Americans have plenty to argue about these days, including politics as our presidential election looms large.

Pity the candidates who are compelled to seek public office to better communities and country — they’ll be vilified despite their good intentions, maybe because of them.

It’s hard not be cynical, especially when people elected to lead us fan the flames of hatred with vitriolic messages — and that starts at the very top.

President Donald Trump’s offensive tweets and his “stand back and stand by” message to far-right extremists only encourages them and feeds our angst.

Shouldn’t a president — regardless of party — work to find common ground on which we all can stand? He is the president of all Americans, after all, and with that charge comes great responsibility.

He must provide, as do leaders at all levels, perspective so that rallying cries are not heard as calls to arms.

Armed militias like the ones who march through our cities on some mission to “save our way of life” fail to see that their liberty is not extended to all. It must be if we are to fulfill our promise as a nation.

Such militias terrorize citizens through intimidation, toting their automatic weapons into not only the stores they shop, but also our neighborhoods and public buildings.

That’s what happened in Michigan, where armed “guardians” stood watch inside the Statehouse where trod loafers and high-heeled shoes of the elected, and bejeweled Crocs and tennis shoes of little visitors. One lawmaker said she keeps a bullet-proof vest under her desk — in the very place where laws are crafted — just in case.

Extremism is fertile ground where grows hate that spawns violence. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a favorite target of President Trump’s disdain, nearly fell victim to a kidnapping plot that would have succeeded in taking her freedom and likely her life were it not for the FBI. Fourteen people have now been arrested in connection with the plot that extended to storming the state Capitol and causing civil war.

Sadly such conspiracies are not isolated. Radicals on the right — and the left — have nudged their way toward the middle, co-opting their actions as patriotic.

It’s time we push back against the hostility of both and reclaim our right to live free of fear in an America that upholds our commonality and respects our differences.

Our country is unraveling and we’re the ones pulling the thread, or sitting idly by while it piles on the floor.

We must mend both fabric and fences.

News and Tribune, Jeffersonville

- News and Tribune, Jeffersonville

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