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In a world full of rhetoric, it seems both sides are pushing division--but can't help it

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I read the recent commentary by Al Fonzi (“America then, America now,” Dec. 8) with disappointment in his rhetoric and baseless claims. Unfortunately, he also represents the Republican Party, and honestly, I am unsure of what they actually stand for after the most recent election. According to Fonzi we (liberals, I assume) are to blame for the end of the togetherness we all felt immediately after 9/11, and we have also ruined (indoctrinated as Fonzi put it) our children through education. He also proposes that America used to be united back in the good old days of World War II, but along with the liberals’ failure to unite following 9/11, we instead questioned American motives and the reasons for the attack. It is a tired and divisive trope—“liberals are the enemy”—that Fonzi drags out in his effort to ironically call for uniting the country, and in doing so helps strengthen the divide. My response does nothing to bridge that divide, but in this current “Trumpian” world I feel that a response in-kind is necessary.

He attributes the divisive nature of American politics to a “break in civility and unity as a nation to a generation of indoctrination of our youth, first by teaching them to despise their heritage and second, to despise anyone who disagrees with conventional thought.” Fonzi offers no proof for this, and I am pretty confident that none exists. I cannot speak for all history teachers or teachers in general, but as for myself, nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that it would be very difficult to find teachers who instruct or otherwise use the classroom to teach their students to “despise their heritage.” After all, those same schools that Fonzi is blaming for disunity produce both conservative and liberal graduates. 

The contention that the “hard left” disrupted the togetherness of a post 9/11 world is a contradiction to the very unity that Fonzi wishes to promote. I (we) was (were) against the invasion of Iraq and felt that knowing the reasons for the attack was a necessary component of knowing how to respond. This was not the era of World War II America (not as completely cohesive as Fonzi proposes) because this enemy did not have a country or a military to attack. I think that the aftermath of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan speak for themselves. I do recall that any sense of being against those wars labeled you as unpatriotic, and the “dialogue” about that during the move to war was very one-sided in favor of the conservative view.

Everything is not open for friendly debate in American society, nor should it be. Sometimes people are just wrong. If a member of the KKK wants to discuss the merits of their beliefs, I would not approach a discussion with an open mind. They can think what they choose to, but it has no operative place in a truly democratic and just society. If we were living during segregation, I also would see an open conversation on that topic as nonsensical. Again, belief is your right but segregation was an unjust and abhorrent system. And yet, some people did and still do believe that those beliefs are acceptable and they lament their passing (check Trump’s rhetoric and some of his supporters as proof). In short, what you label as “political correctness” and see as a lack of willingness to engage in dialogue concerning topics like climate change, in my estimation, falls into the same category. You are having a difficult time accepting a truth that is inconvenient to your worldview, and since it cannot be demonstrated in an experiment for you to see the results, it is more easily dismissed.

Climate change for all intents and purposes is accepted science around the world. Your unwillingness to “believe” in it precludes any discussion of it. How can someone discuss something logically and rationally with a person who disbelieves in its existence? If you believe that the world is flat and I bring you the science that demonstrates otherwise, and you still are not convinced—then what? It is evidence-based science and you either accept credible and tested evidence or you don’t. You probably believe in the science that creates nuclear weapons, but until the first one was tested during WWII, it was just an unproved theory of Einstein’s from 1905. Our modern world is based on science. It’s not perfect, but currently science has a pretty good track record. If scientists claim that they have new data that changes their conclusions about climate change—then the theory would change and so would my ideas about it. I am not a scientist, but I am willing to give credence to people who study it and have a base of knowledge on the subject far greater than mine. 

Add in the Republican disbelief in intellectual thought, academia, the “elites,” and the untrustworthy mainstream media, and you have a recipe for the divisive world in which America finds itself. Conservatives have walled themselves off from “conventional thought.” Any reporting from these agencies is written off as false due to conservative distrust of them. You now gravitate toward conspiracy theories and “fake news.” Furthermore, conservative media (AM talk radio, Fox News) for the past 30 years has painted “liberal” as a dirty word and as an enemy of American values and conservatism. You have succeeded in creating an us-versus-them world. Moreover, conservatives seem to think that climate change is a political issue and fight against it because they believe that it is part of the liberal agenda to destroy America. Thus, a fair argument can be made that it is conservatives who refuse to engage in “conventional thought.”

And now, Republicans have topped all of this off with the logical conclusion: the election of Trump. A world where facts and words do not truly matter. We are told to not take Trump’s words literally. You are now free to deny the existence of actual evidence and proof because Trump makes his own truth. I am just teaching kids history—the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of it with the existing evidence to back it up. How that is “indoctrination” as Fonzi sees it, I am not sure. I remain confident that our children can handle the truth. If it makes Fonzi feel any more comfortable, then think of it in a way that Fox News would frame it: We report, you decide. 

Michael Rasey is from Los Osos. Send comments to through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or send a letter to the editor at letters@newtimesslo.com.

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