ministry of reconciliation

Jim Wallis 10-25-2016
Irina Mos / Shutterstock.com

Irina Mos / Shutterstock.com

OUR NATION needs to begin healing the deep wounds that this election cycle has caused and exacerbated.

What wounds are these? Deep down, our country has developed a very large empathy deficit. The unprecedented toxicity of the rhetoric that came from Donald Trump emboldened many of his supporters to become vile and even violent in their characterizations of Hillary Clinton, her supporters, and anyone who didn’t agree with them.

The anonymity of the internet and the nature of social media helped fuel the rise of the alt-right, a catch-all term for extremists that encompasses white nationalists, Neo-Nazis, and virulent misogynists, many of whom were Trump supporters. The CEO of his campaign, Steve Bannon, was one of the alt-right’s most prominent boosters. These supporters embraced Donald Trump with cult-like fanaticism and used their online anonymity to hurl violent invective, peddle conspiracy theories, and even make death threats to people who opposed Trump or who were perceived as being biased against him. (Mainstream journalists, especially those who are black, Latino/a, Muslim, or Jewish, were the most frequent targets.) There was a complete lack of empathy from the alt-right for the feelings and motivations of anyone who did not support Trump or who belonged to one of the many groups he insulted.

Trump’s campaign lifted a rock in American life, and all sorts of ugly things crawled out from beneath that rock. They denied the image of God in the people they targeted.

Many left-leaning partisans responded by demonizing not just Trump but everyone who supported his candidacy, and often in similarly toxic language. In some ways, liberals made a major mistake in the way they caricatured conservatives and previous Republican nominees. Speaking in apocalyptic terms about decent people such as Mitt Romney, whose positions they strongly disagree with, has made it more difficult to break through to both the media and rank-and-file conservatives about the clear and present danger of Trump’s candidacy. And while Clinton’s famous “basket of deplorables” comment was taken out of context to feed a perception that she had no empathy for any of Trump’s supporters, many people on the left make precisely this mistake. They view all of Trump’s supporters as ignorant racists and dismiss the real economic and social forces that have left many working-class whites behind, alienated and angry.

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