Poisonous Politics

During his election night special, Stephen Colbert wondered how our political system got to be so divided AP PHOTO

During his election night special, Stephen Colbert wondered how our political system got to be so divided AP PHOTO

Two weeks after the election that shook the world, said world remains very shook.

You know how it goes, don’t you? You’ve seen it play out on every medium humanly possible. The world is divided in two, and everyone’s staked out their side as President-elect Donald Trump picks his cabinet and lays out his policies. (Hopefully, you still managed to have a peaceful Thanksgiving meal.)

“Don’t normalize hate,” some people say, while others bemoan this “age of political correctness.” Protestors are either exercising their constitutional rights or taking sore-loser hypocrisy to dangerous levels. Nobody can stop talking about it.

Pop culture, ever the mirror of our tumultuous times, offers no sanctuary from politics. I sat down to catch up on Drunk History and it was the episode about the Roosevelts, including an anecdote about Eleanor Roosevelt and her friendship with Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a 25-year-old Ukranian woman who recorded 309 kills in World War II. When Pavlichenko went on a national tour of the U.S. to drum up support for American aid for the Soviet Union, reporters asked her why she didn’t wear more makeup, and why her uniform skirt was so unfashionably long.

It should’ve been an anachronism but, well, the America of today isn’t all that removed from that yet.

I also watched some South Park. It was an episode from before the election, so as you can imagine, it hit a little close to home as the race between a Turd Sandwich and Giant Douche blazed on.

After that, I decided to just watch anime. That was better. One-Punch Man cares about a lot of things, but not U.S. politics.

But, of course, I can’t really get away from it. Some people would, of course, argue that the very idea of “getting away” is a privilege — one that those who would be endangered by the agenda of President Trump cannot afford.

And this may be true. That’s not quite what I mean, though.

Of all the manifestos people made me watch after the election, I like the one Stephen Colbert offered best on his Showtime election night special, after it was clear Trump had the upset.

“How did our politics get so poisonous?” he asked. “I think it’s because we overdosed, especially this year. We drank too much of the poison. You take a little bit of it so you can hate the other side. And it tastes kind of good. And you like how it feels. And there’s a gentle high to the condemnation. And you know you’re right. You know you’re right.”

It’s not that I’m tired of talking about issues. Things like global warming, or reproductive rights, or immigration — those absolutely need to be discussed. But every election, we tie the idea of political party and patriotism to those ideas, and in doing so, warp them into something other than what they are.

We’ve chained our identities to these labels of “liberal” or “conservative” and forgotten about the real people beneath the surface. Empathy has been lost — on both sides. And the more we talk about politics, the further we get from humanity.

“Politics used to be something we talked about every four years,” Colbert said. “That’s good because it left room in our lives for other things and other people.

“The people who designed our democracy didn’t want us in it all the time — informed, yes; politicking all the time, I don’t think so. Not divided that way.”

I wonder if we will be able to find that “more perfect union” again. It sure doesn’t feel like any time soon.