Americans Are More Polarized Than Ever — And It’s Destroying the Country


In case you haven’t noticed, the United States is currently weathering one of the most polarized eras of the country’s history. After arguably the most divisive presidential election in modern times, Americans are increasingly entrenching themselves inside their echo-chambered bunkers as social controversies proliferate. Whether it be the NFL National Anthem protests, the Emmy Awards or the latest tragedy in Las Vegas, many Americans have become all too eager to point fingers rather than find common ground; they turn to scapegoating rather than seeking to find solutions. This troubling trajectory is unsustainable and will further decimate the foundations of the American republic.

This unfortunate truth has become ever clearer since the recent events in Las Vegas. In wake of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, people from each end of the political spectrum have used this occurrence as an opportunity to score political points. Some on the conservative side of the aisle have immediately jumped to defend gun rights and the Second Amendment, anticipating a challenge from their political rivals. Meanwhile, many on the Left have played right along, stating that “this is exactly the right time to talk about gun control” — all while the hundreds of victims of this tragedy go largely ignored. Instead of using this as a time to come together and heal, countless Americans have immediately hunkered behind their keyboards in order to fight another war over public policy. One only has to turn to Twitter or Facebook to see how far the public discourse in our country has disintegrated.

Even if we give these keyboard warriors the benefit of the doubt and assume the best intentions, this approach to civilized society is much more corrosive than productive. When people approach tragedies with the aim of winning arguments rather than solving problems, they begin to look on their opposition as an enemy instead of a fellow countryman. It is true that people throughout this great nation have intensely different worldviews, but this does not negate the fact that the average American’s heart anguishes for the victims of Las Vegas and other tragedies. Instead of immediately seeking to disprove, we must listen and try to understand.

This same logic applies to almost every hot-button issue of our time. For those of us who are conservative, we cannot allow anger or hatred to define the causes we stand for, whether they be abortion, gun rights, or traditional marriage. If we believe that truth is on our side, we must keep calm and argue with our heads — even while staying motivated by our hearts. Hatred shuts peoples’ ears and prompts more hatred, while an impassioned but understanding approach promotes productive dialogue. Ultimately, we are pro-life, pro-gun and pro-marriage because we genuinely care about our fellow man, and this must always be our first priority. We must listen to understand, and debate to solve.

Instead of getting bogged down in Facebook debates, Americans ought to focus instead on the hundreds of people willing to donate blood to help their fellow man. Instead of advancing our own political football, we must celebrate the lives of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for those they love. These are true Americans and they represent the best of this exceptional nation.

If we choose to fight instead of bond, our nation will crumble. As conservatives and proud patriots, we should not seek primarily to win arguments but rather to promote American ideals, namely the sanctity of life in all forms. Do not seek to destroy, but rather work to build bridges. If we cannot do this, and our society continues to polarize, our republic of liberty will quickly become a bastion of hatred.

Erik Halvorson

Erik Halvorson is a regular contributor to and a student at Hillsdale College.

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