2020 is going to be a pivotal year for America.
Can we afford to lose another year before we start to halt the quickening warming of the planet? To reverse the income inequality and crushing healthcare costs that hobble so many Americans? To end the proliferation of military-style weapons in civilian hands?
And before any of these complex challenges can be reckoned with, we will face the fierce political combat of impeachment. Then a monumental presidential election. This is a year in which the antagonisms between pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces will rage at a fever pitch.
And this, we would argue, should stir more hope than fear. Because we have been here before.
Our nation has always been divided. Division, ironically, might be one of the fundamental characteristics of our optimistically named United States.
Tories versus revolutionaries. Slave states versus free states. Settlers versus Native Americans. Labor versus industrialists. Wets versus drys. Nativists versus immigrants. Hippies versus the straights. And on and on.
Yet we're still here, our nation mostly inching closer to its ideals with every struggle.
What feels different now is that we have a president who inflames the divisions, who plays to his base of support and makes no attempt to unite the whole people.
The question for the year and coming decade is whether the American people will somehow come closer together.
Granted, from today's vantage point, it is far easier to imagine us pulling farther apart. So many Americans get their news and information from separate sources, it often seems we are living in separate countries.
And increasingly we struggle to agree on the facts. .
And so now legitimate news stories are "fake," black is white, and up is down — or as Trump has said, "What you're seeing and what you're reading isn't what's happening." The larger purpose is to create such clouds and confusion, that citizens can't tell anymore what is true or false — and give up trying.
Since 2016, we have come to realize that the United States is not immune to the kind of Russian-style propaganda that plagues countries where democracy died or was never born.
Will our democracy stand up to the stresses ahead? To the disinformation campaigns on social media? To the cyberattacks that will assault our voting systems?
The simple answer is: Yes, we must.
All of this speaks to why the 2020 elections are so important. Americans will have the chance, the precious chance, to reject the politics of divisiveness and exclusion.
Our job, as journalists, is to keep on reporting facts: facts verified by interviewing credible people and authenticating documents. As editorialists on this page, it is our mission to keep on interpreting those facts with as much honesty and clarity of thought as we can muster.
In a polluted information environment, the antidote is to inject as much fresh air as possible — no matter that some readers inevitably will be angered by things they don't want to hear.
This guest editorial was originally published in the Palm Beach Post, a sister newspaper within Gannett.
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD
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