An invitation, for real, to bridge our political divide
I voted for Joe Biden but, like Joseph Arrambidez, I am weary of people thinking I believe things that I do not believe because of my vote (“The media and social platforms divide us,” Opinion, Nov. 16). I am horrified by the attack labels so many people use, and I am distressed by the “we” and “they” distinction, by people thinking that only “we” want to bridge our divides and “they” do not.
Arrambidez and I disagree on most of our political views, but we both agree that that’s OK. Not only are media and social platforms roiling the waters, but we are all allowing them to do so. None of us are as one-dimensional as these written snapshots convey.
I think if we all make an effort to get to know one another — in real life — it could take us a long way toward the unity so many of us want for our country. I would like to invite Arrambidez and his family to start that process with mine. The pandemic and the nearly 2,000 miles between us would prevent us from meeting in person, but I think Zoom and our mutual good will could solve that.
I thank him in advance for considering this invitation. We could each lift a glass of something and begin the hard work of healing and of finding hope, not just in the future but in each other.
Media and social platforms are not to blame for what ails us
I share Joseph Arrambidez’s frustration at the great divide America faces today, but our agreement ends there.
For starters, CNN reported honestly about the demonstrations over police brutality. The network showed where there was looting as well as peaceful protesters, but they did not try to make it look like it was all one thing — “mostly peaceful.”
Also, the media and mainstream Democrats did not say that Donald Trump’s 2016 election was “illegitimate.” Transition began immediately. President Obama met with Trump in the White House within days. What did happen is that valid concerns about Russian interference were investigated, and if you ignore Attorney General William Barr’s dubious summary of the Mueller report, there were, in fact, real contacts between Trump’s team and Russian representatives.
Also, tax breaks for the ultrarich, such as those championed by Trump, are not helping Arrambidez raise his kids. Trickle-down economics has been a proven failure, now as in the Reagan years. Indeed, the economy has performed better under Democratic administrations.
Finally, Trump has repeatedly acted against our democratic norms, as he does now in refusing to recognize a legitimate election. If Arrambidez would confront that fact, I really would look forward to finding out where we agree and disagree.
Surely we can try to reunite America. However, the media, at most, are holding up a mirror to Trump’s lies and deceits. They’re not to blame for our divide.
We have to grapple with our conflicting realities
There were peaceful protests. There was looting.
We need the police. Black people are being killed by police.
People take advantage of welfare. Others need welfare.
Immigrants come here illegally. Immigrants come legally seeking shelter from violence.
Corporate chiefs make more than 300 times what an average worker earns, and wages have stagnated since 1980. Corrections can affect businesses adversely, and increasingly taxing the wealthy can cause problems.
Climate change is real. Our national debt is enormous. Military suicides and drug overdoses abound. Health care costs can cause bankruptcies. Bridges fail.
All those statements are true.
We need to grapple with these realities together to solve them. We can’t live up to our democracy’s promise and the Declaration of Independence when we deny some of those facts depending on our preference.
I imagine that Joseph Arrambidez and I may approach these issues from differing perspectives, but they are solvable if we work together, listening respectfully to each other.
The elephant in the room is Trump
In “The media and social platforms divide us,” Joseph Arrambidez presents a false equivalency between opposing forces that corrode civility. His argument that both sides bear some responsibility has some merit, but his central premise loses steam when he states that he voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. Arrambidez admits that his support was motivated by his wallet, while he remains silent on the extent to which his candidate contributed to the current hyperpolarized climate.
Whether a symptom or a cause, this president stokes the flames of disunity amid a pandemic and social discord. Arrambidez cites disparate news coverage of the unrest in US cities, yet the man he twice voted for has refused to condemn specific acts of violence, characterized neo-Nazis as “fine people,” and called on the heavily armed so-called militia group Proud Boys to “stand by,” when most elected officials have condemned violence across the board.
The government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” shouldn’t be used as a Twitter cudgel to threaten every individual or group that disagrees with or disrupts the precious ego of the president.
Past presidents have employed occasional threats to cajole and to further a strategic goal. Threats are sometimes appropriate to serve notice of intent, since the president’s words are perceived to carry the full weight of the United States. Yet without precision, Trump uses his bully pulpit to carpet-bomb anyone or anything that poses a real or imagined threat, and thus exacerbates our online discourse.
His targets run the gamut of world leaders, civil rights icons, veterans, women, people with disabilities, professional athletes, a teenager advocating for climate policies, minor celebrities, and even a hurricane that had the temerity to contradict his words.
If Arrambidez continues to be motivated by his wallet at the expense of the discordant political climate he rails against, I hope he’s prepared to pay the devil his due when the bill arrives.