Opponents are not enemies


To brand another American who holds a reasonable, but conflicting political opinion as an “enemy” is a mistake. Ordinary Americans stand to lose a great deal when this mistake is made.

The current, popular and mean political climate is not unique in American politics; Americans have been tooled and fooled before. It’s not unexpected, but it is unproductive and could be the undoing of those who indulge in the meanness.

During recent performances at the circus in Washington D.C., a particular idea was a driving factor. The idea makes ugly appearances at all points on the political landscape. Readings of The SUN’s letters section make its presence here obvious.

The idea is the product of an attitude, a perspective and strategy foisted on gullible people by interests whose gains have become unacceptable. The idea is wrong; it has been deliberately cultivated and is purposefully misleading.

Put simply, it is this: You hold an opposing political view, you are my enemy.

We say “no.” To hold an opposing political view to that of another American does not make you their enemy. Consider the worst the term “enemy” can imply: an enemy is an opponent who must be vanquished, utterly defeated. Then consider what projecting that meaning onto a fellow American entails.

To hold this idea is to go counter to what our system requires; for a democracy to survive, political opponents cannot be enemies. This eliminates the opportunity to compromise, denies the possibility of moderation — and moderation is the only course that can benefit the majority of Americans. As Leo Strauss wrote: “Moderation will protect us against the twin dangers of visionary expectations from politics and unmanly contempt for politics.”

The notion of a political opponent as an enemy works to the advantage of a select few, and they try to spread the virus as widely as possible, understanding that the more who buy the idea, the fewer who make a real difference. The idea of the “enemy” channels attention and energies to manufactured partisan squabbles, to issues hustled by paid snake oil salesmen on cable TV and talk radio. All the while, more of the country’s wealth and advantage goes to fewer people. Monied interests — individuals and corporations — contribute vast sums to keep key politicians in office, and the courts, at the highest level, ensure those interests have their way with campaign spending.

If there is a real divide, it is here, not in the nonsense perpetuated by those who advance the enemy scenario. Follow the money, find out who profits and the divide is clear. It is not the majority of Americans who profit, with their meager entitlements. It is not the “enemies” who are encouraged to battle over superficial issues who profit. The divide is increasingly between the governed and those who write the law and their handlers. Our “free” democratic system is being hijacked — not by the right, not by the left, not by partisan “enemies,” but by those who have far more than they need and, yet, want more. And by those whom they pay to pave the way.

People need to tear down the ideological drapes that block the light. Average Americans need to understand they can disagree, but that there is no need to vanquish an “enemy.” They need to realize they are being diverted by rhetoric dispensed by interests that could care less about them, so long as they continue to fight among themselves. The drapes must fall and the light must shine in if we’re to turn in a better direction.

Karl Isberg