How to bring divided Americans together and save our democracy

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Pam Spritzer, AlterNet

On a roadside billboard in North Carolina promoting the Cherokee Guns store, beneath the words “The 4 Horsemen Cometh  are Idiots” appear American citizens and congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, collectively known as “the squad,” whom Trump told to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” A biblical metaphor, the horsemen symbolize catastrophic events forecast to accompany the apocalypse. The image went viral.

Tlaib responded on Twitter, “How the hell is this not inciting violence?”

Interviewed by the local paper, the gun store’s owner, Doc Wacholz, defended his right to free speech. “I’m not inciting any violence or being racist. It’s a statement. It’s an opinion,” he said. “They’re socialists, from my point of view. I also feel a couple of them, being Muslim, have ties to actual terrorist groups.”

A Cherokee might be tempted to tell Doc Wacholz to go back where he came from, but that would mean succumbing to what Bill Doherty, co-founder of Better Angels, a group dedicated to diminishing civic rancor, calls the four horsemen of polarization: stereotyping, dismissing, ridiculing, and contempt. “We become agents of polarization when we use any of the four horsemen,” Doherty says. “They offer us artificial unity, an outrage machine, and the illusion that vanquishing the other side will lead to a political promised land. As we retreat into our political silos, the people on the other side become not just strangers, but enemies. How we talk among ourselves about them fuels fires that threaten our democracy.”

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