As I am still inhabiting the rabbit hole – I swear, the rabbits are digging it deeper and deeper by the day – I cannot seem to stop my mind from wandering. Well, in truth, it is aided and abetted by the chaos that would seem to have become the definition of Donald Trump’s tenure in the Oval Office.
One of Trump’s statements I read yesterday set the current train of thought in motion:
“The only path to unity is to rebuild a shared national identity focused on common American values and virtues of which we have plenty.”
I’m not sure what country he thought he was in when he got out of bed and later uttered that inanity on Monday morning, but it is the furthest thing from the truth here in the formerly United States. A shared national identity? Who is he kidding? This country is the most divided it has ever been. EVER. On the one side there are those who seem to value “ethnic purity”, who are white-skinned and feel threatened by any who aren’t. Those who support police killings of unarmed black people. They applaud taking young children from their parents and keeping them in cages simply because they weren’t born in this country and their skin is not pale. They support a madman in the White House who basically promises to give preferential treatment to their white-skinned friends & family.
And on the other hand, there are those of us who believe that “All ‘men’ are created equal”, even though the original author of that statement, Thomas Jefferson, had a more narrowly defined view of ‘all men’. Those of us who understand the significance of “Black Lives Matter”, for far too many in this country seem to think Black people are somehow of lesser value.
And then there are the divisions of wealth. There are those on the one hand who would argue that the right to earn and keep money supersedes the responsibility to others who are less fortunate. They eschew higher taxes on the wealthy millionaires and billionaires, put profit ahead of the environment and ahead of people, and have the basic attitude of “I’ve got mine, you go get your own.”
On the other hand, there are those of us who have little, but believe it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and our natural resources. We believe we all have a responsibility to help feed, clothe, educate and provide health care to those who are unable to do so themselves.
I have come to realize that these ideological, humanitarian differences have always existed, but in the past they were tamped down by leaders who understood there is no place for bigotry in this relatively new nation. Today, though, we have a leader who sees this ideological gap as a wedge that he can use to drive us further apart than ever before, for his own political benefit. And We the People are letting him do just that.
Much of what divides us seems to have its roots in bigotry of one form or another. Immigration, guns, religion, abortion, health care, programs to help the poor, climate change, civil rights … all trace their roots back to discriminatory views, whether against Black people, women, LGBT people, immigrants, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, atheists, or other groups. And it is ripping this nation apart. No, that is not an exaggeration, not hyperbole … it is a fact. And we are letting it.
Our politicians feed on the divisions between liberals and conservatives, the wealthy and the poor. They pour gasoline on the racial unrest that is a logical result of the systemic racism that exists in our police departments. And Donald Trump, the so-called ‘president’ of this nation, is among the worst, for by his denigration of minorities and immigrants, his refusal to condemn racial killings, his support of white supremacists, he has turned this nation into a tinderbox just waiting for the right spark. And yet he is the one who says we have “common values and virtues” and that we must work to rebuild a “shared national identity”?
He has done less than nothing to bring the people of this nation together, to help each side understand the other, to find common ground and a meeting of the minds somewhere in the middle. Instead, he has encouraged violence since before he even took office. If Hillary Clinton had been inaugurated in 2017, do you think that Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old punk who killed two people last weekend, would have been in Kenosha, Wisconsin, armed with an assault rifle and looking for trouble? We’ll never know for sure, but probably not, for a President Clinton would almost certainly have followed through with the police reform measures started during the Obama administration. In fact, in all likelihood, Jacob Blake would not have been shot 7 times in the back by a rogue police officer in Kenosha and there would have been no protests, no violence.
As I sit here pondering, it seems to me that the United States is truly two nations. Until we learn to respect each other’s opinions, to listen to others, to put away the damn guns and use our brains to solve problems and resolve our disputes, there can be no “shared national identity”. Can that ever happen? At the moment, I think not. A lot of things will have to happen in order for us to resolve our major differences, and it for damn sure is not going to happen with a person like Donald Trump at the helm. I think it more likely that this nation will actually become multiple nations at the end of the day … if, that is, we don’t continue to be the single worst polluters on the globe, for if we continue down that path, life on this planet will cease to exist and it won’t really matter who had how much money or what colour anybody’s skin was.