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Community Voices (Scanlan): As ideological divides widen, is it too late to put the genie back in the bottle?

I fear that the genie may be out of the bottle and we won’t be able to get it back in. I’m not talking about the cute Barbara Eden “I Dream of Jeannie” genie. I’m talking about the jinn, the smokeless fire, the original genie that can appear in the form of a mist or sandstorm. The jinn can change its appearance, travel great distances almost instantly, and can even bend the perception of reality. One doesn’t have to look too hard to see its work in our community and our country. Political and ideological divides have never been greater, and the realities of the two universes could not be more different.

We’ve known for almost three years that Russia meddled in our 2016 election and then did it again in 2018. That is a statement of fact, of absolute certainty. Instead of focusing on secure elections, reactionaries would rather waste their breath calling the Mueller investigation a witch hunt. They ignore the actual findings of the investigation because it does not align with their preconceived biases. The concept of cognitive dissonance applies here. It is easier to deflect and to blame than to accept that perhaps you are wrong. It is easier to remain in the echo chamber of Fox News and social media than to read a variety of information sources. The mist of myopia is debilitating for civil discourse, which is vital to a civil society.

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Right now our nation is embroiled in a new scandal. By many accounts, our president tried to strong-arm the president of the Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden and his son. Trump’s actions are certainly unethical and perhaps illegal. His response is to call the Congressional investigations kangaroo courts. Apparently facts and the truth don’t matter anymore. We should not be surprised, though, since distortion is one of the prime tools of the Republican playbook.

Mike Davis, the strategist who successfully pushed Brett Kavanaugh through to the Supreme Court, is now the operative navigating Trump through the impeachment process. In a recent interview he openly discussed his strategy. First deny all wrongdoing, and then turn the accused into the victim. Cast doubt on the facts, and most importantly, attack the accusers. He called this the “dead chicken” strategy because he would hit back so hard, that anyone questioning the president would regret speaking out. Finally, frame the battle as a partisan hit job, a witch hunt, a conspiracy. We have seen this playing out on almost a daily basis with Trump’s name-calling and attempts at intimidating those who would challenge him.

Most disturbing is the group of supporters who still do not question anything this president does. The Washington Post reports 13,435 lies or misleading statements, but that’s OK because he speaks his mind. He has paid off women to keep quiet about his affairs, but he’s a good Christian. Our national deficit for 2019 is now over $1 trillion because of his tax scheme, but he’s a savvy businessman. He promised a “health care plan that’s far better than Obamacare” with absolutely nothing to show for it. He promised that Mexico would pay for a border wall that is being funded by money stolen from our military. He has refused to stand up to the NRA and support commonsense gun safety laws. The Environmental Protection Agency is now a shell that sits by while executive orders destroy our environment. The State Department has been decimated, and the White House is in a constant state of chaos. But who cares when we can be distracted by some bogus deep state conspiracy theory?

The jinn has covered our world in a sandstorm of conflict thanks to the lack of leadership from the president. He just abandoned the Kurds, who had been instrumental in fighting the Islamic State. The Kurds have now turned to Russia to help them defend themselves from Turkey’s invasion of Syria. Ironically, Russia also sold a missile system to Turkey, so they are playing both sides of the conflict. ISIS fighters are being freed, and Vladimir Putin chuckles to himself because he can fill the void of power. As Trump cozies up to Putin and Kim Jong-un, he criticizes our NATO allies. He is more interested in digging up dirt on Biden than protecting Ukrainian sovereignty. Russia’s sphere of influence grows and the Middle East becomes more destabilized thanks to our president.

To be honest, I have Trump fatigue. I am tired of the back and forth between his supporters and those who see him for what he is. Instead of talking about the pervasive corruption at the top, some would rather think that Democrats are trying to nullify the 2016 election. Instead of looking honestly and objectively at the policies of this administration, some would rather sling insults. Is it too late to get the genie back in the bottle?

Tom Scanlan writes from Westminster.

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