A supporter wears a Make America Great Again hat during a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Jake Danna Stevens/The Times-Tribune file

On my drive to work Thursday, prior to the release of the redacted Mueller report, I tuned in to KRMG news radio and caught parts of a Rick Couri interview with U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

Asked for his “takeaways” from the report he was already familiar with, Lankford accurately predicted that Democrats would find something they believed should be investigated further, while Republicans would call it a full exoneration of claims that President Trump and his family colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election.

What I found most interesting about Lankford’s comments, however, was this: He is absolutely convinced that the Russian government was and is doing everything in its power to spread divisiveness within the United States of America.

Of course, that immediately brings the question, what will our government — and we, the American public — do about it?

Because at a time when America seems to be more divided than ever, it looks like the Russians are doing a pretty good job.

Lankford, who serves on the Senate’s Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and was privy to actual information that was used to write the Mueller report, said the divides being exploited center on politics, religion and, yes, even former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Come on, America, aren’t we smarter than that?

We’re being baited into living in a society where we can’t get along. We’ve lost our ability to “cuss and discuss.” We walk into a room and gravitate to the corner where everyone else thinks just like us. If you’re not “for” us, you’re “against” us.

We put limits on those we disagree with.

For instance, is a catchy political slogan on a hat or T-shirt really something that should bring people to fisticuffs? We’ve all read reports of that happening to people who sport “Make America Great Again” ball caps and clothing.

Are those words offensive? No. Don’t we all want America to be great? Yes.

But the words have become so politically charged that they now represent a single person rather than serve as a rallying cry for improvement.

What fertile ground there is for our Russian stalkers.

Personally, I think America has always been and continues to be great. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, because there is. Equality, health care and education are just a few of the issues where I’d love to see us improve.

But all the hostility that seems to come with our divisiveness is exhausting. More than that, it’s dangerous.

It’s dangerous because there are those who take the divisiveness to lengths most of us can’t even imagine — they burn down churches or kill peaceful people who simply want to worship in privacy.

Others take to the streets to claim one group of us is better than another. That seems a little presumptuous to me. I know amazing people who don’t look like me in the least. They’re smarter, kinder and more engaged in making our community better.

This might surprise you that a journalist would say this, but the media itself has been a bit complicit in widening the divide.

There are media organizations that don’t follow the guidelines I learned at the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. They’re more interested in presenting one point of view, or set of facts, over another.

My journalism education required presenting as many facts as possible and letting the reader or viewer determine what to think about the story being told.

Don’t get me wrong, there is room for opinion and analysis in journalism. But it should be labeled as such so there is little question about what’s being presented.

Managing Editor Mike Strain and I talk often with readers who think the Tulsa World is divisive, that by reporting on certain issues or events we are furthering the divide in our own community. Not surprisingly, we’re accused of bias on the right and the left, from conservatives and liberals, from reds and blues.

Here’s my point: We don’t need anyone driving divisions in our country. We’re doing a pretty good job of that ourselves.

Aren’t we better than that?

Let’s make sure we prove that to the Russians.

Susan Ellerbach


Twitter: @TWSusanell

Executive Editor

Susan is the Tulsa World executive editor. She also has held the titles of managing editor, Sunday editor, state editor, business editor and reporter during her more than 30-year career at the Tulsa World.

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