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Intolerant rhetoric

Lately we have seen far too much hatred, intolerance, and violence, often even leading to mass shootings. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but we can point to at least two correctable factors.

First, too many politicians, almost exclusively Republicans, have taken to calling people with whom they disagree enemies, haters of America, or worse, even suggesting violence. Their speech gives people permission to use any means necessary to squash these enemies. Even though most gun owners are responsible and don’t approve of this behavior, some of these leaders pose for photos holding assault rifles, glorifying and even encouraging the use of force to get their way. While the vast majority of the supposed “enemies” are Americans who simply have a different opinion, it is sad that most mainstream Republicans won’t demand an end to this violent language and imagery by their colleagues.

Second is the blatant effort to reduce mutual respect and understanding. Generations of Americans have learned compassion for the humanity and struggles of others through history, literature, theater, and art.

These can teach us empathy for the complex challenges of rural America, hunger, homelessness, mental illness, the Israeli-Palestinian problem, or just being different. We are witnessing another upswing in banning exposure to certain viewpoints and facts in libraries, schools, and colleges, and even to require teaching only what those in charge want people to know. This promotes misunderstanding and intolerance.

The combination of loss of empathy for the experiences of others, referring to others as “enemies,” and glorification of violence work together to worsen our current situation. I implore our elected representatives to support mutual understanding and tolerance, and to call out their colleagues who create more division, demanding they stop the violent and intolerant rhetoric. Fixing these two issues won’t solve the problem, but our leaders could move the needle.


Little Rock