There is a thing that happens with history, where it becomes mythologized. I have my own framing for it when historical figures go from being human to being part of some story. They become the Gods, Heroes or Monsters. We don't often think of them as people anymore. Instead, we identify them in less specific ways, some of which might not be true. Or worse, might be half-true.
The Field of Blood
The recent book in my craw is The Field of Blood by Joanne B. Freeman. It covers a part of the Antebellum period of the US, the decades before the Civil War. Its focus is on violence in Congress. This is something you might've thought happened only once or twice in US history before the Civil War. Most likely you'd be thinking of the Caning of Charles Sumner, but The Field of Blood reveals much more tarnish view.
It strings together a history of duels, intimidation and open brawls on the floor of Congress. Key is the word 'Strings.' Because such violence isn't something we Americans seem to remember about those years. In fact, the Antebellum period seems to be this sort of blank spot in the American mind. We can remember only certain things from it. All cast by the lens of Lincoln and the rest of the 19th Century that followed antebellum. Biased without seeing the stains.
This is a period of US History I'm fascinated with. I've written my own fantasy setting that pulls from it rather than the latter parts of the 1800s. Y'know, the difference between the "wild west" we whites fantasize about. Or that steampunk-ish period prior to World War 1. The one that seems to catch the dreamer's mind, while forgetting all the imperialism. I find the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s, interesting because of the dark marks they have.
The 1830s saw the advent of the photograph. In 1830, the United States had almost no rails. By 1840, railroads connected most of the east coast together. Humans were unkind and cruel to animals; often it was a form of entertainment for many places. We engaged in chattel slavery, which we still seem unable to digest the consequences of. People found industry wanting and started to romanticize about something new.
In other words, it was a dark time and it was a new age. What always fascinates me is those voices then that were trying to do what they thought was right. Even if it was immoral by our standards. The revealing framing of The Field of Blood is how much honor culture factored in. It suggested a strategy for the South of threats and violence against the North to get what they wanted. Yet, Southern violence, when used over and over again, didn't create a docile North. Instead, violence and dueling only seemed to do the opposite. It made aggression between both sides more palpable and certain.
The thing that struck me the most was John Quincy Adams. Adams is largely a forgettable US President. One doesn't remember him right away. If one does, it's as the last President elected before suffrage expanded. Albeit only to all non-landowning white men. After being President, John Quincy Adams became a member of the House of Representatives. Which, by today's standards, feels like a demotion.
But his tenure there was shockingly impressive to me. Adams, in a place where Southerners threatened violence all the time, challenged them right to their faces. An old man. He opposed them out of the simple principle that it wasn't right that Northern people had their representatives silenced. I hadn't known that, and my context for him bumped my opinion of him up in my mind.
Yell, But Never Be Silent
I found The Field of Blood insightful.
The revelation of the violence in Congress during the Antebellum period struck me as a relief. That there were flaws amongst the leading politicians of that leaden age. That the Civil War wasn't born out of some flickering moment. It was the opening of the old wound, that had festered and never healed fully. If anything, it says something about political discourse. If you lack the will to fight for what you believe, then what is the point of politics? Or better yet: in no age are political battles won with civility.
It is almost never about coming together. It's about making something more of what we have. And yes, you aren't the only one scared of the other side. But you still are willing to talk, even if it is yelling.