Written by Samantha Lindsay
It is Sunday night Oct. 16, 2016 as I write this, and I (your humble correspondent) am contemplating the meaning of the events that transpired at the GOP headquarters in Orange County, North Carolina yesterday evening. The building was firebombed and, according to a report by the Charlotte Observer, “Police said the words, ‘Nazi Republicans get out of town or else’ were spray painted on the side of an adjacent building.”
For those of us who have followed this election all year, neither the incident nor the message comes as a great surprise, as shocking as both might otherwise be. The only thing about the bombing that is surprising (at least for many of us) is that no one was injured or killed; and for that we can be thankful.
If I were so inclined, I could join the cacophony of finger-pointers wishing to assign blame to one or the other of the presidential candidates. However, I do not believe that doing so would be conducive to productive civic dialogue. Nevertheless, I believe that it is fair to say that the heated rhetoric of this election season probably created the environment that inspired the perpetrators to plan and carry out the attack.
Earlier this year, as I was watching the results of both party’s primaries, I made a habit of following political pages on social media. One day, as the results of one of the state’s elections were coming in, I happened upon a thread that gave me pause. I didn’t contribute to the conversation and instead chose to merely observe. The following is a compressed compilation taken from direct quotes that I saved from that thread:
“The supporters of candidates x are mindless robots who are uninformed, ignorant, stupid, uneducated, nasty, apathetic, childish cowards and unprincipled dealers in dishonesty who deny facts while they willfully support the destruction of the Constitutional Republic of the United States in their support of a candidate who is a narcissistic, egomaniacal, lying, clone of Hitler…any word that they may speak about any of the candidates is invalid.”
Given that I am a supporter of one of the primary candidates and will be voting this November, I would love to be able to say that those words were only spoken by supporters of the candidate that I oppose. However, I cannot honestly do that. Indeed, while I saw all of this in one thread on the day I described, this compilation is a compressed litany of accusations and insults that I have seen the supporters of both candidates say to one another all year.
Neither “side” is innocent. Both sides are equally guilty of the distribution of “scarlet letters.” Sadly, public shaming, name calling, cyber bullying, ostracism, accusation, condemnation and assault have been the norm throughout this entire election cycle and it’s only getting worse.
Is it any surprise then, that this environment motivated the bombing of a political campaign headquarters?
Who created this environment? Am I being shortsighted in my reluctance to blame either of the candidates? Many people on both sides would say that I am.
Hillary Clinton’s supporters would be quick to point out the allegedly racially charged rhetoric and sexist slurs that some believe have been the hallmark of the Donald Trump campaign. In response, Trump’s supporters would remind us that Clinton has relegated a full quarter of the electorate to a “basket of deplorables” in one of her recent speeches. Perhaps both candidates share some of the responsibility for the currently hostile climate. If so, they are not alone.
Where will it end? Will this firebombing be the harbinger of a divided nation on the path to civil war?
Two hundred and twenty years ago, the United States made history when George Washington gave his farewell address followed by the peaceful transfer of power to the newly elected president of our young republic, John Adams. In 1801, following a political campaign that some would characterize as being at least as ugly as the current one, a pattern of peaceful transition was firmly established when Thomas Jefferson became the third president of the United States. This pattern was broken in 1861 after Abraham Lincoln was elected, the states divided and finally entered into the Civil War.
Will history repeat itself? Some of us, myself included, fear this is where we are heading. Indeed, if this election cycle might be neatly summed up in one word that word would probably be “fear.”
We fear that our economy will collapse, and that national and individual debt will leave us impoverished. We fear discrimination against people of our race, gender or sexual orientation. We fear there will be no place for our children in the nation their fathers built and that we will be overrun by immigrants seeking a better life. We fear discrimination and social ostracism if we are among those immigrant groups. We fear that opening our doors to asylum seekers and refugees will lead to another 9/11 and the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans. We fear the destruction of our environment in a world of finite resources.
We fear homelessness, unemployment, illness and social chaos. We fear each other and have lost almost all faith in our government. We fear for the future of our nation.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
We could individually and collectively make the choice to stop labeling our opposition; to stop seeing them as “other.” We could listen to each other. We could try to understand one another. We could make the attempt to work together to create a better future for us all.
We could do this, but will we? Are we willing? Or, have we become so individually prideful that we will hold onto our hostilities even if it means the final destruction of this nation that I believe most of us still love?
We would not fear for her future if we did not love it.
It is my hope and my prayer that this one thing, this love for our nation that most of us still share, will be that which pulls us together in spite of those things that would tear us apart.
Dear reader, pray for the people of North Carolina tonight. Pray that they will find peace. And, while you’re at it, pray for the future of our country and that the next president of the United States will be blessed with the wisdom needed to guide us through these tumultuous times, regardless of which candidate may win.
Edited by Taylor Owens
Featured image by Jeff Kubina via Flickr, obtained using creativecommons.org