Around the County

Keeping America great in a divisive time

By Pat Stuart
Posted 1/13/22

We hear it every day, over and over: “America is divided as never before.”

It’s not true, of course. America has passed through some much rougher times (think Civil War or …

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Around the County

Keeping America great in a divisive time

Posted

We hear it every day, over and over: “America is divided as never before.”

It’s not true, of course. America has passed through some much rougher times (think Civil War or Reconstruction or ...), but that’s not the point. We are divided, and we hear it over and over and over. Worse, the more we hear and believe the details of that mantra about being divided, the more likely it is that bad things will follow.

Which is only the beginning of our discontent. We also suffer from a constant drumbeat of divisive rhetoric playing on our prejudices, our fears, our concerns — themes preached by radicals and zealots and perfectly ordinary people who seem to wake up every morning ready to feed new and ever more disrupting assertions into the pot. 

Their premise: “Donald Trump is evil.” Or: ”Joe Biden is the devil incarnate.”

If that isn’t enough, we have the conspiracy theorists. Once they delicately dipped their toes into the river of public opinion hoping to make a ripple in the stream. Now, they dive headfirst into the water, certain it’s running slow and deep, certain that the more outlandish their claims, the faster they’ll spread, and the more easily they’ll acquire adherents.

It all sounds so plausible, so evil, so inevitable. These claims and counterclaims, they stir the blood. They’re exciting. They make the heart thud. “To arms, America!”

The agitators, the lie-makers, the fearmongers, the politicians are always with us, exploiting our core understanding that America has never been perfect. 

Because we do know that the courts are weak and prone to error, that politicians are too often corrupt and interested in little but lining their own pockets, that the president we elect is sometimes the worst candidate not the best. Yet, we’ve generally kept our faith that we can “vote the bastards out,” that our government isn’t perfect, but it can be improved. After all, we’ll have another crack at power in four years.

The polls now show that we’ve lost that faith.

Most of us tell the pollsters that we have little to no faith in the institutions of government. All too many say they’d be comfortable seeing those institutions destroyed. Both sides claim that they’re “just following the Constitution” or claiming “constitutional” rights. More, there are the converts, the true believers — those willing to physically overthrow our constitutional system and who let hate rather than reason guide their actions.

Say that they succeed. Then, what will we have? Can guns and violence lead to anything other than more violence along with destruction of the Constitution and, then, repression and a police state?

We’ve seen that play out elsewhere over and over. The outcome never changes.

Yet, we can come together and avoid such a dire future because we all share core interests and values. We spend our days surrounded by them while helping our neighbors, volunteering at our favorite charity, sharing with friends, or stopping by the library with our youngsters for story time. We participate together to make our towns vibrant places. We support each other in our endeavors, and we follow our laws to stay safe in our homes and on our streets. 

Sometimes it also helps to remember that we belong to a community which is crammed to the gills with wonderful people doing splendid but normal things every day and every hour. 

They are us: all of us, Americans perpetuating and building society from sea to sea by acting through love, respect and in our common community interests. We, together, making our positive contributions to society, whether small or large, are what silences the dividers ... the disrupters ... and keeps America the best place at any time in the history of the world to be alive and raise our families.

And that’s a big assertion, but it is also the truth.

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