The feedback felt like intestine punches, only one after one other.
“You get what you pay for, of us.”
“These folks have voted towards their very own self-interest for many years. ”
I used to be crushed studying these responses and dozens like them to a nationwide reporter’s tweet concerning the floods which have devastated communities throughout Jap Kentucky. I questioned how somebody’s humanity may permit for this response to the demise and destruction that has befallen our commonwealth. How may somebody take a look at tales of kids swept away from their households and instantly consider politics?
However this has sadly turn out to be a commonplace response to tragedies in our political tradition — one so profoundly infested with the rot of partisanship that it turns into pure to make use of victims as alternatives to ‘personal’ the opposite aspect for factors on social media.
Whereas at present’s model comes from liberals across the nation who really feel comfy chastising us for our electoral outcomes whereas our state drowns, it’s a bipartisan pattern. After the California wildfires of 2018 ravaged communities in one in every of our nation’s most liberal states, conservatives jumped on it with related tweets and memes. This social media-fueled dehumanization of tragedy is so potent a device that we’ve got impressed different nations to use it against us.
That is simply the newest symptom of our more and more wicked political tradition in america. Over the previous twenty years, folks’s dislike of others in an opposing political party has increased 400% in the United States. Partisanship is at a 50-year high. Whereas it is a world pattern, america ranks at the top of the world’s industrialized nations for political polarization.
Our hatred for one another is so intense that our political life is taking a toll on our bodily well being. A current research from the College of Nebraska discovered that nearly 40% of American adults discover politics as a supply of private stress, citing that it causes fatigue, feelings of anger, and loss of temper.
And let’s be clear – this deep division can cause societies to collapse.
However, in our own residence, we are able to discover hope. Regardless of these developments, the previous few days have proven that Kentuckians know the trail ahead and out.
As quickly because it turned clear that our Jap Kentucky neighbors wanted care, folks throughout the state started organizing provide drop-offs, fundraisers, and mutual assist. Social media helps these on the bottom discover requirements – clear water, medical provides, bleach, and bathroom paper. Cultural staff are scrambling to assist preserve the archives at Hindman Settlement School and Appalshop. Persons are forming Fb teams to reunite their neighbors with the household heirlooms and pictures that the flood stole from their properties.
Kentuckians reacted equally when Western Kentucky was devastated by tornadoes final yr. We rallied round communities like Mayfield, giving our time and treasure to those that had simply misplaced the whole lot. We didn’t cease to ask about their political persuasion earlier than serving to; we pitched in as a result of that’s what a neighborhood does. This spirit was fantastically demonstrated this weekend by the Fireplace Division of Mayfield, who drove six hours across the state to assist in Southeast Kentucky.
I’ve had the nice fortune over my life to turn out to be shut mates and collaborators with many who’re from the areas impacted by this weekend’s tragedy. They’ve taught me what it means to be a Kentuckian and the way the fates of all our communities — rural and concrete — are deeply linked. This lesson of intertwining destiny is one I’ll maintain on to till my final moments. After this week, it’s clearer than ever that they’re proper. On this spirit, the folks of Kentucky generally is a guiding gentle out of the darkish place that we discover ourselves in as a rustic.
So, when Kentucky’s communities are rebuilt, let’s maintain on to this urgency to take care of one another unconditionally. Let’s keep in mind to see one another as neighbors, not simply political actors. Let’s sing the praises of the gorgeous, resilient folks of our commonwealth from the very best hills so the remainder of our nation can see that there’s a higher means.
And within the meantime, let’s continue to give our time and treasure to our neighbors in Southeast Kentucky.
Richard Younger is the manager director of CivicLex, a civic well being and literacy group in Lexington.