To defeat any opponent, you must first understand your opponent. You must recognize your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and be mindful of their strategies, especially their manner of attack that could be used against you. In sports competitions, multiple sides compete against each other to win a specific event.
While the separate opponents can be bitter rivals, good sportsmanship is typically displayed during and after the game. At the end of a hard-played match, it is common for players and coaches from both teams to have a “good game” moment by shaking hands. The same civility used to be true in the political arena. It was a time when candidates competed, campaigned, and debated against each other, and once the voice of the people was heard through a fair election, good sportsmanship was displayed by both sides. The losing candidate would graciously concede and congratulate their opponent. The winning candidate, in good faith, would fully honor their oath by representing all people, including those who voted against them. While two sides can bitterly disagree, political disagreements can still be had within decency and fair play boundaries.
Therefore, political rivals do not have to cross the line and become hated enemies to the level where hostilities lead to violent situations. While sports and politics are entirely different forms of competition, they both involve a degree of passion and emotions. Emotions are tricky. We are often advised never to make a major decision while emotional. Even during athletic events, coaches realize their players will lose focus when emotions run high. Even the best athlete can become ineffective throughout intense game situations by being overly emotional, leading to the team’s collapse and defeat. Where good coaches seek to de-escalate the intensity of emotions to win the competition, we see certain Republican leaders become committed to promoting high emotions—fear and anger— to win political matches and govern. By labeling your political opponent as being your political enemy, Republicans have successfully politicalized voters’ emotions regarding culture war issues. America’s culture war is not new, but it was previously held in check for the good of the nation.
In the 1800s, there was no love lost between people from the industrial north and those living in the agricultural south. The animosity was present long before the start of the Civil War. When soldiers representing northern and southern states fought side by side during the Revolutionary War, the cultural differences were evident. But it took a strong leader in George Washington as Commander of the Continental Army to keep the regional and cultural differences in check. He prevented minor internal differences from escalating and becoming a major divisive force between the soldiers. Rather than turning against each other, Washington kept the men under his command focused on the British Army, their true enemy. Together, the soldiers, with their diverse cultural backgrounds, shared a common mission. They were true patriots who put their country first and achieved their goal of acquiring independence despite their differences. The parallels between then and now are clear. Washington was like many of today’s athletic coaches who defuse emotions and cultural division to achieve a shared goal. Unfortunately, we do not see that type of consistent leadership when it comes to the endless number of mass shootings that show no sign of abating. Instead, it is obvious how political gain is sought and achieved by allowing deep passions and emotions to run unchecked on topics such as the Second Amendment and the “great replacement theory.” When leaders identify others as their political enemy, it generates emotions that make people insensitive, blind, and unable to make reasonable conclusions regarding sensible gun control measures. It’s sad to say that the killing of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, will not be the last deadly school shooting in our nation.
Let us not forget the Buffalo massacre. After an 18-year-old white man drove three hours to purposely kill people at a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, families are still grieving. After experiencing the Charleston, South Carolina, church massacre in 2015, we must ask ourselves, why are racially motivated mass shootings still happening? Do Democrats fully understand their opponents to expose the inhumanity in their midst?
The “great replacement theory inspired Payton Gendron’s killing of 10 people in Buffalo.” It must be a wake-up call. It will be cruel and irresponsible to allow divisive and exploitive rhetoric to continue unchallenged. It was encouraging that Rep. Liz Cheney took the bold stand to defend humanity. Cheney wrote via Twitter: “The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.” While hate is powerful, does America still have the conscience to take up Cheney’s call to reject white supremacy to heart? Does it have the conscience to reject the power of the NRA to prevent future Uvalde-style violence?
David W. Marshall is the founder of the faith-based organization, TRB: The Reconciled Body, and author of the book God Bless Our Divided America. He can be reached at www.davidwmarshallauthor.com.