Let’s Fix Our Toxic Politics • Missouri Independent

When Eric Greitens posted his tweet of April 25I thought, “that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”

He was on a shooting range with Donald Trump, Jr., firing first what appeared to be an AR-15 and then a handgun with the audio messages, “Scare in the hearts of liberals” and “Liberals, beware”.

May 25 was even crazier, when he sent the same tweet to his followers, this time the day after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

But last Monday, Greitens outdid himself. He posted a video showing him with a combat team in camouflage gear breaking down the door of a house and firing a heavy weapon before saying, “Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting license.

His short video was a scene from a horror movie and his message was unequivocal. In the wake of Uvalde and Buffalo and more, Greitens encouraged his followers to take up arms and hunt down fellow humans, his political adversaries.

Perhaps Greitens’ message shouldn’t surprise us because it comes from a man who his ex-wife and ex-lover say is personally prone to violence. What should surprise us is that he appeals to the Republicans who put Greitens near the top in the race for our Senate nomination.

But maybe not.

Personally, we must commit to the reality that family and friendships are more important than politics.

While Greitens’ ads are the most extreme in the Senate contest, his theme isn’t unusual at all. Even short of descending into violence like Jan. 6, the current trend in politics is to treat adversaries as enemies we should attack, not as adversaries we should respect.

Notice how often the words “fight” and “fighter” are used by candidates these days. In a recent campaign solicitation I received, “fight” or its derivative appeared three times in a single sentence. It’s as if there is no room for reasonable disagreement and certainly no room for compromise.

This is the state of things today, and it has made politics as we once understood it – a place to address and hopefully resolve our disagreements – unworkable.

It has rendered the United States Senate, where I had the privilege of serving for 18 years, dysfunctional. Here’s a question you might ask yourself: what are senators actually doing these days, other than issuing statements indicating how angry they are?

It would be bad enough if this state of rage was contained in the world of professional politics. Unfortunately, it is not the case. It has metastasized in our interpersonal relationships.

Most of us know families and friends who have been separated by politics. I know a young woman whose father ended a phone call about politics and hasn’t spoken to her in two years. I know of another whose mother kicked her out of a family Christmas party for the same reason. Then there are the 35-40% of supporters who don’t want their children to marry someone from the other party and the 33% of students who have “deleted” those who voted for the wrong candidate.

For the health of our personal lives and certainly for the good of America, we must end this constant fight. It won’t be enough to think like me that Greitens’ tweets were crazy. We should do Something. To this end, we can draw inspiration from the illustrious history of our nation.

Former close friends John Adams and Thomas Jefferson became so angry about the 1800 election that they didn’t speak for 12 years. Then they reconciled and ended their lives in a warm and respectful friendship.

In 1861, after the secession of seven southern states from the Union, Abraham Lincoln pleaded for national unity: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.

James Madison not only understood political disagreements, he welcomed them, believing that by compensating each other they would protect us against tyranny.

From our beginnings, a great project of America has been to hold us together, with all our differences, as one united country. We honor this with our motto, e pluribus unum; we are many different people, and we are one. We pledge allegiance to an indivisible nation.

Today, the standard tactic of politics is to set aside our grand plan for national unity and go our separate ways. This tactic is being pursued by “fighters” who on the left put our different identities above our common identity, and on the right argue that we should not believe our leaders were legitimately elected.

The work of holding us together as a people must be both political and personal. Politically, we must elect candidates who reject divisive politics and will commit to overcoming our differences and keeping America together.

Personally, we must commit to the reality that family and friendships are more important than politics.

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