https://www.theguardian.com/global/2022 ... -polarizedI think of a middle-aged white businessman from Michigan with whom I’ve debated the pandemic for many months. A staunch libertarian, he considers compulsory public health precautions as tantamount to slavery. They deny, he says, “my feelings, my rights, my personal body”.
Regular exposure to different points of view could complicate such diehard convictions. But our fractured media have deepened the existing fissures of American society.
Walls at home and on the road, shielding the body from exposure and the mind from uncomfortable ideas: these interlocking divides make it more difficult to take unfamiliar people and perspectives seriously; harder to acknowledge the needs of strangers, to trust their motives and empathize with their struggles. In an atomized society, others become phantoms all too easily, grist for the mill of resentment and mistrust.
There’s a deep and pernicious history at work here. Longstanding patterns of neighborhood racial segregation have inflamed the prejudice against outgroups, bolstering stereotypes, as the political scientist Ryan Enos and others have shown. When such divisions are reproduced at an everyday scale, the gulf between self and other widens even further, and everyone becomes a potential outsider.
Vote out candidates who promote fear to get elected. Resist peacefully and speak out: write to newspapers and media outlets.