The political landscape of America has been trending in a negative direction for quite some time but always managed to maintain a degree of tact and seriousness until the election of Donald Trump. Seemingly overnight, American political life went from a sane yet stressed reality where people had different values and outlooks to a vitriolic and polarized caricature of America, where doublespeak is the norm and political violence is rife. Regardless of what your favorite politician might say on your favorite mainstream news outlet, this is who we are now.
For most of the past four years, political violence was almost exclusively carried out and tolerated by the most radical leftists: be it a Bernie Bro shooting Steve Scalise at a Congressional baseball game, a revolutionary communist bringing famous Twitch streamer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s rhetoric to its logical conclusion by committing an act of terror against an I.C.E. “concentration camp,” Antifa gangs engaging in street brawls and setting fire to and throwing explosives at federal buildings, or Black Live Matter’s months long “mostly peaceful protests” that saw American cities burning, the destruction of businesses and livelihoods, massive looting, and the deaths of over two dozen people. All of this was met with either apathy or open support by many establishment Democrats who found it useful for the furtherance of their agendas. But now, for the first time, we have seen right-wing radicals engage in political violence as well with support that cannot be ignored. Regardless of whether you, dear reader, think it was justified or not, the political violence that occurred on January 6th in Washington D.C. is a turning point in how we will engage in politics and with each other.
The new reality we have created for ourselves is one of conflict, extremism, and polarization. Humans are social creatures who need an enemy, someone to label as the ‘out’ group and stand in opposition to. Historically, we have looked overseas for our enemies and moved forward as a mostly-united nation. Now, because of a globalist movement following the aftermath of WWII, no foreign enemy can be found. Americans are looking at each other and can only see red. The political divide has become so great that families fight under their own roofs and friends turn on each other as a result of their disagreement on social issues.
The left has caused civility in political discourse to become a relic of the past. It was they/them who deemed that mean words amount to violence and that, as a corollary, it is permissible to do (physical) violence to those who do (speech-based) violence to you. The left has brought us to a point where someone being assaulted, hospitalized, and even killed for having the wrong thoughts or saying something that lies outside the Overton Window has become a common occurrence in American cities. For an example, look no further than Aaron Danielson, who was stalked and executed in the streets by Michael Reinoehl, for being a right-winger.
Establishment Republicans, ever willing to lose with dignity, rolled over and accepted this new America. If fighting the left means being labeled a ‘racist,’ a ‘Nazi,’ a ‘misogynist,’ a ‘transphobe,’ or ‘homophobe,’ etc., they have deemed it better not to fight in the first place . What they failed to comprehend was in backing down from every challenge, they only succeeded in disillusioning and angering the people that trusted them to fight the undermining of conservative principles and the Christian way of life that their constituents elected them to uphold. Their unwillingness to fight pushed many on the right even further to the right, creating right-wing radicals in the same mold as the radicals of the left. It was only a matter of time before they lashed out as well and now, with the January 6th mostly-peaceful protests, they have.
So where does that leave us? A civil political solution is quite unlikely at this point. Civility is a notion that has been lost to the past that many in the political arena would rather we forget. Moreover, we appear to have a divide between groups that fundamentally cannot tolerate cohabitation with the other. Further conflict is inevitable and is closer than many are comfortable to admit. Arms and ammunition sales are at an all time high and a great many of these sales are first time gun owners. The lines are being drawn and heads are starting to be counted. The in-groups and out-groups are formed and both sides are only waiting for the other to make the first decisive move. Millions of Americans on either side of the impending conflict feel disenfranchised, discounted, and oppressed. The time to stand idly by and hope for amends to be made has long passed us by. The only way out of this mess is by pushing through it and what we find on the other side will be nothing like what any of us have ever seen. Neutrality, insomuch as it is still possible, will soon no longer be an option.