I didn't vote for President Obama either time. I didn't think he would be a very good president. In my estimation I was right. After the elections in 2008 and 2012, my view was in the minority. But, Barak Obama is my president as well as every other American's president. Because I disagree with him politically, it does not mean he is a demon or a monster or someone trying to ruin our nation. My fellow Americans, who continue to spew hatred of him, are being un-American.
When did it become so fashionable, so acceptable and so respectable to demonize the other side when we disagree on issues? Where is the civility that we should all demand in order to have a free and open society? We may not agree on a policy or policies, but does that mean we should hate and despise someone who holds differing beliefs? Our tendency to abhor another person because of a differing opinion is counter-productive to an open society.
I believe several things have happened to us in the past few years that make it easier and more acceptable to voice disdain for ideas with which we do not agree. As more and more of us rely on our news and information from cable stations, online news, and websites, we listen and read to only those outlets that agree with our formed opinions. No need to bother with differing viewpoints when we can have our own pre-conceived notions ratified in the world of talking heads. The proliferations of new sources have also hastened the political specialization of those sources. This is the same whether you are liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, black or white.
We choose friends that tend to believe the same as we and live in neighborhoods with people who are much like us, and associate with organizations and (sometimes religions) that narrowly define what it means to be a member. The more affluent we are, the easier it is to spin a cocoon against the outside world with all its differences.
But difference is what made the United States great. New people, ideas and cultures have constantly bombarded our shores since Native Americans allowed the illegal immigrants from Europe to land more than five hundred years ago. Proportionately, the largest bilingual school program was for the German children of New York and Philadelphia in the 19th century. How many of us grew up Catholic and could define ourselves and others from the parish attended? Eventually, most of us ventured from those parochial environments into which we were born out to the greater world.
We all are prejudice to some degree. We fear that which is unknown. That is why we retreat to the safety of those who are like minded. In the past, it was harder to retreat because daily life required so much more interaction with different races, religions and ethnicities. Many of us now live in a one dimensional community untouched by difference. Our state legislature then draw up districts comprised of as many politically likeminded folks as possible in order to create a one-dimensional district. These communities and political districts are not socially or politically sustainable over time.
For as long as these make-believe communities and districts exist, state representatives and congressmen are free to ignore the minority viewpoint in their districts. This insularity of ideas, thoughts and people result in a staleness that begins to rot the core of American ideals. Since you now confront opposing ideas not directly while speaking to someone sitting next to you but through the internet, the constraints brought by good manners no longer apply. If there were more face-to-face encounters the venomous level of what passes for discourse would greatly improve.
Throughout American history, we have had those who hated and despised those who are different from themselves. Perhaps I was fortunate to live most of my life In New York where everyone was from somewhere else. Some days, from the time I left my home in the morning until I returned at night, I spoke to no one who was native born. I was the minority, the "foreigner", the one who could not communicate in the lingua franca of the moment. I could not speak fluent enough Spanish or speak at all in Creole, Greek, Polish, Hindi or Pashtun. While I may have complained, at the same time I reveled in the fact that all these different cultures and people had come here just as my ancestors had to have a better life.
We, the children and grandchildren of immigrants feel as if "they" will overwhelm good old America with their foreignness. I know that is not true, they will only enhance our society like my forebears and yours. I have always said it takes one generation to be an American. How many of us have had the experience of seeing someone named Chin or Patel and expecting that person to speak English with a heavy accent. It turns out they have the same accent as I do, because they were born in America. I am sure our ancestors were greeted with the same stereotypical reaction.
Demonization of differences is an old American custom. From politics to religion to language to culture the "natives born" have always hated the newer immigrant. That is why a small subsection of the American electorate has such hatred for Obama. (I think he is a terrible leader and president.) Instead of giving a reasoned argument to his failures they lash out calling him a Muslim, as if that is an invective instead of a religion, and much worse. That approach does not win arguments because it is based on fear and non-articulation of cogent reasoning.
If one wants to have a serious discussion of our political or social differences, it is necessary to have respect for the other person as a fellow human being. Without rules of civility to guide us we descend into warring tribes and factions that are far from the founders' ideas and aspirations. Name calling and shouting will not sway an opponent. A civil or social policy must derive from beliefs that are unclouded by prejudices either real or imagined. But the first thing we need to do is accept our differences and embrace others with whom we may have differences as fellow Americans.