At first, the commercial television was innocuous. It ballyhooed the advantages of selecting a certain Florida company to supply viewers with shutters for their windows.
And it urged viewers to call its number for free estimates. But, as it did, a crawl appeared on the television screen and the announcer verbalized:
“If you support Joe Biden and are a liberal, don’t call us.”
Political persuasions aside, it was a startling message to deliver – that a company would forego potential profits and shun potential customers because of their political beliefs. Even more, it highlighted the divide that has permeated the country for at least the past decade, a divide so emphatically on display with the assault on the Capitol.
And it begs the question, how did we come to a position where people shun one another, even their business, solely because they have different views about politics, different views about weapons, different views about life, different views about the environment. Why is a businessman who sells pillows vilified because of his political beliefs, or why is a fast-food chain boycotted because of the owner’s religious beliefs?
People are also reading…
It even permeates our health issues. Witness the brouhaha over vaccinations or wearing masks, for instance. Did our leaders fail us, or did they touch a nerve in the population that always existed? What happened to rational debate? What happened to respect for a fellow human being and his or her political and societal views?
It wasn’t too long ago, it seems, when those were norms, when government leaders, even from different political spectrums, discussed issues without degrading the opposition. Some even considered themselves friends, sharing a meal or a drink together. That’s unimaginable in today’s atmosphere, Ted Cruz, say, bonding over lunch with Chuck Schumer.
And it’s amplified in the way the public gets its information. What television network you watch, what radio station you listen to and what publications you read help amplify the schism in society. Too often viewers, listeners and readers mistake pundits for authoritative journalistic figures. And, sometimes, even those authoritative journalistic figures skew news to suit a political persuasion.
Is there hope for a return to a more placid way of accomplishing what’s good for all? Perhaps not, believes Southern California law professor Martin Kaplan, who studies such societal issues. Commenting on the controversial facing Disney World and Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, Kaplan says, “We are so divided today, so revved up, that even Disney is having a hard time bringing us together.”
But then again, perhaps some day, when partisan politics and partisan societal beliefs bow to respecting opposing views, when reason replaces rage, calm might prevail. My peers, I’m afraid, won’t live long enough to see it. The hope is that our children and their children will inhabit a more peaceful atmosphere.
But, for now, it seems we are trapped in a downward spiral, wondering what alarming clamor awaits us. Witness, for instance, the many bumper stickers, some expressing in the foulest of language the owner’s disdain for a political figure. Only a few decades ago a violent attempt to overturn a presidential election would have been unheard of.
And, it seems to me, so would have a television commercial turning away customers because of their political persuasion.