The post-election rants from voters disappointed with the re-election of President Obama have in turn been amusing and disturbing. One pundit has predicted that there will never again be an election as Obama will stay put in the White House, trash the constitution and rule by executive order for the foreseeable future. The more religious orientated among the disheartened have regaled us with biblical texts, called for repentance and taken some schadenfreude at the prospect of a consequent apocalypse. One preacher has declared that the president’s victory is a prelude to the reign of Antichrist.
The Heavens have apparently been shaken and God’s ire roused by those who voted for the Democratic ticket. Not a surprise then that there are now petitions circulating in some of the states calling for secession from the Union.
In a not unrelated story, a woman in Arizona ran over and seriously injured her husband with her SUV for failing to vote in the election. Holly Solomon was upset about President Obama’s electoral triumph and accordingly held her husband to account. She blames Obama for many of her recent hardships. (Though I suspect mental instability and a taste for the odd bit of violence may also play a role here.) It is no coincidence that some of the most aggressive, fear-fuelled polarising rhetoric re: President Obama had found a home in Arizona. And to be fair, on a wider front, this generally proceeded from both camps. Just check out the various posts leading up to the election about both candidates on social networking sites like Facebook, etc. Some of the commentary was as comic as it was fictional; but much of it was vicious and hateful. And that what concerns me.
The polarising language – whether in the form of liberal gloating or conservative hysterics – underscored by its black and white vision of the world, barely conceals a violence that may prove seductive to fringe characters. For them actual violence may be seen as a redemptive alternative. They may even see themselves as somehow heroic, patriotic and servants of God. (The Taliban are not alone in sipping from that heady cocktail of fear, rage, hatred and religious ideology.) Hilarity at pictures of secessionists holding placards misspelling ‘secede’ as ‘SEECED’ aside, it all points to a kind of excess that I trust is only marginal –however loud -among conservatives and liberals alike. But the problem with this kind of excess is that it takes on a life of its own. The world becomes a distorted place where those who disagree are demonised as enemies of God.
Liberals and conservatives – and how I dislike these pigeon holing terms – will do well to abandon the polarising discourse that in the long term simply feeds a violent mind-set. Let go of the caricatures and, in some cases, deliberate falsehoods we have flung at one another and replace it with sound debate and reflective analysis.I say we all vote for a more responsible public discourse. We will still disagree because we will be starting from different sets of priorities. But there will be no need to throw a wobbly and ‘secede’ from the national sandbox with our toys because the democratic process has gone in a way that disappoints us