My wife and I just spent a week with friends in Millsboro, Delaware, a lovely small town 15 minutes by car from the Rohovoth shore.
One morning our host went to the store to buy bagels and the daily Washington Post. While standing in the check-out line he struck up a friendly conversation with a middle aged woman standing behind him. After a few moments she said, “You are a very nice man!”
Everything changed, however, when, reading the paper’s headlines, he said, “We’re in a real mess – aren’t we?”
She asked, “What do you mean?”
Pointing to the paper, he said: “Trump’s erratic handling of the economy, his racism, white supremacy, and misogyny are changing the country for the worse.”
“You are a very bad man,” she barked.
Stunned, he said, “But you just told me I am nice.”
My friend’s interchange with his neighbor is a reflection of the sorry state of civility and ethics in our nation. One moment he was a “nice man” shooting the breeze with a stranger in a supermarket check-out line, and the next he was the despised and demonized “other.”
One pillar of evil is when we become an extension of ideas and not individual human beings embodying the complexity of thoughts, feelings, backgrounds, interests, and values that we all share.
The President’s base relishes its hatred of the other at his political rallies as Trump stokes their hatred of his opponents and gives succor to the crowd’s lower angels. But we Democrats demonize Trump supporters as the despised “other” as well.
We all need to check ourselves and keep from falling into this dehumanizing trap not only for our own sake but for the sake of the soul of our nation.