Calling him a "hater of brown people," she left the store but soon returned and continued to yell at him and kept on berating and swearing at him. She called the man "Nazi scum" and afterward posted pictures of him on social media.
Certainly bad behavior (outrageous is a better word) on her part, to say the least. And because of the hat and the Trump MAGA logo, she quickly concluded he was a bad guy politically and apparently felt entitled to berate him. It is a raw, sordid example of the partisan divide that has enveloped our country.
We have drawn the red-blue lines and refuse to step over them. I had a discussion recently with a group of Democrats about Trump and there was disapproval about everything the president is doing. So I suggested we talk instead about some of the positive things the president has accomplished — and asked them to name a few. Silence in the room.
"Nothing," one person said.
"I can't think of anything," another replied.
"What about our low unemployment rate or our healthy economy?" I asked.
"That started when the Dems were in power, so Trump can't claim he did it all," several said.
A couple of days later I quizzed some Republican friends asking if they still support Trump as strongly as they once did.
"Well, I feel uncomfortable about his personality, but he's done great things and is a really good president" was the common response.
"But what about his lies, his narcissism, his seeming disdain about our allies, and his continuing praise of Putin?" I asked.
That didn't matter, they responded.
"He's a strong leader, and it's time our allies stopped taking advantage of the U.S. and the economy is thriving, and I support his policies" was the collective (paraphrased) answer.
I later asked them if they thought that Obama was a good president.
"Not really," they said.
These conversations happened right here in Palo Alto.
All this was just two weeks before the Mueller report was released, but I fear the answers would still be the same today — for Republicans and Democrats.
No objective analysis. No "right vs. wrong" value system. Only "them" vs. "us." No subtleties. Just a big black paint smear against "them"— on both sides of the red-blue line.
This tenacity toward zealously defending one's points of view is endangering our country. It's part of that "Don't bother me with the facts, I know what I believe" line of reasoning that is percolating through our nation.
And some of these rigid attitudes have permeated Congress. Certainly the Tea Partiers were unrelenting at times, and now the Democrats are having trouble in their ranks. Most Dems agree that their goal for 2020 is to get Trump out of office. Period. THE Priority.
But the younger group of newly elected representatives, e.g., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ("AOC"), D-NY, and her supporters, are pushing their Green New Deal, insisting on government health care for all and a variety of brand new programs, such as a guaranteed income for everyone. So far the newbie Congressional members' strident voices are becoming louder every day. Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants a less abrupt change of policy so that Democrats can come together by 2020.
This isn't the way it used to be. Our political splits are much worse. During the Vietnam War there were people marching in the streets protesting the war, and others busy urging Washington not to lose a war. But whether one was for continuing or ending the war didn't prevent us from talking with those we disagreed with about other issues. It didn't bring on constant roadblocks in Congress, prevent anything bipartisan to be accomplished. Today, here and nationally, things have changed. We live in our own bubbles of similar views.
When I was a young reporter, I was told to objectively write about both sides. I had my political biases and wondered if I could, but I soon talked to those supporting and opposing issues and found each side actually had reasoned views and were ordinary people.
I learned that the differences were not based on malice but because each side had approached an issue, given their backgrounds, and had come to a conclusion in a way different from mine. I became more objective.
So how do we listen to each other and not attack "the other"? How can we once again start debating political issues in neighborhood gatherings without people feeling uncomfortable about even discussing the issues of the day because of the polarization that has taken place? How do we start to become a less divided country, hear and better understand each other, work together and compromise on issues facing our country?
Let's try to find out how. That's what Palo Alto should be all about, and that is what our country must be about.
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