We’re not the same republic our founders envisioned when they decided to to create this nation. We’re not even the same republic we were during the World War Two years either. Since the 1960’s and the travesty that was the war in Vietnam, we’ve become a nation on divergent paths, with those now referring to themselves as progressives and those referring to themselves as conservatives trying to navigate an increasingly larger divide, a divide with a rope bridge on the verge of snapping.
This is not hyperbole. The gay conservative author and speaker, Andrew Sullivan, said as much during a 60 Minutes interview over the weekend. Said Sullivan about political disagreements, “That’s healthy. What’s not healthy is when that isn’t just retained and kept in the political arena, but becomes personal, becomes something you bring to the supermarket…”
He’s correct, of course. No matter where we go, what the topic is, or how much we attempt to avoid it, the politics of being in these United States always seems to rear its head, for better or worse. The other day my wife was in the supermarket Sullivan was talking about and it happened: A neighbor saw her and immediately launched into the efficacy of masks, how the democrats are right in wanting to allow almost unfettered immigration (his words) and how the republicans “simply don’t understand anything.” To my wife’s credit, she engaged briefly and then deftly excused herself to continue her shopping, completely put off by the encounter.
“All I wanted to do is shop in peace,” she said. “Does politics have to be everywhere?”
Apparently, it does.
We’re inundated with it, almost to the point of over-saturation, our mind’s ground so besotted with political thought and ideas we almost cannot converse with anyone without the subject coming up. And if there are differing opinions, even among family members, the knives and pitchforks are at arms length. Family members have disowned each other for divergent political leanings, not towing the “family line” or young people citing the “they’re so stuck in the past” mantra it brings forth memories of the 60’s “Generation Gap” arguments. We seem to have lost the ability to speak with each other rationally, our political discussions being fueled by the intense tribalism on both sides of the political fence with no signs of abating.
There have been times in American history where talk of secession was considered normal. Federalists and Democratic-Republicans went toe to toe until the Era of Good feelings brought an end to the Federalist Party. Talk of the survival of the Constitution were almost routine before then, with a secession plot in 1804 proof of the fragility of the coalition of states that form this union. That was then, this is now.
In the end, through statesmen who knew the survival of the nation was greater than themselves, we came through it all, including the horrors of American slavery culminating in the Civil War.
Today, it seems no such statesmen exist. Politicians “playing to their base” is the norm, an expectation if they are to retain office, with what appears as little regard for the survival of the nation. Rather than preaching unity despite our differences, politicians seem to exacerbate the divide as it strengthens their position and the opportunity to retain their offices.
Schools, once the bastion of teaching have become, since the 1960’s, indoctrination centers where students become enmeshed in the politics of their instructors, especially at the collegiate level. No longer is historical inquiry for inquiry’s sake taught, but rather students are expected to regurgitate the political leanings of the sage on the stage. Should they refuse, they are “docked” or otherwise penalized for their differing beliefs, no matter how well they document their response to a prompt.
Social media has also become a battleground, inundating kids and adults with politics and political ideology almost as an IV drip – consistent and always flowing. Influencers spew their political leanings, pouring them into unsuspecting or uneducated minds, creating more and more followers of siloed political ideology, with no room for a rational discussion of the facts, be they facts on either side.
History is bing skewed toward the ideology that is being presented, actual facts being cast aside as mere inconvenience. It seems the ability to shout ideology louder than the truth turns itself into the truth. Present something often enough, no matter the efficacy of the actual veracity of the argument and that supposed truth becomes the accepted version. All one has to do is see the recognition of the 1619 Project, now taught by many at the high school level as actual history to see the point being made.
Where has rational discussion, and an honest look at ourselves gone? It would seem the way of the Dodo, but there are many that refuse to believe that. As in the past, we can recover, but only if we’re willing to admit the truth; that both sides of the political aisle have virtue and neither are the anathema they’re purported to be. We need the media, the most powerful entity in this nation, to go back to reporting unbiased news, presenting the facts and nothing more, and fostering civil discourse among the population, the operative word being “civil”.
We need our schools to abandon their political agendas and return to teaching only facts, boring as they may be. We need to teach critical thinking, not group think that all too often reflects the political agenda of the teacher in the front of the room. And we need to hold accountable professors who teach politics despite their class being math or English literature or, yes, history. Teach what is there without malice, without bias and without prejudice.
Finally, we need statesmen…true statesmen unconcerned with being re-elected but concerned only with the survival of our nation, fostering the notion that despite our differences be they race, ethnicity, religion or any other division, we’re, in the end, Americans. That is our common purpose. Do that, and we have a chance to save this nation.