By Hai Do
29 October, 2018

Americans learned last week of pipe bombs sent by mail to Democratic Party political leaders and other critics of President Donald Trump.

The leaders included former President Barack Obama and his Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and several current lawmakers. No bombs exploded and no one was hurt.

On Friday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Cesar Sayoc of Florida was arrested and charged with the crimes. He added that the suspect, a 56-year-old Republican Party member and Trump supporter, in Sessions' words, "appears to be a partisan."

News of the arrest seemed to give the country a moment to breathe before the Nov. 6 mid-term elections. The voting could change the balance of power in Congress.

However, not even 24 hours later, a mass shooter killed 11 people in a Jewish religious center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The gunman, Robert Bowers, said "all Jews must die" as he surrendered to police.

This Nov. 1, 2017, photo shows a van with windows covered with an assortment of stickers in Well, Florida. Federal authorities took Cesar Sayoc into custody on Oct. 26, 2018, and confiscated his van, which appears to be the same one.
This Nov. 1, 2017, photo shows a van with windows covered with an assortment of stickers in Well, Florida. Federal authorities took Cesar Sayoc into custody on Oct. 26, 2018, and confiscated his van, which appears to be the same one.

The Hunger Games

"It's like our country is becoming ‘The Hunger Games,'" Elisa Karem Parker, an independent voter from Kentucky told the Associated Press. The book and film series "The Hunger Games," is set in a future in which citizens watch on television as young people hunt and kill one another in a survival competition.

The mail-bomb plot is the latest in a series of attacks against members of both political parties.

In June 2017, a liberal activist attacked Republican Party lawmakers and supporters on a ballfield near Washington. The gunman shot and injured Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several other people.

A couple months later, a white supremacist killed a 32-year-old woman and wounded 19 other people in Charlottesville, Virginia. The attacker drove his car into a crowd that had gathered to protest a white supremacist demonstration.

More recently, officials accused a former Navy serviceman of mailing letters filled with the poison ricin to President Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and other members of the administration.

"I just can't believe the kind of violence that we're experiencing in our country," Cindy Jennings of Pittsburgh told the AP at a ceremony to honor the victims of Saturday's shooting. "I feel like the leadership in our country right now is just encouraging violence, and I wish that that would stop."

Robb Willer is a sociology professor at Stanford University. He said, "That is the question of our time: Are we going to choose to continue the war, or are we going to choose peace?"

Willer suggested that most Americans disliked the political divisions but feel trapped in them. He said, "It will get worse before it gets better."

Political divisions growing

A Pew Research Center study this month of Republican and Democratic voters shows just how wide the political divisions in America have grown.

Democratic voters say the most important issues facing the country are mistreatment of minorities, climate change, the divide between rich and poor, gun violence and racism.

In contrast, Republicans view illegal immigration, terrorism, crime, federal budget deficit and drug dependence as the biggest problems for the U.S.

Seventy-nine percent of voters who support Republicans say they also support the National Rifle Association, a gun rights group. Only 12 percent of Democratic Party voters express support for the NRA.

Sixty percent of Democrats describe themselves as "feminist." The percentage of Republicans who do so is 14. A little more than 75 percent of Democratic voters call themselves "environmentalist," while only 44 percent of Republicans describe themselves as such.

Something both Democrats and Republicans agree about? Having their own party in control of Congress after the elections "really matters."

I'm Caty Weaver.

Hai Do adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on a report from the Associated Press and information from the Pew Research Center. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

partisan - n. a person who strongly supports a particular leader, group or cause

encourage - v. to make someone likely to do something

contrast - n. a difference between people

feminist - n. the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities