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THOMPSON: Technology plays role in politically divided America

November 05, 2018 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


You have to go back to the days of the Civil War to find a more divided America. What is happening today is a perfect storm of sorts. The perspectives of people on the Right and Left, Republican and Democrat, are like night and day. That isn’t anything new in politics.

What is new is technology. Today, regardless of your extreme views, you can with a few clicks find others - tens of thousands or more - who share your beliefs…no matter how perverse or twisted. There’s security in numbers…and while you might gather those of similar mind 50 or 100 years ago…it took much longer.

Add to the perfect storm a figure like Donald Trump, who turns fact into fiction and vice versa. Trump openly targets with both words and actions those with whom he disagrees…or simply doesn’t like. In true Trump and now Republican fashion, they deny links between the president’s rhetoric and the actions of those who attack groups and individuals targeted by Trump. Even on the surface, their logic sounds preposterous. Words do matter.

Of course, evidence simply doesn’t support their denials. In the past ten days, people Donald Trump targets with rhetoric were targets of pipe bombs by a loony. Eleven members of a Pittsburgh Synagogue were murdered by another loony…influenced by Republican not-so-subtle ads and online conspiracy theories…and Trump words. A Trump supporter murdered two innocent African-Americans in Louisville, KY.

The targets are many…Jews, George Soros, African-Americans, Hispanics, women, Native Americans, Democrats and Liberals. The media are “enemies of the people,” according to Trump and a spineless group of Republican members of the House and Senate.

Trump isn’t a unifier. He serves himself and his family under the guise of serving those who voted for him…a minority of mostly misinformed Americans. His stiffness and awkwardness after tragic events show clearly his lack of compassion. Simply look back at his words and behaviour after every tragic event the past two years.

He reads the words someone else writes from a teleprompter…not very well usually…before shooting from the hip with rhetoric that inflames and incites his followers….some of whom are - like perpetrators of last week’s events - unhinged.

Trump’s lies, dog whistles to racists and bigots and simply inappropriate comments are undeniable. He said there were “very fine people on both sides” after Neo-Nazis and citizens clashed after one Neo-Nazi killed and injured protesters in Charlottesville, VA.

While there have been inflammatory comments from both Right and Left, Republicans and Democrats…it is clear that The Right and Republicans - led by Trump every day - weaponize words more often and target specific groups.

Trump went back to the same playbook that seemed to work for him in 2016…mixing identity demagogy and policy heterodoxy. He is an unashamed liar and fear monger.

A week before the election, Trump and sycophant Republicans running for Senate and House seats raised the spectre of a terrorist “invasion” and immigrant criminality by lying about the so-called “Caravan” of Central American migrants. The “Caravan” - whose members are entitled to seek asylum at the port of entry points of the U.S. border - are not full of “middle-easterners” and “gang members” as Trump and Vice President Pence swear.

Trump ordered 5,200 U.S. active-duty military to the border a week before the mid-terms…even though the migrants won’t reach the border for another month. There are already 2,100 National Guard troops and 20,000 Border Patrol officers on the Mexican-U.S. border. He tweeted every day fomenting unnecessary fear among largely ignorant Americans…his loyal base of supporters.

Trump said he can and will usurp the 14th Amendment to the Constitution - providing birthright citizenship to children of migrants - through executive order. He can’t. He said the U.S. was the only nation in the world to allow children of migrants citizenship. It isn’t…there are 32 countries that do so. These migrants and their children “steal” services from “real Americans” he has warned. They don’t…they actually give more than they take, according to various U.S. governmental agencies.

Look, I don’t know where this will end. The vitriol is so viral…and Trump has so conditioned people to his lies that facts are now debatable. Should those on the Left, Liberals and Democrats temper their rhetoric? Sure. But to even intimate that the lies and fear mongering are somehow equal…is absolute nonsense.

The president of the United States is responsible for inciting people to act on their perverse beliefs. Since when do words of a leader not matter? Attacks on Jews in America went up 57 percent last year…more than doubled since Trump became president. Violent crimes are down in America…a trend of more than a decade…but hate crimes are up dramatically since Trump came on the scene.

I’m weary of Trump…his lies…his pandering to racists, bigots and loonies. The quote, “Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining,” from the movie “Knockaround Guys” comes to mind.

Americans say they want more civil speech…less vitriol and inflammatory rhetoric. Well, why are you voting for these despicable people? The question really is…Will all the targets of Donald Trump - Jews, African-Americans, Democrats, Liberals and Hollywood, among others - respond to Trump and his supporters in kind?

I don’t know. It’s difficult in the face of lies and distortion and racist comments to take a higher road. The one thing I do know, Donald Trump is going to always go low…continue what he’s always done…lie, mislead, dogwhistle to racists and bigots.

If Americans don’t change…I truly believe this perfect storm manipulated by Donald Trump could well mean America’s greatest days are forever in the past.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.


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