We all, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, agree on one thing: that our country is more divided now than at any other time in at least the last 150 years. The rift has split families, destroyed friendships, and caused us all to be less kind to our fellow humans. The cause? Well, on the surface it would appear to be that the divisiveness was caused by all the rhetoric and hate generated by the 2016 presidential election. But I think the root cause goes even deeper.
The issue becomes what do we really want? As humans, are our goals in life really so different? Certainly there are some basics that we can all agree on, such as good health, enough food to eat, a good education for our children, and safety. But even here there is disagreement. How do we afford that ‘good health’, and how much food is enough, and what constitutes a ‘good education’? And the big one … how do we ensure our safety? More guns? More laws? Better law enforcement? A more homogenized society?
We as a society have veered away from the consensus, if there ever was one, of how to achieve our most basic goals, and we have vastly expanded what we consider to be ‘basic’ needs. For example, shortly after World War II, most families were ecstatic to own a small home, a place they could call their own … two or three small bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, a place the family felt safe. But today, the house that would have been our pride and joy years ago is considered a ‘dump’ to many. Fifty years ago, nobody ever heard of the ‘internet’, yet now we panic if we are without internet service for an hour. What changed? Us or society? Are our needs and wants internal, or are they driven by what we see around us, what we see on television and on the internet? What is our motivator? Greed?
We want different things … our paths, our goals, have diverged. Some of us want to have more for ourselves, others want to live in a society where everything and everyone are the same (ie., white, Christian) and still others want to contribute to a society that is more inclusive, a more diverse society. This nation cannot be all things to all people when what half the nation wants is diametrically opposed to what the other half wants. We cannot be a diverse society made up of people of all cultures, walks of life, and religions, and at the same time be a homogenized white, Christian society. We must make a choice, and that is what has led to the divisiveness of 2016.
There are two sides to every single coin. At least two views for every issue. What do Americans want? What do Americans think? WHO KNOWS??? This nation is truly a melting pot, and there truly is no longer a general consensus on virtually any issue on the table today. Let us look at a single example … energy.
Based on scientific facts, it is proven that carbon emissions are damaging our atmosphere and contributing to the destruction of the only home we know, planet Earth. We have choices. We can drive more energy-efficient cars that emit less carbon into the atmosphere, we can be conscientious about our use of electricity in the home, and we can make known to our representatives in Congress that we support clean energy sources, research and development of wind and solar energy as opposed to fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Or, on the other hand, we can do the opposite: drive a road hog SUV that gets an average of 12 miles per gallon, keep our heat and air-conditioning set at a temperature that guarantees our maximum comfort, and eschew climate change as a hoax designed to cost us more money and take jobs from those in the fossil fuel industry. Which are you?
My purpose here is neither to critique nor offend anybody … I do enough of that on ordinary days. Today, my purpose is to try to understand why there is such a seemingly irreparable gap between people, and to determine what each of us might be able to do to begin repairing the fabric of our nation. My purpose, rather, is to ask people to stop and think, to ask themselves the question: what is it I want? Be introspective and take some time to understand yourself, for we must each understand ourself before we can begin to understand others. And then, make a list, look at your list. What do you see? Do your goals include others? Do they allow for people who are different, who look or think differently than you, do they encourage policies that will help other people both in and outside this country? Are the things you desire, the goals you are willing to work toward, beneficial to many, or are they for your sake only?
There are good people all over the world. They do not come only in one colour. They do not all share the same beliefs. Some may have money; others may live by the skin of their teeth. Some are heterosexual, others are not. Some are Rhodes Scholars, others never even finished high school. None of that matters in the grand scheme of things … what matters is who we are inside, our values, and most of all, how we treat others.
We are divided today more than at any time in my memory, and I think the reason is that we are focused on what we have or don’t have, rather than remembering who we are. I am not a religious person, but it is my sincere belief that we are not on this earth only to pursue our own pleasure. I believe that we each have an obligation to do everything in our power to help other people, and to leave our corner of the earth just a little bit better than we found it. I admit that I don’t understand those whose goals are for a white, Christian, Aryan nation, and that is not a nation I could ever live in. This, more than anything else, I think, defines the division we see in this nation today, and I do not think that the divide can be healed any time soon, so I don’t have answers. But the one thing I do know is that we will not even begin to close the gap until we all do some soul-searching to figure out exactly what it is we want, and why. Then and only then can we have meaningful dialogues that may eventually lead to a meeting of the minds. The “Great Divide” in this country will not be repaired by the likes of Donald Trump or any other single politician. The solution cannot be mandated by Congress, nor overturned by the Supreme Court. The solution can only come from We The People. Think about it.