In US, unalike people have stopped talking

By Rong Xiaoqing Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/10 22:18:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT



I went to the gym on the top floor of my apartment building one evening last week, and found a group of neighbors were gathering in the meeting room next door. One of them told me they had just formed a political club and would meet once a week to discuss the chaos in the US and to find solutions for the problems.

Given the high percentage of retired middle class people among my neighbors, the establishment of such a club - among many others such as a book club, a yoga club and a movie club - was not a surprise. Indeed, despite my skepticism over whether they could find any solutions for the headaches that burden the US today, I was quite proud of my neighbors for trying to do so — rather than, perhaps, studying the imaginary patterns for the winning numbers in the lottery.

But about 10 minutes later, I saw a neighbor rushing out of the meeting room with a stern face.

"Are you leaving so soon?" I asked.

"I cannot stand them anymore," she said. "They are Sanders' supporters. I came from the Soviet Union. I don't think socialism works."

I don't know how many of the club members supported Bernie Sanders for the Democratic candidacy during last year's presidential election or are indeed socialists, but I am sure many of them are liberals given that I live in deep blue New York City. And clearly, this neighbor had a different view about how to help the country, and she believed the only solution was to terminate the conversation.

She is not the only one holding such a belief. Indeed this represents what I think is the most depressing problem the US is facing these days.

People with different views, especially political views, have been fighting fiercely in recent years in this country. And those with the same mindset have been aggregating toward one another. That's why the country is largely painted either red or blue and only a handful of "swing states" really matter for the final outcome of the presidential elections.

Even worse, though, people with different views have stopped talking to each other.

The media have shown this trend clearly, not in their coverage but by their coverage. During the election, one still saw articles like "Donald Trump voters, just hear me out" in The New York Times, in which Thomas Friedman made a plea to readers who supported the then Republican presidential candidate - and therefore, who were not in line with the candidate the newspaper and most of its reporters and editors had chosen - to think twice. "Maybe I'll get lucky and a few of them (Trump supporters) will buy fish wrapped in this column, and they'll accidentally peruse it!" the left-leaning columnist said.

Now, such an endeavor to engage with people on the opposite side is rare.

President Trump has made sure that most media outlets except for Fox News are labeled as national enemies. And I'm sure Trump supporters have disdained the "fake news" media so much that they won't even use it to wrap fish.

The media outlets, rather than fighting against the label seem to have accepted it and stopped caring. They stride further on their polarized roads to talk to only people who are already on their side.

These days when you turn on CNN and Fox News, you can often suspect the two networks are located in different universes. If an undocumented immigrant is accused of a major crime, you can bet Fox News will give it hours of airtime while CNN might offer a few minutes, if any. When there is any update on the Trump campaign's alleged connections with Russia, you can bet CNN will highlight it in prime time programs while Fox News will resume its call for an investigation of Hillary Clinton's alleged collusion with Ukraine. I know this because I often switch between the two channels every 10 minutes these days in a weird attempt to reach some balance.

Outside of the media bubble, it happens more and more often that public speakers find their scheduled speeches canceled because the organizers worry their opinions will be too offensive to some in the audience.

Last month, a Kansas makeup artist who won a contest sponsored by Kat Von D Beauty was told she was disqualified because she was a Trump supporter. And California state banned state-funded travel to eight other states because of their laws and policies that restrict the rights of LGBT people.

If the trend goes on, it won't take long for people to kick friends with different views out of their parties as well as their Facebook contact lists, if they have not already done so.

With the absence of debates, we'll all live in an atmosphere that looks peaceful and friendly on the surface.

But if the breeding of genetically related individuals often leads to genetic disorders in the offspring, the breeding of similar views can only lead to extremes and, therefore, a dim future.

The author is a New York-based journalist. rong_xiaoqing@hotmail.com Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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