Masks or no masks, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are more impenetrable barriers between us these days than a piece of cloth. Rabid political partisanship is rampant among our communities and infecting all of us.
How does a Re-Open SLO Facebook Group transform into a ‘Freedom Rally? What has re-opening local businesses got to do with giving a platform to speakers that rant about the supremacy of Judeo-Christian religion? Or promoting a university academic called Thaddeus Kozinsky who claims that 9/11 was a conspiracy theory and Bill Gates is part of a global cabal trying to take over the world? Why invite a “Christian Conservative Activist” from Fresno called Ben Bergquam who believes “homosexuality is sin” and that “liberalism is a plaque on society”?
Why does Woman’s March SLO, formed “to protect woman’s rights”, migrate to activism insisting that the whole of SLO County wear masks? Later the same week the same group becomes a catalyst for the ‘Act now for Justice’ demonstrations protesting the murderous killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, while calling for our local police to be “defunded”. The demonstrators certainly exposed the hypocrisy of criticising the Re-Open SLO protestors for not social distancing while failing to do so themselves, although I fail to understand how these intimidating and disruptive protests advance a woman’s rights in SLO?
Even our political leaders are not immune to blatant acts of partisanship. Witness the fact that Ellen Beraud ran for County Supervisor as an Independent. The minute her campaign lost; Ms. Beraud became Vice-Chair of the local Democrat party. Or Mayor Harmon barely waiting for the police to catch their breath after days of shepherding divisive and destructive protests before looking to “defund” their budget with no indication how that will improve police accountability or community cohesion. Then we witness Nancy Pelosi ripping up The State of The Union speech on primetime TV. While at the very top of our Leadership we have a President who is a master of sowing seeds of division. How do any of these political acts help heal the toxic fault lines in our politics?
Perhaps most worrying of all, Antifa trigger words are beginning to appear across our County. ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards) is appearing as graffiti, presumably a sign to fellow left-wing anarchists to take to the streets in violent protest by piggybacking on the Minneapolis tragedy to advance their own militant agenda.
It seems political and religious dogma knows no bounds or reason when it comes to advancing an agenda. Hyper-Liberals and rabid Republicans have become so convinced in the sanctity of their positions that the only response they have to an alternative point of view is hysteria.
There was a time we could rely on media for some perspective. No longer. Mainstream media is self-imploding in a hail of self-righteousness and ‘fear porn’, while social media thrives in algorithm induced echo chambers.
Campaigns to restart economic activity, manage a pandemic, advance the equality of women, or to advocate for the reform of social justice and law enforcement would be far more effective if they were single issue and non-partisan. None of these are issues that should be defined by race, gender, creed let alone party affiliation.
For those who yearn for a return to bi-partisan politics and democracy by consensus, we should remind ourselves and our community that it isn’t about being right or wrong. Rather than petulance and tribal politics, we should remember that just as successful businesses evolve from 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, so productive politics and constructive democracy arise from one-part principle to nine-parts pragmatism.
A global history of national reconciliation and rehabilitation shows success comes about when moral outrage and righteous indignation evolves from principle into pragmatism. Successful protagonists like Gandhi & Mandela recognized that it wasn’t about ‘being’ right, it was about ‘making’ right. It is time to stop making partisan political statements and to start just making a difference.