One thing about anti-social media: It may be a spreader of misinformation, but the responses in the comments sections give us a rough idea of the nastiness that has spread over the United States like toxic sewage. The political debate gets uglier and uglier. On both sides.

For instance, both sides celebrate when misfortune falls on their political enemies — note that’s “enemies,” not “adversaries.” So when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a resister of mask mandates, tests positive for COVID, too many liberals cheered, at least in private. Now, that’s not very progressive, is it? And to spread the poison around, when Jesse Jackson and his wife were hospitalized for the same disease, a big cheer went up from too many conservatives.

That is not conduct worthy of a civilized country.

So when withdrawal from a war in Afghanistan blows up in our faces, we think of it mainly in political terms — as in “Joe Biden is going to get his.” The blot of blame spreads over four administrations, as well as the blot of deceit. Never mind the mourning of another military defeat for our country or the hit to our national reputation for abandoning those Afghans who sustained the American cause there as interpreters and other civilian support staff. And never mind the pro-government fighters who expected top-of-the-line training from their U.S. armed forces counterparts; both were betrayed when corruption ate up so many of the tens of billions of dollars that were supposed to make the Afghans a first-class fighting force.

For those who did escape as promised, the “Welcome to America” mat was unevenly woven. On the one hand, some U.S. citizens have volunteered to help the latest “huddled masses yearning to be free.” They have gone out of their way to organize rudimentary living necessities for the flood of refugees and their families — food and a roof over their heads.

At the same time that illumination was spreading its warmth over our country, commentators and plain ol’ anti-Muslims were charging up the atmosphere with the harsh lightning of their bigotry.

Within days, the bitterest combat started heating up in an unfamiliar battleground, a long-valued sanctuary for peace and knowledge — that would be our schools, where we send our tots. Already, some parents are reacting violently to mask mandates for their enrolled kiddies. Reports from Texas and California tell of enraged grown-ups ripping masks off of the faces of educators and slugging others. Or we have heard about some people taking the same sort of action when it comes to vaccination requirements, refusing to comply in a misguided understanding of legal rights.

It seems in so many cases, we have forgotten how to be a United States of America, to the point that our arguments have reached such intensity that our federal Department of Homeland Security warns of extremists:

“These extremists may seek to exploit the emergence of COVID-19 variants by viewing the potential re-establishment of public health restrictions across the United States as a rationale to conduct attacks. Pandemic-related stressors have contributed to increased societal strains and tensions, driving several plots by domestic violent extremists, and they may contribute to more violence this year.”

It’s pretty sad when public health efforts against a pandemic become so distorted that they contribute to barbarity, particularly when it’s based on one political leaning or the other. But it’s nothing new here in the U.S. of A. Just read the far-fetched hateful comments after a school massacre or listen to the racists crow when the police gun down a person of color.

When will we ever learn? Will we ever learn? We are spinning in the wrong direction. That could be because our beginning set of principles were created by slaveholders who were such hypocrites and left history by writing “All men are created equal.”

— Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. © 2021 Bob Franken Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.