It’s past time to put country first


How did America get here? This fractured place where facts matter less and less, and neighbors can’t even share how they really feel.

How did we become a nation split by extremists on both sides of the political spectrum, people willing to say and do anything to win and hold power? Witness the shameful defense of President Donald Trump by those who privately know the facts show his unforced Ukraine error replaced national interests with personal ambitions.

And, more important, why do the many Americans who fall in the middle of most political debates tolerate the insanity we see daily in Washington, D.C., and even in Columbus at times?

Elected Democrats actually called for impeaching Trump before he took office. Republicans had similar plans for Hillary Clinton that magically disappeared when she lost.

Both sides exploit every perceived political opportunity while finding more brazen ways to punish or embarrass the other for putting it through the last so-called scandal. Sure, deny us a Supreme Court candidate until a new president arrives, we’ll show you.

How would Republicans be handling the Ukraine affair if Clinton was linked to the same set of facts? Unless something miraculously changes, the next Democratic president had better make sure he or she never tiptoes near any problems.

We can blame partisan cable news coverage filled with talking heads and extremist websites masquerading as legitimate news operations. Facebook surely has done plenty to spread false and highly partisan information. The mere ability of people to find others with similar prejudices online creates opportunities for once niche causes to gain momentum.

Perhaps it’s the fault of the two-party system that consistently produces partisan presidential candidates a significant number of Americans will dislike or even despise. Primary victories require promises that impress the left or right, with the winners trying to convince moderates they didn’t mean what they said a few months before.

Yet, the blame really rests on all of us. We continue to allow elite power brokers to play games with our lives. We’ve allowed them and rich special interest groups to drive wedges between young and old, even families.

Does anyone believe pre-existing medical conditions should be excluded from medical insurance coverage? Does anyone believe universal health care is possible without higher taxes? Do we want to deport children brought to America by their parents? Do we want our border to be a lawless waypoint? Don’t we wonder why our government failed to stop the opioid epidemic?

These are not Democratic or Republican issues. They are American issues that reasonable people should be able to resolve with respectful dialogue.

Many of us are too busy with life to navigate beyond the partisans’ carefully crafted talking points — including outright lies — designed to exploit our prejudices and get us angry at the other side. Repeat the same lie enough times and it can become fact to those who don’t consider other viewpoints inside their political cocoon. If you don’t think that’s dangerous, just wait for a deep-fake video putting words in a leader’s mouth.

And, worst of all, we’re willing to explain away unacceptable behavior by our side just to preserve power.

Democracy can’t be a spectator sport. Being a citizen demands more than just voting. It requires our engagement in our communities and nation. It demands a willingness to put country and community before one’s self-interests, especially if you hold public office.

It’s time to ask, what’s best for America or your town? When will we say enough is enough?

— Akron Beacon Journal; Online: https://bit.ly/359xT7m