I don’t really mind being called a ‘snowflake’ … snowflakes are beautiful, each one unique, delicate and lacy. The term in itself does not offend me. However, I resent the meaning that has been attached to the term, resent the fact that people who would call me this assume they know how I think on every issue, when they will not even be bothered to take a moment to listen to me. Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking about what I have referred to as ‘The Great Divide’ in our society.
In doing a bit of research, I found articles about what is now called ‘hyper-partisanship’ dating back to 2012, during the time of the election in which President Obama was running for his second term of office. Wikipedia defines hyper-partisanship as “A sharply polarized situation in which political parties are in fierce disagreement with each other.” Sounds about right. I would add, “… to the extent that neither is willing to listen to the other or even consider compromise.”
Our two-party system has been around since 1796, although both parties have evolved throughout the years. The two-party system is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, and in fact may well be the only thing that stands between a democratic republic and a dictatorship. However, even the best of concepts, taken too far, can spell disaster. Today, the two parties seem diametrically opposed. There is no longer any middle ground, no longer any place for those who are not radically opposed to all the ideas of the other. No one side is 100% right, nor 100% wrong, but there is no room in the middle. The space that used to be the middle, the moderates, is gone, leaving in its place a wide chasm – a no man’s land.
During the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Thomas Jefferson was away in France, but he nonetheless objected to a formal provision in the Constitution for a two-party system, saying …
“Men are naturally divided into two parties. those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all power from them into the hands of the higher classes [and] those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise, depository of the public interests.’’
230 years ago, yet those words seem to perfectly define today’s two parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. The Great Divide may be a bigger problem for the continuity of the United States than even the person currently sitting in the Oval Office, for he will be gone soon enough, but the divisiveness in this nation will remain. What happened to those who, just a few short years ago, were considered moderates? The went to the left, or to the right … they were actually pushed left or right, as there could be no middle ground.
Though I largely blame the current occupant of the Oval Office for the depth of the divide, in truth, it has been a long time coming. I could write a small book on the history that has led to this moment, and perhaps I shall do so one day, but for this humble post, I am limited by constraints of time and space, and would prefer to focus the remainder on … how can we fix it? Or can we?
Obviously the divergence of socio-political ideologies is not going away, so we must find ways to work within that framework. The solution must come from two groups: the federal government AND We The People. Yes … WE. The. People. Obviously there need to be level heads in government to fix that which is broken, but who chooses those heads? We do. The heads need to understand that their job is to re-unite a nation divided, to heal the wounds of the past 10 years or so, and to sincerely debate the issues, arriving at solutions that, if they do not please everybody, at least accommodate the citizens. Healthcare, for instance … no healthcare plan that causes 24 million people to lose their insurance coverage can be considered viable.
The next thing that leaders in Congress and the executive branch must do is remove the influences of big business and lobbyist groups from both the election process and the legislative process. As it currently stands, big business and lobbyists give millions, nay billions, to candidates who, in exchange, promote the interests of those businesses and lobbyists in legislation. This is not … I repeat this is NOT … a service or a benefit to We The People. Elections need to be about what the people of this nation stand for, not what will put more profit in the hands of CEO’s and the NRA.
And then we come to us … me, you, the family down the street. We played a large role in creating the Great Divide … now it is time for us to put away our petty differences, our greedy desires and try to help heal a nation torn asunder. We must, once again, remember that we are all in this together and sometimes we may not like decisions that are made, but it is a nation of We The People, not ‘I The Person’.
What can we do? First and foremost, we can … we must … educate ourselves, at least in the most basic ways in which our government works. Then we must take it upon ourselves to learn about candidates, not just in presidential elections, but perhaps even more important, in the elections of our senators and representatives to Congress. We must realize that everything we see on social media should be considered false information unless it can be verified through reliable sources. 98% of it cannot, therefore it is a falsehood. We must stop listening to friends, relatives, and Facebook groups, take out our brains, dust them off and learn to think for ourselves. That done, we must then vote for the candidate whose ideology seems destined to help the nation … it may not seem to help you as an individual at the moment, but if it helps the nation, it is still in your best interest. We must all learn to think on a more global, more long-term basis.
The other thing we all must do is learn to listen. My observation in the past year, and I admit to being guilty of this also, is that we only listen to those whose ideas mirror our own. We cut off ideas that we disagree with, boycott information that is contrary to our own ideology, and close not only our ears, but our minds to the thoughts of others. What if, instead of saying “you’re wrong”, we said, “okay, but tell me why you feel that way”. Or … “but what if …?” We might just find that our beliefs are not as different as we thought.
Okay, yes, I know that by now you are saying, “Wow … Filosofa done gone and lost her marbles … she thinks she’s Miss Pollyanna.” No … I am a realist, a pragmatist, and I know this is all pie-in-the-sky for most people. But the reality is that this nation is ripe at the moment for a strong, autocratic leader to come in and completely change the structure of the democracy (democratic-republic, for those politico purists) that we have enjoyed for 230 years. Donald Trump is not, was not, that leader, for his flaws are many and his honesty is a joke. However, if somebody such as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Vladimir Putin, or Norbert Hofer, someone with intellect, charisma and dreams of grandeur were to appear on the scene, I can easily see the demise of the United States of America that we have always known. I know my solutions are pipe dreams, but perhaps they make us start to think … perhaps at least it is time for us to wake up and acknowledge that we have a real problem and that each and every one of us must contribute to the solution. All I ask is that you think about it.