“He will not divide us,” religiously chants the anonymous groups of people filtering in and out of the political art installation created by Shia LaBeouf and Jaden Smith which started on January 20, 2017, and has now ended on Friday February 10 (due to violence), on a wall outside the Museum of the Moving Image, New York. Others joining in this spectacle have shared a different point of view by declaring things ranging from “He will unite us” to those who are just looking to troll sharing statements like“Hitler did nothing wrong.” So what is the message this installation is trying to spread, or more importantly, is actually spreading?
Leave it to the broad public, heavily influenced by the internet, to keep things in politics entertaining and oh so interesting. This installation was created in reaction to the United States of America electing President Donald Trump, and this mantra according to their website is meant to represent “a show of resistance or insistence, opposition or optimism guided by the spirit of each individual participant and the community.” However, the intended message is being met with some pretty fierce opposition, particularly from people that support Donald Trump, the GOP, or just the general change of direction currently happening in the US.
All of this controversy is further driving the division between Americans – the irony is almost palpable.
The Median Democrat and Median Republican have been identifying further apart, this survey shows the changes over a 20 year period (from 1994, to 2014).
There is something very unique about politics in the internet age, because we see an enormous platform for voices that in the past would have gone largely unheard. Now, with a little SEO, no matter what you believe, your voice can be spread and heard globally. With so many opinions it’s easy to find plenty to disagree with. But that level of exposure of thoughts and ideas, while potentially extremely profitable to the human race, comes heavily lacking in accountability. This is where we see the buzz around the phrase “fake news.”
In fact, the people opposed to “fake news” are even divided on what news qualifies as fake. Is it sources like “The National Enquirer” typically known for sharing topics loosely based on reality or politically agenda driven from one side or the other like “The Guardian” or “Breitbart,” or is it mainstream media like “CNN” when they run an inaccurate story? It all depends on who you ask.
All of this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of topics Americans are so drastically divided on. Many on the left believe the right is nothing more than fascist, neo-nazis, afraid of homosexuals and anyone that doesn’t have white skin. And the right believe the left is only socialist, snowflakes, sympathizing with terrorists and interested in governing every aspect of our business and personal lives. These portrayals of roughly half of Americans are not only horribly inaccurate, but dangerous.
Rioting, screaming, attacking, assaulting, demoralizing, humiliating, life-threatening: You name it, pick a side, some one has done it. Sure, people can try to argue that one side is doing it more than the other, but anyone doing it needs to be condemned. Some of you may think that it is not a major issue, that it is being largely condemned and only occurring in the very fringes, but it too has real support, and the support is growing.
Take this article for an example: The ethical question was raised: “Is it okay to punch a Nazi?” Leave it to 2017 to require this question to be ethically tested, seeing how 2016 was determined that the word of the year was “Post-truth.” Experienced writer on the topic of Ethics, Randy Cohen of the New York Times, wrote plainly, no. “No, you do not get to punch people even though they’re ideologically despicable.”
This is a perspective that I can respect, we don’t hurt people that disagree with us. He goes on to explain that the only situation where physical retaliation is appropriate is that done in self defense. I couldn’t agree more.
Could there be an alternative perspective, someone trying to justify violence against thoughts? Let’s take a look at the position provided by Nesrine Malik of The Guardian, “When they go low, going high isn’t enough… some positions simply cannot be entertained, let alone advertised… Be better, but why? Why should we be better? Just for the sake of being better, or because being better produces results? This philosophical Achilles Heel is paralyzing liberal democracy.” (Watch the video for full context). She continues on to contradict herself by claiming she isn’t advocating for violence, even though she just said that by not engaging in violence her political agenda could not be successful.
It’s important to understand that holding the position that it is immoral to punch a Nazi, or anyone based on their beliefs, doesn’t mean that you or I support those people’s ideals. Instead, it insists that we treat others as humans, no matter how lost or mixed up they are. Besides, where’s the evidence of a punched Nazi changing their mind afterwards and becoming politically enlightened? Not a chance, and I bet if a study were done, we’d probably only see them become stronger in their convictions.
This hearkens back to my original point: what is the purpose of taking these actions? Who are we trying to unite: our political party to oppose one another, or unite all people as Americans, as human beings? I’ll take the latter, thanks.
Let’s try some personal discernment, and start thinking for ourselves. Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, we are seeing rapidly growing division fueled by hate. You may have a Utopian vision of what the world would look like if your political ideologies were realized, but you have lost sight of reality. What you are fighting for is what we’ve got, and this division is leading to a societal crumble.