Poisonous Politics

BY KOBI AZOULAY
Staff Writer

When was the last time you saw a Facebook post calling Republicans gun-nuts, war-lovers, bigots or anything in-between?
How about a post referring to Democrats as hippies, tree-huggers, criminals or welfare-abusers?
The list of insults thrown around in the average political discussion is long enough to make its own dictionary, and that is bad news not only for our government, but for our day-to-day lives as well.
We are losing the ability to have rational, open-minded discussions. Instead of having honest disagreements where people calmly explain their difference of opinion, we have a political atmosphere that often involves insulting and belittling people with other viewpoints.


This type of behavior does nothing to help solve our country’s problems and only divides us even further.
It might make you look smart and entertaining to like-minded people, but the others who disagree will be left feeling alienated, or even angry. They might react with the same poisonous political banter, resulting in a never-ending cycle of insults.
“When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser,” Greek philosopher Socrates said, understanding how unproductive personal attacks are.
This negativity could be a major reason why so many Americans are turned off by the political process. They see all of this fighting and want to steer as far away from it as possible.
It is hard to blame these apathetic citizens when our politicians are just as politically toxic as everyone else.
It would be easy to point to Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate who frequently mocks opponents over their looks or even bathroom habits. Even though he is basically the definition of poisonous politics described above, more conventional politicians better prove this point.
There are plenty of examples to choose from in both parties.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also a Republican presidential candidate, recently called President Obama a “feckless weakling.” Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton said in an October debate that Republicans are her proudest political enemy.
Some people think that personal insults in politics are a recent development, but they have actually been around since our country’s origin.
If anything, the insults used to be worse.
When Andrew Jackson ran for President in 1828, John Quincy Adams and his supporters said that he was too uneducated for the position (they said he spelled Europe as ‘Urope’). They even took to insulting his wife, calling her a “dirty black wench” and a “convicted adulteress” because she had divorced her abusive ex-husband.
Debating terrorism, climate change and all of the other major issues facing America is already difficult enough. Throw in all of the negative rhetoric being spewed by both sides and it makes sense why people would want avoid politics altogether.
The first amendment’s freedom of speech gives everyone the right to be rude, but that does not make it right. Respect might seem politically pointless to some, but it can go a long way in helping solve our country’s problems.
People will be more likely to engage in political conversations when they know their opinions will be respected, even if they are not agreed with.
Our politicians will also be more likely to compromise when having constructive debates, rather than slinging mud back and forth.
This kind of change does not happen overnight, and it requires everyone to be personally aware.
Next time you consider sharing that article calling all Republicans clowns, or saying that all Democrats belong in a mental asylum, ask yourself, “is this productive, or am I just being insulting?”

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