DALLAS: This week I had dinner in Dallas, Texas, with two of my close friends whom I love. They are what we call in Washington, D.C., Trumpers – they voted for Donald Trump and are conservatives.
Why does a liberal like me have dinner with two known conservatives? It is because in our country, as opposed to much of the rest of the world, we can disagree and still like and respect each other and even love each other. In some countries, they kill people who disagree with the leadership. We don’t do that here.
One of my conservative friends is Ed Butowsky. He has received a lot of press lately for being the man involved in the Seth Rich controversy. Just to jog a few memories, Seth Richards worked at the Democratic National Committee and was murdered not far from his home in Washington. Some say he leaked the secrets of the Democratic National Committee to Wikileaks, while police and his family dismiss that theory. Police said he was likely killed during a botched robbery attempt.
My other friend is Darrin Peterson. We work together in South Sudan. He is vice president of our GEMS Foundation also known as Goats for the Old Goat. Darrin was called to be a Mormon bishop and has 10 children. He doesn’t even drink coffee. Darrin also voted for Trump and, like Butowsky, lives in Texas.
In Cleveland when I was growing up my parents had all kinds of friends. Our larger extended family has all kinds of people in it as well. I have two cousins who work for the Trump administration. I have another cousin who supports Republican Gov. John Kasich, and I have very liberal family members who voted for Bernie Sanders. No one talks about politics. We love each other as a family.
Our country has recently gone the way that no country should go. We are not kind to each other. We are not respectful of each other. We grew up being taught to be respectful of each other. That is no longer the case. The former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, said this week that the internet has allowed people to say and do things that would never have been said years ago.
“Technology has changed anti-Semitism,” he said. The internet has “destroyed civility. And to a large extent civility is a protective blanket for minorities. But if you remove civility you take away a level of protection. So the internet is a major challenge. I remember 10 years ago I went to Palo Alto and said to the geniuses, ‘Thanks, look what you’ve created. I’m not blaming you. But the unintended consequences of your genius have created a superhighway for bigotry and anti-Semitism.’ And their answer was simply, ‘algorithms, algorithms.’ And 10 years later, I think they’re beginning to understand their responsibility. …
“This is still the newest, latest threat to civility. Communicating in nanoseconds, and it’s like a tsunami.”
Foxman continued: “How do you deal with hate? How do you answer hate speech? When you’re dealing with a tsunami of hate speech, how do you respond to it?
“There’s more extremism,” he says. “Therefore, ‘if you’re not with me you’re against me.’ There’s a lot more of that. There’s less of bipartisanship. There’s less crossing the line than there was five years ago. And we’re in the middle.”
I used to think that it was great that C-SPAN broadcast all the proceedings of Congress. Now, I think it is the worse thing that happened to bipartisanship. People used to get along, and many bills were agreed to by both sides. Now, lawmakers make speeches on the floor of Congress for their home audience, and there are very few bipartisan speeches. While everyone at home can watch and listen, what is the motivation to be conciliatory and kind? Very little to nil.
So, while there is a lot of support of what is now being called the “fourth industrial revolution” – the Internet and online innovation – it is a mixed blessing. It makes it hard that my friends Ed and Darrin can’t be known as great friends. We used to be able to be friends with anyone in the USA. Now our country and world have become more divided. I liked the good old days when no one paid much attention to your political ideas. Sure, when we were growing up we cared about the Vietnam War, but it was not with the same vitriol.
It is time for us to move on, respect each other and love even people we disagree with – like I love Ed and Darrin.