Some Perspective on Our Political Division
It feels like everyone and everything is severely split in our country right now. According to the media, social media, public polls, and even what we see with our own eyes, it appears Americans are more divided than ever before. There has even been talk of another “civil war,” a thought that transformed from being “just talk” into violent action at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
But! I don’t believe the division is as bad as it seems. Okay, I get it. I’m fully aware that politics, particularly during the Trump presidency, has divided families, devastated marriages, and destroyed lifelong friendships.
I’m fully aware that some people have acted like complete jerks and shameless bullies on social media, and that some have rioted and caused massive mayhem and destruction. Even a 9x6 piece of cloth used to cover one’s face now creates a huge political uproar.
I’m also aware that political division has caused the mental health of Americans to suffer, has made our country a target of international online influence operations, and that, if something doesn’t change pretty quickly, puts our very democracy at risk (we’ll get to all of these in a few minutes). Actually, the potential destruction caused by political division is the very reason I even thought of starting 1787.
Political tribalism (where people feel protective of their chosen group) has quickly turned into political sectarianism (where one group hates the other group even more than they love their own). This is a huge problem and there are ideas in these books that aim to solve it.
But that said, it’s important we maintain a practical perspective on our current situation. If we don’t, political division will eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy that we cannot escape.
Not to be overly dramatic, but I believe that maintaining proper perspective is perhaps the only thing that can keep half of this country from saying “screw it” and just giving up on the other half.
Let’s start here: Regardless of our personal views on political and social issues — and despite our race, religion or social class — we all want pretty standard things for our lives.
All of us simply want to live a happy, productive life. We want to earn a respectable living and be able to enjoy the social security that we have contributed to. We want to properly educate our children and know that they will always breathe clean air and have satisfactory health care. We want to be with our friends and family who unconditionally love us and want the very best for us. We want to feel safe with those we have come to fear abroad as well as with those who live among us. At the end of the day, when you tune out all of the noise, the tapestry that binds all Americans is tightly woven with the common threads of freedom, optimism and hope.
The truth is that what forges a bond between us is far more powerful than what separates us. The constitution of this country — established with a firm foundation by the Constitution — is unyielding. The hallmarks of the American experience are a commonality of decency that permeates throughout this country and an unrelenting faith that we will find our way.
And we will. Personally, I find it amazing we coexist as peacefully as we do. This may seem like an odd thing to say in the wake of nationwide protests, riots, mass shootings and an actual insurrection, but stick with me for a minute.
This country of over 330 million people represents a fabulous array of races, cultures and religions. We are far (far!) more diverse than anywhere on the entire planet.
The official U.S. census doesn’t collect information on religion affiliation, but the U.S. Census Bureau does have data on “self-described religious identification.” In the latest data available, 41 religious groups were reported.
There were five racial categories to choose from in the latest census, although there are likely way more than that represented in America. The Census Bureau codes 1,333 individual languages and language groups in the United States, a number so large they have to collapse them into a more manageable 42.
330 million people…41 religious groups…5 races…1,333 different languages. That is A LOT of people and A LOT of diversity. Still, with that many people and that many differences, there are relatively few conflicts. Sure, there are instances of road rage here and there, or the occasional late-night bar brawl but, on the whole, we all live among one another in relative harmony. I find that extraordinary!
< Again, I’m not downplaying the issues of police brutality, mass shootings, or anti-democratic mob riots in the least. And I realize that crime is on the rise. We obviously have major problems to solve in all of these areas and they are addressed throughout this website, exhaustively. >
Certainly, every violent crime is tragic, but the percentage of our violent crimes (murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) to our population is 0.36 percent. Think about that: 0.36 percent. That’s just incredible to me.
Even during the highly emotional protests against racial injustice in 2020 — or what the U.S. Department of Justice calls “demonstrations” — only around 300 people across 29 states and Washington, D.C. faced federal criminal charges as of September 2020. This may seem high until you consider that there were over 10,600 demonstrations across America.
Listen, I don’t like conflict, so I hate that families, marriages and friendships are suffering because of politics and that people are getting bullied on social media. I hate that even a relatively small number of people get stung by violence. Even 0.36 percent is still 0.36 percent. Without a doubt, there are heartbreaking stories associated with everyone involved in that number.
But I can tell you this with absolute certainty: The angry posts and violent scenes that seem to dominate the media and social media are not a true reflection of America on the whole.
When we are all our best selves, none of those ugly words and images show who we really are. Not even close. In the best version of ourselves, Americans donate money, time, food and free services to those affected by government shutdowns and international pandemics.
When we are our best selves, Americans risk their own lives to save their neighbors in Louisiana after a devastating hurricane. Americans are people who, in an emergency — without a moment’s hesitation and with no assessment of skin color — reach our hands into dirty, murky water in hurricane-battered Houston to lift up another human being in need and carry the oldest and youngest on our backs to safety.
When we are our best selves, Americans lend blankets and generators to those who have no water or power during an ice storm. During the storm and its aftermath, Americans invite complete strangers into their homes and even pay for their hotel rooms. In our best selves, Americans are like Houston's own “Mattress Mack,” who, during hurricanes and ice storms, opens his furniture store to thousands of stranded people, offering them food and a warm, safe place to rest.
In our essence, this is who we are. We are Americans, dammit! And we are wonderful people!
So then, why do we feel like one half of America hates the other half? Why do we feel so attacked? Why do we feel so misunderstood? Why do we feel so hopeless?
There is just one answer, my fellow Americans: Because we are being manipulated by outside forces. Big time! This is not just a gut feeling. 1787 can, and will, prove this. Here’s how we will attack this complicated topic:
First, to successfully construct a new paradigm, we need to deconstruct the old one and learn from the lessons it teaches. We’ll also talk about some of the ways manipulative people try to gaslight others (gaslighting means manipulating others by psychological means, sometimes to the point they question their own sanity) and why truth even matters in the first place.
Next, we’ll talk about how, logistically, this even happens, and then about the real-world affects it has on all of us when it does.
The thought of being manipulated is disturbing, but the great news is that now that we have identified the problem, we can fix it. There are several ways we can begin to fight back immediately. The dragons that have exploited us can absolutely be slayed.
And we must slay them. Right now. As a nation — one nation — we have to put a stop to this, because we cannot allow ourselves to be played any more than we already have been. We cannot let outside forces turn us into something we are not.
1. United States. Census Bureau. “U.S. and World Population Clock.” 13 Mar 2021
2. United States. Census Bureau. “FAQs for Faith Based Communities.” 13 Mar 2021
3. United States. Census Bureau. “Table 75. Self-Described Religious Identification of Adult Population: 1990, 2002, and 2008.” 30 Sept 2011
4. United States. Census Bureau. “Language Use: Frequently Asked Questions.” 13 Mar 2021
5. United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation. “2019 Crime in the United States.” 28 Sept 2020