Don't let S'pore degenerate into a polarised nation

Those who are smirking at the 59 million Americans who cast their lot with Mr Donald Trump should not be too smug.

America's rejection of "four more years of Obama" was not simply indignation at the pace of economic recovery ("America's divide runs far deeper this time"; yesterday).

It was about big corporations versus retrenched factory workers; gun control versus proponents of the Second Amendment; straight conservatives versus homosexual liberals; feminists versus misogynists; Republicans versus Democrats.

An opportunity to debate policy degenerated into a theatre of rhetoric and the taking of sides.

In Singapore, with a burgeoning Pink Dot movement and the surfacing of feminist zealots, we are headed towards a similar trajectory.

Online lampooning and vitriol by both sides against perceived threats are just as objectionable as the insolence towards homosexuals and women.

It is important to arrest this trend before we head into freefall.

Yes, bigotry has to stop, but so should overaggressive campaigning.

We should not demand respect and validation without first showing these to others. We should not denigrate and belittle those who disagree with our views.

Instead of promoting our interest groups, let us believe in the empowerment of every Singaporean.

Our society is one where we give one another space, regardless of race and religion.

Let this mutual tolerance extend to all areas. We can agree to disagree. After all, Singapore's success has been founded on our ability to stick together.

Ethan Tan Xin Kai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'Don't let S'pore degenerate into a polarised nation'. Print Edition | Subscribe