Dateline Detroit: Division—and I’m Not Talking About Math
By Judi Markowitz
Election results aside, sadly we will continue to be a divided nation. Donald Trump gets the award for opening the floodgates and giving a voice to his Crazy Train of followers. He single-handedly changed the tone and tenor in society with his outlandish commentary and the blind legions of groupies that hang on to his coattails. You know these people, the conspiracy theorists, QAnon members, election deniers, and those who believe the outright lies perpetrated on our nation.
This division feels eerily like the Civil War. Instead of North versus South, it’s Republican against Democrat. Civility is not a word in our vocabulary anymore. There was a time when I could discuss politics with a friend or relative who had an opposing viewpoint from mine, and we could disagree —with civility —no outrageous arguments or ill will intended. But now, just like in the Civil War, neighbor is against neighbor, friend against friend, and relative against relative. The United States is a hot mess with no end in sight.
I have a friend–let’s call him Bryan. He gets so worked up about politics that he’s been kicked off Facebook four times. His fervent views and the manner in which he states his opinions have caused his ejection from social media. Bryan is outraged by the misinformation and disinformation disseminated by his Republican counterparts. When he points out that the 2018 election was one of the most secure ever and the results were certified by Vice President Pence, along with all 50 states, he receives nasty responses opposing the facts. At this juncture the argument heats up, and language is surly, to say the least. The outcome — Bryan is placed in the penalty box once again.
I have a like-minded cousin whom I have been very close with since we were young kids. Through the years, she’s had a multitude of passionate discussions about Trump and his cronies with her Republican nephews, many of which have been on Facebook as well. Nephew #1 has heartily bickered with my cousin and when she disagreed with a political statement he posted on Facebook, she was demeaned by him publicly.
Her nephew posted that he was elated when Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court. My cousin replied she was less than happy with this choice. Then Nephew #1 wrote back, “I feel sorry for your grandchildren, who have a grandmother like you!”
Nephew #2 has also made crass comments as well. After Trump was elected president, her nephew was elated. My cousin responded that she felt it was time to leave the country. His response, “I bet you poison the minds of the first-grade students you teach.” This was done on Facebook too. —another public shaming. They have since unfriended each other.
Since 2016, when having dinner with friends at local restaurants, the conversation invariably turns to politics and Donald Trump. With silverware pounding and voices raging, it does not make for a pleasant evening. Even when all the diners are on the same page politically, there is angst and outrage at the current situation in the country. Antisemitism, crime, and the economy are up there on the list, along with abortion.
We are witnessing an unprecedented time in history. Dinner gatherings used to be enjoyable, but the incessant political undertones in conversations, at times, are exhausting. Too many dinners have ended with eyes rolling and heads shaking at one another. Where is the fun anymore?
My neighbor and good family friend is married to a staunch Republican. They are polar opposites when it comes to politics. They have survived the storm by adhering to a few mutually agreed-upon house rules that work for them: They avoid political conversations. CNN and Fox News are never on, which I suppose helps to maintain their rivaling views. Friends and relatives have come to realize that political conversations are a no-no when in their company. But once again, how did we get to this point? Why do we have to tiptoe around each other?
I have heard stories of men who played golf together for 30 or 40 years, but when politics seeped into the mix, it became problematic. My husband, Jeffrey, conveyed a sad story about his golf foursome — two Republicans and two Democrats. They had been golf companions for years. During those decades, there were always opposing viewpoints and arguments ensued that ruined many rounds of golf.
The morning after Trump became the Republican candidate for president, the foursome was at it once again. The Republican golfers gave each other an exuberant hug and the two Democratic golfers looked at each other with disgust and vowed, “Never again.” Sadly, they have not teed it up since. Another relationship that bit the dust.
I was at a physical therapy appointment with my daughter right after the January 6th insurrection on the Capitol. As the therapist was helping Lindsay use her walker, we began our usual discussion of politics. There was so much to say about the events of January 6th–we were genuinely upset about this frightening upheaval to democracy.
We weren’t speaking loudly, but another patient was honing in on our discussion. He ran through the room and stopped us in our tracks. The man declared that Trump was not responsible, nor did the former President encourage the angry crowds who wanted to overturn the election results. He added that it was a peaceful protest, not an insurrection. I guess my eyes deceived me when I was watching the mayhem take place. I don’t know what channel he was viewing on that fateful day.
The physical therapist and I both tried to bring some semblance of calm to the situation, but our protestor was outraged at our opinions. We were afraid of what he might do given what we witnessed at the Capitol. After a bit of prodding, the irate man left the building and canceled his appointment for the day. Just another local lunatic. Political discourse is not safe to indulge in anymore — you don’t know who’s eavesdropping.
Unfortunately, political discord has become our mantra and we are now a polarized nation. Our dance of denial has interfered with relationships. Many Americans are too quick to judge, too quick to spread lies, and too quick to inflict violence on those who oppose their radical views. To paraphrase the famous 1950s police drama, “There are eight million stories in the naked city, and these are just a few of them.”
Judi Markowitz is a retired high school English teacher of 34 years. She primarily taught 12th grade and had the pleasure of her three sons gracing her classes. In addition, she taught debate, forensics, and Detroit film. Judi has four adult children and seven wonderful grandchildren. She is married to Jeffrey Markowitz, whom she met in high school.
Judi grew up in Oak Park, Mich. which had a stellar school district, with excellent teachers. The city provided activities for all–and there were even sidewalks. Judi moved to Huntington Woods as an adult, which is a half mile from her childhood home. She wanted the same experience for her children as she had growing up, and Huntington Woods provided that. The View from Four Foot Two is Judi’s first book.