If you’re one who likes to dispense his two, three, or four cents on matters political — as is occasionally my wont— you have a broad and varied smorgasboard of topical dishes from which to choose these days. Whether it’s abortion, gun control, immigration, U.S. foreign policy, the Mueller Report, or, of course, everyone’s favorite hot topic, Donald Trump himself, you have a wealth of material to work with. There is no exhausting the vast treasure trove of controversies to mull over and opine on.
One common theme you run across in published political opinion of late is that Americans are so sharply divided on these issues. In fact, America is supposedly more divided than ever, according to these commenters.
But the underlying concern here seems to be not merely that so many passionately disagree over what they consider to be crucial issues of the day, but that these disagreements could conceivably lead to violent conflict. Such concerns were frequently expressed immediately following the 2016 election. Many an editorialist has since wrung their hands over a possible “Second Civil War.”
By this point in time, concerns about an eruption of politically motivated mass violence taking place in the U.S. should be soothed and assuaged, at least for the foreseeable future. Yes, there have been some skirmishes between Trumpites and the #Resistance, many involving alt-right neo-fascists and antifa neo-communists, but they have been between small groups of people and of rare occurrence when one considers the country’s total population of 300 million plus. Pretty small potatoes compared to the Civil War, when more than 600,000 Americans — roughly 2%-3% of the country’s total population at the time — were slaughtered by Americans from the other side of the Mason-Dixon line. It’s not even close to the violent upheavals of the 1960s, which, though bad enough, didn’t remotely reach the scale of the Civil War, either.
But that doesn’t mean major conflict isn’t possible at some point in the more distant future. The sectarian rancor of today may certainly be the seeds of open warfare a generation or two hence. Finding a way to mitigate the political conflicts of the present may avert violent conflicts down the road.
So here we are. Different versions of America appear to be at intractable odds.
One America equates abortion at almost any stage with infanticide, and the other America says that prohibiting abortions condemns women to lifelong servitude and even premature death.
One America asserts that as much racial and ethnic diversity as possible is a societal strength, while the other America contends that the mass migration of people from other countries — specifically Central America, Africa, and the Middle East — is out of control.
One America insists that economic self-sufficiency should be a highly valued end in and of itself, while the other America points out that international trade is a simple fact of economic reality and that it works perfectly fine so long as it’s managed by international institutions.
One America says that same-sex marriage is just as legitimate as traditional heterosexual marriage, while the other America strenuously objects.
One America demands Trump’s removal from power regardless of whether or not he’s actually guilty of treason as he’s simply unfit to be the country’s chief executive, and the other America asserts that what has become known as Russiagate is a frame-up job designed to force a democratically elected president out of office by means of a brute power play.
On and on it goes, with no sign of concession or compromise in sight. Is there any way to resolve these disputes?
Most likely there is not. What we’re mostly talking about here is competing systems of morality and ethics, and both Americas appear to be largely populated by a large number of moral and ethical absolutists. That is not very conducive to calm, reasoned discussion or debate. It could very well be that humanity is still just as viscerally tribal as it was in ages past, of which these disputes is the latest manifestation. But that’s a whole other line of inquiry.
But being divided on such grounds doesn’t necessarily have to have destructive consequences. People can simply go their separate ways if they cannot agree on a common way forward. And it may very well be that that is the only kind of reconciliation or compromise that is available to this country.
Decentralization and devolution of power is the key to our domestic peace and tranquility.