Opinion: The high road is the best road

It seems that more and more political subgroups and social justice movements are beginning to take on more aggressive tactics to protest against their opposition. In many cases, especially after the recent election, some “anti-fascist” movements and anti-Trump protests — along with some pro-Trump supporters — have become more violent, suppressive or reactionary to opposing arguments during debate. This is a deeply concerning route for public dialogue, for it increases cases of politically-motivated violence and creates greater social divides between communities.

Political differences in previous elections did not result in this kind of tension. There was less protest to Obama’s election by the Republican Party than protest over Trump’s election, nor was there major protest over elections of George W. Bush (although there were anti-war protests over his foreign policy and intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan). However, the continuing polarization of politics has resulted in many either joining protest or anarchist groups or creating rallies to counter protest and voice support for president Trump.

The continued mindset that results in this divide, viewing those with different political beliefs as “other” or inherently unfriendly, could continue to escalate violence and could result in greater social strife. The epitome of social-political strife such as what we see in America today would be the Irish Troubles, where loyalist militias in Northern Ireland fought against The Irish Republican Army and other Irish independence groups. These series of conflicts resulted in the injury and death of tens of thousands over long-lasting social, political and cultural differences in Ireland. To this day, there is still tension between paramilitary groups in both Northern Ireland and Ireland, even though there is an official ceasefire between these groups.

This kind of conflict, while the result of hundreds of years of oppression, strife, and religious differences seems unrealistic, the potential for escalating violence in our own country is a very real possibility. The stage is set for more potential tension between political groups in the near future, and deepening separation between these groups not only abandons the opinions of moderates or outsiders, but also escalates conflict into violence more quickly. If we do not summon the better angels of our nature and find a better form of discourse and compromise in politics, it will invigorate a larger conflict between citizens that we have not seen since the Civil Rights Era or even the Civil War.