Guest columnist Wade Wofford: Thinking about what divides us

Published: 1/21/2021 10:47:42 AM

One of my neighbors wrote recently, incensed at being told to “shut up and admit you were wrong.” I myself — a liberal who escaped being a black sheep in conservative Georgia — have found myself compelled to similar thoughts about “the Trump supporters who got us here.”

I’ve flamed at the Facebook pages of old acquaintances still living down south — conservatives posting videos about the absurdity of chosen pronouns or other over-simplifications of really complex issues. And it feels good to say such things; there’s a self-perceived righteousness in doing so, for that moment of instant gratification.

But at the end of the day, such dismissals are just not productive. Our country is broken, and we need to find a way to bring the chasm that’s divided us closer together before it leads to another Civil War.

Through conversations with my neighbor, and other conservatives who feel disenfranchised of late, I’m trying to gain an understanding of just what the hell has them feeling so disenfranchised, and how we might move forward as a country. Trump is now gone from the White House, and hopefully the divisive vitriol will shift — a new tone (the old, status quo “boring” political notions of demeanor) will resurface.

But what then? The guys in viking hats aren’t going away, and it’s easy to inflate their numbers because they make great news stories, especially on replay as the FBI rounds them up and tells the stories of just how far out their thinking has gone.

There will always be extremists — our own little homegrown al Qaeda. At the end of the day, there were 10,000-50,000 people at the Capitol when it was stormed. And of those, maybe a thousand had the “commitment-to-the-cause” to storm into the building, and a couple hundred of those got violent.

That’s in a nation of 331 million. In other words, those extremists — as unrepresentative of us as a nation as al Qaeda is to the religion of Islam — are .0003% of our population. But 74.22 million voted to reelect Trump. While tempting to do so, it’s unfair to assume that the thousand dudes in flag capes and riot gear at our Capitol last week are “the same” as the 74.21 million other Trump voters.

It’s also unfair to assume that those 74.21 million Trump voters still support Trump after what happened earlier this month. Many I know down south have turned as a result of recent events. As we button up the end of the most toxically-divisive presidency I’ve seen in my lifetime, as we strive to find a way to be better neighbors to one another — to consider the perspectives that got us all to this angry, nasty place — I find myself thinking about what is it, precisely, that divides “us” from the millions of Trump voters who agree that storming the Capitol was an outrageous/treasonous thing to do?

Those are the people we need to speak with, listen to, seek to understand, rediscover our common ground. And not allow the fundamentalist domestic terrorists to shout into the microphone for a minute longer, or convince us that unity is not possible among us.

Wade Wofford lives in Northampton.
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