Anger is our opioid. Violence our ecstasy. Lies are our phantasmagoric gaslighting hallucinogens.
We are a bunch of addicts, always craving the next charged hit, stealing for more, hurting the ones we need the most and refusing to admit we’re hooked.
And the rush is getting more and more dangerous.
Secretaries of state and public health officials in Colorado and across the country are going into hiding after facing threats to themselves and their families.
School board meetings have become hostile free-for-alls over mask mandates and policies to promote racial equity and equal opportunities.
Campaigns are descending even deeper into fear-mongering, nastiness and hatred.
Secretary of State Jena Griswold showed several of the threats she’s received to reporters who were investigating a story for Reuters.
“Patriots will take care of you. I would move and change your address … quickly,” wrote one on Instagram.
“Guess who is going to hang when all the fraud is revealed. (Hint … look in the mirror.),” wrote another.
And more: “Prepare for the gallows” … A caller who said he was “going to shoot every employee in the building” … A Facebook message saying, “Watch your back. I KNOW WHERE YOU SLEEP. I SEE YOU SLEEPING. BE AFRAID.”
The threats are coming from people who have embraced the lie that widespread fraud occurred in the 2020 election. No facts, investigations or court rulings will change their minds. They’re hooked.
Similar animosity has been generated by people who refuse to wear masks to protect others from COVID-19 and the leaders who encourage their intransigence, apparently believing that sabotaging the effort to stop the spread of the virus will help them politically.
For more than a year, public health officials charged with protecting our safety have returned to their homes after long, stressful days at work only to face crowds bleating cruelty and hatred.
Gunnison County’s public health director found suspicious packages arriving at her home and office. Hate mail included references to “Nazism. Calling me Mrs. Hitler. Calling me vile names — curse words. Threatening to harm me, my family, my home …,” Joni Reynolds told the Colorado Sun last year.
Attendees at a recent meeting of the Douglas County School Board seethed with vitriol after a federal judge ruled that a mask mandate must continue. Board members were called dictators and verbal sniping among parents in the audience led to speakers being heckled and ridiculed.
And then there’s your everyday cynical Trumpian political hatred.
Across Colorado and the country, people fly flags and post signs saying “F— You, Biden.” They appear along highways, in quiet neighborhoods, near schools, churches.
Leaders in the Republican Party have embraced the vulgarity in a coded campaign, “Let’s Go, Brandon,” that arose from a misinterpretation of a chanting crowd at a racetrack in Alabama. Trump and others are raising campaign funds selling hats and T-shirts with the slogan, and one congressman cut loose with it with fist-pumping emphasis on the House floor.
A Southwest Airlines pilot repeated the vulgarity over the plane’s loudspeaker recently, drawing stunned gasps from people on the flight who complained to the airline that they found it appallingly offensive.
(And the airlines wonder why so many passengers have become unruly and violent on the planes.)
Even gun sellers have gleefully embraced the sophomoric and barely concealed profanity as a marketing tool that risks inspiring more political violence like that of Kyle Rittenhouse, the vigilante who killed two people during a demonstration in Wisconsin.
And even though a Pew Research Center poll released this month found that U.S. standing internationally has increased dramatically since Joe Biden was elected, overwhelmingly people around the world said the U.S. is no longer a good model for democracy.
But not all is so bleak.
Outside of the grimy sewer of political manipulation, of irrational responses to policies meant to help us, and the social media-fueled campaigns of hatred and bigotry, decent people still go about their lives with extraordinary kindness and generosity, just as they always have.
Just last week, some friends came to the aid of an elderly neighbor who had fallen and injured his head. They calmed him and his wife, helped clean up the blood and took them to a clinic for emergency care.
After the injured man had been taken to a room for treatment, a nurse asked the men if they were family members. No, they said, they were neighbors.
The nurse looked surprised.
Neighbors who dropped everything to help someone? Really?
You can see it everywhere, if you only bother to look.
Not all of us are addicted to outrage.
Nobody has to be.
Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.