Cal Thomas: The sickness spreads

Just in time for Halloween comes a former male stripper, who drove a van with Trump stickers plastered all over it, being charged with sending pipe bombs to top Democratic leaders, a journalist and at least one celebrity, all of whom have been vocal critics of President Trump.

The New York Post headline was the cleverest: “Caught Red Hatted: Steroid-abusing Florida stripper driving Trump van is charged with Dem bomb spree.”

The Post reported that the accused, Cesar Sayoc Jr., was said to be lost and a “sick individual” who is estranged from his family, but eventually “found a father” in President Trump. He also hates his mother, according to Ronald Lowy, his Miami attorney.

Well, yes, you wouldn’t expect a stable individual who loves his mother to do what Sayoc is accused of doing.

Predictably, many of those who were targets of Sayoc’s pipe bombs, some of which were incapable of exploding, are blaming President Trump for inciting people like Sayoc to go beyond verbal attacks and engage in dangerous, unlawful behavior.

Some on the right point to language used by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), former Attorney General Eric Holder, former President Barack Obama and others (the New York Times published a review of a novel, the plot of which revolves around the assassination of President Trump with the aid of a rogue Secret Service agent). Those conservatives claim that left-wing rhetoric is mostly responsible for widening the political divide and polluting civil debate.

How about each side taking responsibility for its own language and behavior? People attending Trump rallies dislike big media, but their rants haven’t changed what conservatives believe is biased reporting. Why don’t some in the Trump crowd invite a reporter to lunch and calmly explain their feelings and political points of view?

On the left, why don’t some of those people confronting Republicans out for a quiet dinner with family and friends respectfully ask for an appointment to explain why they oppose Republican and conservative ideas and offer their own proposals for making America better? Whose mind is changed when their dinner is interrupted by people accusing them of treason?

As a conservative, I understand the anger felt by many on my side about the way our political positions, faith and worldview are portrayed by the media and wider culture, but behaving as conservatives sometimes do only reinforces long-held stereotypes in the minds of secular progressives who think of us as uneducated Bible-thumpers, intolerant, judgmental and a “basket of deplorables.”

While many in mainstream media deplore everything for which the right stands, I think they secretly enjoy the conflict because it boosts ratings and sells newspapers. Conflict always attracts a larger audience than comity, but that is no excuse for contributing to the conflict.

Our anger at government and politicians solves nothing. The country is divided. It has always been that way. The focus should be not on winning a war of words, which is impossible so long as the name-calling continues; the focus should be on winning the battle of ideas and what works best in promoting the welfare of most Americans.

If that sounds naive in our polarized environment, what would you suggest? Clearly, what we are engaged in now isn’t working. As the late Glen Campbell sang, “Try a little kindness.” It’s better than sending bombs through the mail. It’s also better than behaving rudely in restaurants.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

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