A friend posted an article on Facebook declaring that the NFL, not Donald Trump, was to blame for the discordant note over playing the Star Spangled Banner before professional football games.
I couldn’t help myself. “Do some actual research,” I responded, “and you would find that the national anthem had been a non-issue during the first two weeks of the regular season.” Indeed, it wasn’t until Trump called the players “sons of bitches” on the Friday of Week 3, only hours after his health care plan had been shot down by the Vietnam veteran he had called “a loser,” that the debate escalated.
My friend called me a “snowflake.”
Another friend jumped in and called him a “Trumptard.”
Somebody else called us “libtards.”
And so it goes.
These are the conversations we have now. Everybody’s talking, calling each other names, and nobody’s listening.
Both sides blame the lack of harmony on each other. And they are right. We all are to blame.
The Las Vegas massacre brought out some of the worst in us.
After more than 50 people were killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, CBS legal executive Hayley Geftman-Gold posted on her Facebook page: “If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing. … I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are Republican gun toters."
Conservatives were outraged. So was I. She was fired.
But compare that to the reaction of many conservatives after a Phoenix man decided to make up a statement that there are too many guns on the street by turning his in to police.
Jonathan Pring had to take his family out of town after receiving comments like this on social media:
"Someone needs to go shoot this idiot and make him wish he could have defended himself." — Brandee L. Harris wrote on Facebook.
Granted, Pring should have known that this gesture was futile — Phoenix police must resell the weapons because our gun-crazed legislature passed a law preventing governments from destroying guns even when people turn them in for exactly that purpose. But he’s from England. What Brit could have imagined that Arizona politicians would have passed a law like that?
All of this is more evidence that we just aren’t connecting. We’re clapping our hands, but producing nothing but a stiff breeze instead of applause.
Need more examples?
Many liberals can’t believe ESPN sportscaster Jemele Hill was reprimanded for referring to President Trump as a white supremacist on social media. Conservatives can’t understand why she still has a job when ESPN fired commentator and former Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling for, among other things, comparing Muslims to Nazis. Schilling was warned twice before about using social media to traffic angry political rhetoric. (Update: Hill was suspended for two weeks today for urging a boycott of NFL advertisers.)
Many of us in urban areas don’t understand the plight of folks in rural towns or blue-collar communities; many of them don’t fathom how African-American parents can be afraid to let their sons even drive a car at night for fear that they will be shot by police.
Republicans don’t want climate laws that inhibit the growth of businesses and American jobs. Democrats fear that we will soon turn into a country as imagined in Blade Runner 2049, a world sated with smog, unseasonable storms, and the quest for a cheap labor force by wealthy industrialists.
The list of Americans at cross purposes is never-ending.
Recently, I posed this thought on my personal Facebook page:
“I wonder if we might have better conversations and start listening to one another if we first stopped calling each other names ... on both sides.”
A liberal friend replied:
“Intelligent, thoughtful, accomplished persons are among those posting angry — and yes, sometimes profane — messages on social media these days. Good people are at a loss for how to react to a country that has been overtaken by open racism, sexism, adoration of the super-wealthy.”
But I have "intelligent, thoughtful, accomplished” conservative friends who believe just the opposite.
Where does that get us?
We are a divided country that can’t get much-needed health care or tax reform because our leaders, maybe taking their cues from us, won’t talk to one another.
Maybe we should listen to what’s going on in Spain these days.
The Catalonia region, which includes Barcelona, has voted to secede from the rest of the country, which includes Madrid.
If that happens, a civil war is likely to erupt and students of history know that usually doesn’t go well in Spain.
However, this weekend, according to the Associated Press, thousands of concerned citizens rallied in Barcelona and Madrid, chanting "Shall we talk?" and "More negotiation, less testosterone!"
Imagine the people demanding something like that here.
It would have to begin with us, because we know it won’t happen in Washington.
So I'm going to encourage a little more civility on our comments page at phoenixnewtimes.com.
We always allow a freewheeling discussion, but racial and gender slurs, such as the man who called a woman the c-word because she disagreed with his hatred of transgender soldiers, won’t be tolerated.
I also promise to listen more to those who disagree with me.
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SHOW ME HOW
As I think about it, I’m certain that my friend, who I’ve known since childhood, meant that I was a “snowflake” in the very best sense of the word.
Snowflakes are among nature’s wonders. No two of them are alike.
Nor are any of us. Let’s at least respect the right of someone to have a different opinion.
That would be a start.