Recently, it feels like the country hasn’t been this divided since the Civil War/Reconstruction era. The reasons for these tensions are numerous and documented elsewhere (including on this site). For the most part, these tensions have led to harsh words and vile insults; but have largely stopped short of out and out violence.
In the last few years, that has changed. There has been a rise in both hate crimes and domestic terrorism. Just today, pipe bombs were sent in a coordinated attack on several high-profile Democratic party members, in what could have only been politically motivated attempted mass murder.
10/24/18 Pipe Bombs
This morning, less than two weeks from one of the most important mid-term elections in the nation’s history, six pipe bombs were sent to prominent political figures and a news agency. So far, all of the bombs were intercepted by police with no casualties. Among the intended targets were former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and current Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo. CNN, the station to face the brunt of the “Fake News” taunts and accusations was the news source that was targeted.
Given the obvious relationship between those who were attacked, it is preliminarily believed to be the work of an extremist, right-wing terrorist. However, no one has claimed responsibility as of yet.
There has been (nearly) universal condemnation of the attack from both the main political parties. There have also been claims that this may have been a “false flag” stunt designed to garner sympathy for the left and antipathy for the right. Even outspoken right-wing supporters have acknowledged the repugnance of such a claim.
Still, it goes to show just how deep the division has grown. We have entered a new, violent phase of hyper-partisanship. But we did not just crash here all of a sudden. We have been working in this direction for some time now.
08/12/2017 Charlottesville Rally
A Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned deadly when one of the participants plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many. This rally was a political powder keg from its very inception. It was ostensibly a protest of the removal of Confederate soldiers but became a collection of hate groups.
At about 1:45 PM a man who openly describes himself as a white supremacist was driving near a group of counter-protesters. When some of the protesters started touching his car he floored it hitting a sea of people. Among them was 32 year old, Heather Heyer. She died of her injuries.
Only recently was the perpetrator of this vicious and senseless attack charged with various felonies including a hate crime and murder.
This event shocked and disturbed the nation. It was a feeling that was only exacerbated by the response of the current administration, who called for people to recognize that there were “good people on both sides.” This was hard to swallow for a large section of the country, seeing as one side had Nazis and the other one didn’t. One side killed someone and injured 19 others with a car, and the other side didn’t.
Politics is ingrained in public consciousness in a way that it hasn’t been in recent memory. If we can’t find a way to heal, the terrorist actions we saw today are likely a sign of more to come.