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Stop the exaggerations and distortions
Online-only guest column

Stop the exaggerations and distortions

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Another day of listening to the news telling me I live in a red state. How could one word define everyone in Montana? Trust me, I’m a Democrat and there are plenty of us. We even elected a Democrat Governor and Senator.

I am a clinical psychologist who has been in practice for more than 40 years and I am sickened by the polemical rhetoric flying around our country. Are we really people who are unable to think in anything but hard and fast absolutes, who can’t understand subtleties anymore? Yes, there are some cities where there has been uncontrolled and apparently anarchic unrest. Yes, there are some white supremacists who support Donald Trump. But not all Democrats want to burn down the cities and not all Republicans are sociopathic racists. Some people who are in favor of improved gun safety just want to stop mass shootings in our schools, they don’t want to undo the Second Amendment. Some people who are pro-choice think abortion should be legal but not at full-term. Maybe African-Americans have a lot of reasons to be angry and fed-up, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to come take over your town. Also, neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden are going to take away your "Freedom."

This is how civil wars get started. Different groups become demonized and are no longer seen as human beings with their own feelings, needs, etc. This is exactly what happened in Rwanda and Yugoslavia twenty-five years ago, and is happening even now in places like Myanmar. Don’t kid yourselves that somehow this could never happen in the U.S. There are people in our country today, who think if you happen to be more on the left than right, that you aren’t a "patriot."

Do we want to end up in civil war? Do we really want to see our towns destroyed and our children marching off to be soldiers? If we don’t want to, we need to do something now to stop the exaggerations and distortions. The media hasn’t helped this situation by latching onto the blue state-red state polemic. According to Wikipedia, this started as a technique to summarize how states voted in the 2000 presidential election. But since then it has become concretized into an exaggerated symbol that doesn’t actually reflect how REAL people feel and vote, or how many people of independent, differing opinions live in these United States.

Complex problems have complex solutions. But one place to start would be if we all just stopped referring to states as red or blue. I’m talking to the news media here, not just to you, the reader. My fellow psychologists will tell you, the words we use have meaning, and when words are repeated over and over again, even when they’re false, they take on validity. Aren’t we ALL Americans? Aren’t we all citizens of the United States of America? What happened to treating one another with more civility? Some of you might say, "Well the President himself is encouraging people to be uncivil." To which I say, "Really? And because of that you aren’t responsible for YOUR behavior?" Recently the Quakers have come up with a slogan; maybe we need a little more of this today: #LOVEthyNeighbor (no exceptions).

 

Dr. Christine Hillegass is a Licensed Psychologist in Livingston.

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