Read On: We live in a divided nation

You know what the worst thing about being a citizen of the United States is?

It's knowing that I'm doomed to live in half a country.

The half that I don't get to live in is populated by people on the other side of the political spectrum.

It never used to be this way. In fact, it wasn't like this until Donald Trump started to do his dividing act, an act so outrageous it literally made us feel as if we had suddenly been thrust into a different universe.

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Suddenly, it wasn't just about disagreements. It was about hateful rhetoric, exclusion, fear of the other, mistrust of our neighbor, suspicion of the motives of virtually everyone. It was no longer about reasonable people seeing things differently. It was if you aren't with us, if you're not one of us, then you're a dreadful human being.

Make no mistake, the man who is now president was counting on this divide-and-conquer strategy to put him on a path to the White House. And as we know, it worked.

Now those with whom we disagree are "The Enemy." I've been guilty of this kind of thinking myself. It's toxic. What was once spirited discussion at parties and over social media now quickly degenerates into name-calling, threats, stalking and anger.

It's no longer simply that the person with whom we're arguing is misguided. Now they're crazy, scary, stupid, gullible, dangerous. As someone who has spoken out against Trump, I'm labeled a "libtard," a "snowflake," a "bleeding-heart idiot."

I want to go back to living in the America where we can disagree and shake hands afterward and not impugn the humanity and motives of those on the other side. But that isn't going to be happening for a while.

The gulf between those on the left and those on the right has split so vast as to become a grand canyon. The bubble we live inside here in California can sometimes distort the immensity of the gap. But if you go on Facebook and meet those on the other side, it becomes instantly clear.

My side sees Trump loyalists as apologists and blind enablers at best. At worst, they are branded racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, all of those traits we've come to see as human nature's worst. Those who favor President Trump view those who resist as un-American, angry, sore losers, ill-informed, simplistic.

I don't want to feel the way I do about the other side. I want there to be two distinct sides with what I believe to be two valid arguments, all of us wanting the same thing for the country: progress, prosperity, opportunity, inclusiveness, equality, justice.

But we are nowhere close to this. To my mind, half of the country wants to shut our borders even to green card holders, demonize Muslims and immigrants, build a giant wall, apportion healthcare as if it's a privilege rather than a right, and demonize journalists and judges.

I'd like to reach out to those with whom I ideologically disagree and not suspect they'd rather plunge a knife into my back than listen to what I have to say. It isn't that I think they're bad people. I simply believe with every ounce of my being that reason has gone on holiday.

We've all lost friends, family members and colleagues to "The Divide." The collateral damage from what used to be differing political ideologies has proven perhaps most heartbreaking of all.

Remember when we used to simply put politics on the back burner and have a good time, anyway? No more. Because now where you fall defines the kind of person you are, and we don't want to spend time with those who we believe literally support the perpetuation of evil.

Does that sound like hyperbolic exaggeration? I don't think so. And that's why I'd like my old country back.

Even those who back our new president would find it tough to deny that his rise to power has provoked a radical shift in how we interact with one another. Many have turned anxious when surrounded by people they don't know well, mindful that should they say the wrong thing, it could spark a confrontation.

This isn't how America was until very recently. But the "Land of the Free" and "Home of the Brave" has tragically become the "Land of the Feared" and the "Home of the Hate."

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RAY RICHMOND has covered Hollywood and the entertainment business since 1984. He can be reached via email at ray@rayrichco.com and Twitter at @MeGoodWriter.

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