I wonder how Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben feel about the Confederate Flag coming off the South Carolina State Capitol today.
Do you think they will feel any safer at church this Sunday with Colonel Sanders still skulking about?
A close friend of mine for whom I have a great deal of respect astutely questioned my premise of a divided nation citing several relevant historical data points. (“Are labor protections worse today than in 1890? … As a nation, we’re certainly less divided than in 1862.”) Nothing is more divisive to a nation than a civil war; certainly we are less divided than in 1862. But can social progress coexist with social division?
Civil wars are a ludicrously absurd method for resolving ideological disputes: ideas are judged not on merit but rather on might ending with the suppression of ideas rather than resolution. I do not find it surprising that based on the 48 values questions Pew has been using for the past 25 years, the partisan gap has doubled. Nor do I find it surprising that a growing number of voters do not identify with either party, and support LGBTQ civil rights.
That said, perhaps we can agree that America is a country of paradoxes; a nation both politically divided, and capable of social evolution; a nation with a legal system that can both clear Officer Darion Wilson of any wrongdoing whatsoever in the killing of Michael Brown, and find “widespread civil rights abuses by the Ferguson Police Department.
One can barely take a breath without being bombarded with reminders that the United States is a country divided. Socioeconomically, institutionally, educationally, professionally, informationally, we are a populous that is unable (or unwilling) to reach across barriers. The American flag itself has become a symbol of division and not of unity.
The upcoming presidential election may well test the limits of this political experiment in representative democracy called the US. Democracy, by design, is dependent upon consensus.
Can we adapt to a way of life that minimizes greenhouse gas emissions even if we cannot agree on global warming? Can we compensate for the correlation between wealth and race even if we are at odds over its causation? Can we fix the fact that America is a first world superpower yet most American public school students live in poverty without letting these very kids get caught in partisan crossfire?