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

October 3, 2017

by Erik Halvorson

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

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5 comments on “Americans Are More Polarized Than Ever — And It’s Destroying the Country”

  • jui says:

    I commend Halvorson for criticizing the Right Wing’s hateful rhetoric. But refraining from uncouth language is not enough. If one wants to not appear hateful, then refrain from hateful actions. Actions speak louder than words. Turning gays away from a public accommodation is a hateful action. Using big government to ban same-sex marriage is a hateful action. Try some Christian kindness and respect.

    • tlv says:

      Some would say that forcing someone to support abortion, gay marriage, etc. with their services, business, or money, when to do so goes against their sincerely held moral and spiritual values is a hateful action. Why is following strong Christian/conservative values hateful, but punishing Christians for not subscribing to liberal social causes isnt?

      • Jui says:

        As a church-going Christian I point out that a public accommodation is not a church. Right Wing religionists who open public accommodations are required to abide by the law. If your right wing religionists view demands you treat gay people with contempt, keep that hate in your so-called church. Do not open a business if you are not prepared to abide by the law. And it would help if you were honest–you are not being punished, you are following the law.

        The God who made me gay did not put on earth to be a second class citizen. We are God’s children. Your discriminatory actions are hateful.

      • jk105 says:

        Poor tlv has it wrong.
        No one is “punishing” conservatives for not subscribing to Christian liberal social causes like treating God’s gay children with respect. You are perfectly free to turn away God’s gay children from your conservative churches and we are free to go where we find God– in the Christian churches that embrace us. That is religious freedom, the way it should be. What you are not free to do is decide what American laws you want to obey. When one opens a secular for profit public accommodation, that person contractually agrees to abide by the law. Discrimination against gay people in most states is against the law, thank you Jesus! My God tells me I am not a second class citizen. When you discriminate against me in a secular for profit public accommodation, you are engaging in a hateful act.

        I pray for you.

  • jk105 says:

    ” Ultimately, we are pro-life, pro-gun and pro-marriage because we genuinely care about our fellow man/

    By “pro marriage” you mean you would use the brute force of government to deny my church the religious freedom to perform legal same-sex marriages. That is not “pro marriage” and that is not genuinely caring for your fellow man. That is treating your fellow citizens with contempt–which runs contrary to the point this edit tries to make.

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