Everywhere we look whether it is the news, social media, or even at our dinner tables discussing politics with the family, we hear that this is a divided nation. We are told that people cannot get along and that were are at each other’s throats. We hear that there is no bipartisanship in Congress and that ultimately, there is no hope. We’ve drawn battle lines in the sand and it would take a miracle from God above for politicians to work across the aisle from one another. The media has taken a gloomy attitude towards all of this and I believe it has become an echo chamber of divisiveness and despair. But are we really that divided? Is there really no common ground? Are we doomed to have partisan fights over every little thing forever?
Well like I said, the media (and most of the articles I found online) have taken up the cause of pointing out the differences between Americans whether that be the divide between Conservative and Liberal, Midwest America vs. the East Coast and West Coast, the generational divide between Gen X and Millennials, or the divide between supporters of our 45th President and the protesters who refuse to support him and normalize him. This type of reporting had led to the idea of division to seep into the core of people all over the country. A Gallup poll taken a few weeks after the November election showed that 77% of Americans perceive the nation as divided, while the only other time in recent history the percentage got that high was when it reached 69% in 2012 (also an election year). So more than three-fourths of Americans believe this nation is divided and anyone who works in politics, polling, or statistics know that 75%+ is a huge margin of people. You at home may very well be a part of the 77%. But I don’t know that I am. I mean on one hand, this election cycle was brutal with all kinds of mudslinging from both sides and we had very divisive candidates running for President. Both sides spewed such hatred for each other and I definitely took notice. Maybe I was too young for the 2012 election, but I don’t remember it getting this bad when Mitt Romney ran against Barrack Obama. The rhetoric was nowhere as heated compared to the rhetoric coming from Hillary Clinton or our current President.
I think the divisiveness comes from not only the media, but also from people who thrive off the “us vs. them” mentality. Sometimes it can come from the political parties who want to win over supporters by demonizing the politicians on the other side of the political spectrum while other times it’s the media that thrives off blood on the streets and riots that spike their ratings. This divisiveness can also come from political outsiders who want to set up the narrative of “the people vs. Washington DC” so they can win the people over without giving too many specifics about how things are going to change. Mixing this with the environment that the internet and social media can create an environment where you can post things anonymously and spew hate without having to show your face. All of these factors help cultivate a breeding ground for divisive language and people drawing lines in the sand separating supporters from enemies. People are made to take a side in a war against enemy that they are supposed to hate.
By now I’ve probably convinced you to give up all hope and just adopt the mentality that the US is too divided and can’t be changed. The future might look bleak but I do believe there is a silver lining to all these dark clouds. Fortunately for us, I don’t think that this divisiveness is the whole picture. I know that I can be overly optimistic at times, but I do think that we can use that positive attitude for good. I think that people can come together and affect real change. Maybe our new President is divisive and maybe the media keeps using that to boost their ratings, but ultimately change comes from the people. We are the ones who either get to listen to the media’s disparaging message and use divisiveness as an excuse for inaction, or we can come together and help each other out and find a common cause. Even if we disagree 75% of the time, we can choose to focus on the other 25% of the stuff we agree on. We can accomplish a lot within that space and in return that might also bring more people together as we lead by example. It’s a domino effect that starts with one action of people putting down their harsh words and picking up a mantle of togetherness and cooperation.
So are we a deeply divided nation? Maybe. Maybe not. That decision falls on us as citizens of the Untied States. No one else gets to tell us if we are able to work withe each other. We make that decision for ourselves. So choose to disregard labels and to think of each other as people who want what is best for our country even if they have a different perception on how to do that. I say that we give that a try and that attitude will become the new normal instead of fighting and bickering.
P.S. If you share my optimism about bipartisanship going forward, I’d recommend checking out No Labels which is an non-partisan organization dedicated to being a platform for bipartisanship and cooperation among elected officials
Reminder: Keep all discussion civil and on topic. I do not want to shut down free speech but I will if the speech is hateful and/or not-constructive. Thank you.