respond, not react.