Culture Wars/Current Controversies

How to rise above the partisan fray

As a liberal centrist, I’m used to taking heat from both sides of our political and cultural divides. When I criticize progressive “woke” trends, the left lashes back. And when I take aim at intensifying anti-democratic derangement among rank-and-file Republicans, the right retaliates.

The latter happened most recently just days before the end of 2021, when I wrote a column suggesting that it’s bad for people in rural parts of the Midwest to be flying “F–k Biden” flags outside their homes, and almost equally bad to convey the same message with the mildly clever euphemism, “Let’s go, Brandon.”

Most of the vitriol hurled my way in response didn’t so much defend such vulgar and civically poisonous gestures in their own terms as accuse me of hypocrisy and bad faith for claiming in the column that I never saw equivalent flags and yard signs during the presidency of Donald Trump. Actor Robert De Niro said “f–k Trump” on national television! Comedian Kathy Griffin pretended to behead the 45th president in a video posted online! Meanwhile, for four long years, Democrats everywhere expressed their conviction that the president and those who voted for him were deplorable racists!

I wrote in the original column that the only imaginable justification for flying an intentionally insulting flag about the president and those who voted for him was “turnabout is fair play” — and that’s exactly what right-wing readers of the column appealed to. That’s too bad, because it’s a distraction from the simple point I was trying to make, which is that it’s terrible for Americans to be engaging in politics this way, no matter who does it, or who did it first.

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