Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Divided is the Old Normal

We're a divided nation.

Everyone says so.  If you don't believe me, go back and review video from the presidential campaign and election night.  The online world is all Twitterpated about it.  The pundits get all in an uproar about how we need to unite (behind their side, of course).

Meh. What's new.

The often quoted, beloved , and sainted Founding Fathers (don't forget to capitalize) started with the Articles of Confederation.  Then they hammered out the Constitution, including the much maligned Electoral College to keep the more populous states from bullying the smaller ones.  And they had Senators elected by state legislators for fear of the passions of the electorate leading to bad decisions in the voting booth (often called "mob rule").

And after all that they split into the the Federalists and Republican-Democrats and started fighting tooth and nail over the role of government.

During the War of 1812 the New England states gave serious consideration to seceding.

The northern states pondered it again during the Mexican-American War.

And then the Confederate States actually did it.

After the Civil War we were divided by race, even in the anti-slavery northern states.  Women couldn't vote until two decades into the 20th Century.

We have always been divided.  The perfect analogy can be found watching the History Channel's series "The Hatfields and McCoys".  Each of the clans fought amongst themselves.  There was conflict and out right hatred within each family.  Right up until one their own was wronged by someone else.  Then they came together to smite their enemies.

This is us; it's who we are.  Immigrants into this country cleave together in their own communities, from the Polish and Germans of the late 19th Century, the Chinese and Japanese communities on the West Coast, or the Hispanic communities of today.  We are black, white, gay , straight, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, liberal, conservative, you name it.

We have always identified with being more than, in W's language, 'Merican.

It's the way of a free nation that emphasizes individual rights.  We're free to explore who we are, and then human nature leads us to bond with those who share our interests, passions, sensibilities, and beliefs.  There's us and them, until a new them makes us all us.  (That made more sense in my head.)

And yet, one on one, we can be kind to one another.  We bridge gaps, lend a hand when needed, show compassion, because we all share a common identity of being human.

It's not a "new" normal; it's simply who we are.  And we've made it work.  At our best, we've made it work for the betterment of all.

That's what makes the United States of America the greatest nation on Earth.  It's why we've been the envy of other countries and the dream of people around the world.  It's why they are disappointed when we don't live up to our own potential, and why we're disappointed too.

And that's why, for all the evils, challenges, and fear, I still believe.

Breathe everyone. The trick is to keep breathing.