As the pandemic wears on and normally good-natured people grow more stir-crazy, the angst of the aggrieved continues to grow, and the tendency to lash out at others seems to go unchecked.

The most glaring example is the divide fostered between those who support law enforcement communities, and those who are part of the movement to spotlight injustices Black Americans are suffering.

In normal times, it would be possible to uphold decent police officers who truly joined the force to "protect and serve," while at the same time decrying the "bad apples" who always gravitate toward positions of power. But these aren't normal times, and while some folks excuse the behavior of abusive cops in their zeal to insist that "blue lives matter," others judge every badge-wearer by the same negative criteria. The former group also tends to label all peaceful protesters as domestic terrorists, along with the looters who take advantage of any situation that involves both the blue and the black.

So now, we have events calling attention to the terrible racism this country can't seem to shake off. And the reflexive response seems to be a counteraction by those who feel they must defend law enforcement officers. After every protest or screed on social media, the chasm between the groups grows ever wider — and that's not just in metropolitan areas like Chicago.

Here's a novel idea: Instead of insulting each other on social media, why can't different factions involved in contentious issues get together and talk it out?

They could use Zoom or some other online platform, if social distancing isn't possible. They could invite their friends, neighbors and advocates to participate. They could come up with a game plan that would enable them all to work together for a common purpose. They could make the optimistic assumption that a heightened understanding of the positions of their adversaries, as well as the challenges they face as individuals, might act as a bridge to compromise.

Social media may have its positive uses, but in other ways, it's become the bane of human existence. It has allowed bitter people, or those with axes to grind, to spread rumors and innuendo about those who have offended them, without any evidence to back up the claims. It has given free rein to those same folks to insert their own opinions into information, and present it as fact. Unfortunately, the "traditional" media has to put up with this, which often means chasing after stories that, in a previous age, wouldn't have stood on their own merit.

It would be nice if passionate individuals on both sides of any controversy, in every community, would be willing to make the first move toward unity, rather than just launching hateful attacks. But one-on-one communication between groups will be required, and the participants need to leave social media out of the equation. It does more harm than good.

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