Kevin Floerke is a Calaveras County business owner and former resident of Arnold who lives in Prescott, Ariz.

Tonight, while out for a drink, I listened to a man gleefully telling his friend about how he recently saw a map of the United States color coded by political affiliation. He told him how the cities were all blue and the rural areas were all red. He went on to say how “when the [expletive] goes down” how easy it would be to cut off those large population centers. How “a few pickup trucks of hillbillies with .50 cals” (his words, not mine) could isolate those areas and “mow down anyone who tries to escape.” This was in a public space, in a state nearly evenly divided between Democratic and Republican voters, and this man was eagerly discussing the prospect of mass murder and civil war. Is this who we have become as a nation? Have we so thoroughly dehumanized our fellow citizens that we now enjoy the prospect of killing each other? And if you believe this is only a right-wing problem, I’ve heard and seen plenty of propaganda from friends on the left glorifying violence against conservatives and celebrating the rate of Covid deaths among Republicans in heavily conservative areas. Lately it seems we are delighted by the thought of violence and death, as long as it happens to people who vote differently than we do.

Have we lost sight of who we are? Have we lost the capacity for compassion and the recognition of our common humanity? Have we spiraled deep enough into a media-fueled insanity to believe that killing our fellow Americans in a violent civil war or celebrating their deaths by plague is anything other than psychopathic? Is this who we want to be, and who we want to teach our children to become?

Our culture has devolved into one of constant outrage. Media outlets, television and radio stations, websites, “news” organizations and social media sites are feasting on our addiction to anger, feeding us a constant stream of content specifically designed to enrage us. Funded and encouraged by a two-party system that has no motive to reduce our righteous rage, they keep us on a diet of cherry-picked infotainment that tells us the world is burning, but only because of what those “other guys” are doing. Never are we encouraged to examine our own thoughts, beliefs, or actions. Never are we asked to look inward, to see if we are perhaps not being kind or generous enough to our neighbors or our communities. Never are we asked, “how could we ourselves do better, and make this country stronger, more united, and a better place for all?” Of course, the end result of a line of thinking that blames all problems on “the other” would be violence and chaos. And lately it seems we are all too happy to be led there.

I beg you, put the phone down. Shut off the cable news. Stop reading one-sided nonsense that tells you all problems stem from people with different political beliefs. Go outside, talk to your neighbors and relatives with different ideas, attempt to understand them, even if you cannot agree. See their perspectives, even if they are different from yours. See the humanity in them. See their desire for a peaceful and prosperous future for themselves and their children. I promise you will realize you have more in common than what divides you. And even when you find issues you disagree over, ask yourself: would I want to kill this person or to watch them die, right here in front of me, over that disagreement?

I cannot stress my alarm enough. This is how every civil war in history has begun. If we continue to allow this radicalization and dehumanization, our nation cannot and will not survive. We must reject the increasing polarization of our country. We are not red or blue, we are not Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans and fellow humans. If you put party or politics ahead of country and humanity, you are no patriot. We must reject extremism everywhere we see it, especially when it comes from someone we otherwise align with politically. Only through compassion and understanding can we build a stronger nation and a better future. That starts with each one of us.


Comment Policy

Calaveras Enterprise does not actively monitor comments. However, staff does read through to assess reader interest. When abusive or foul language is used or directed toward other commenters, those comments will be deleted. If a commenter continues to use such language, that person will be blocked from commenting. We wish to foster a community of communication and a sharing of ideas, and we truly value readers' input.