Have you ever had a discussion with someone and you come to realize that they are not just unwilling to but are utterly incapable of even understanding your position? I don’t mean agreeing with it. I mean having the capacity to comprehend it at all. Do you feel as if you and this person are living in two very different versions of the Matrix? I’ve had this experience with several otherwise very bright individuals as of late. Politics will do that, and I have my theories as to why it seems to be more so these days than it used to. I think it illustrates why the calls for “unity” from the ostensible 2020 Election winner will fall on deaf ears for some 71 million Americans, and, more to the point, why the other 72 million will be baffled as to why.
Division is nothing new in this country. One only need pull up video of Chicago’s Grant Park in 1968 to see that the left/right schism has been with us for decades. And some similarities exist. As with today, the forces of leftist social and political change needed a rallying point. Their Donald Trump was Vietnam.
The difference between the 1960s and today, however, is that both sides at least had a common understanding of their nation. Recall the song What Is America To Me? The odds were whether you were pro-Nixon or pro-McGovern, you had a similar answer. But for the fringe radical groups who waved North Vietnamese flags or burned crosses, most Americans left or right believed in the intrinsic goodness and promise of this nation. Those on the right sought to preserve it, fearing the advent of the social dysfunction we see today. Those on the left sought not to burn it down, but prod it to more closely align with its founding principles. And the vast majority believed in a nation predicated upon civil rights, fighting just wars when necessary, equality before the law. These were common bedrock understandings. “God bless and preserve America” and “Very true, but we can do better” could still sit at the table together and, if not always agree, at least comprehend the other side’s rationale. Both sides, for example, wanted to alleviate poverty. They each had the same aspiration. The argument wasn’t about the goal, but rather the most effective policies—reliance on free markets versus government activism, say—to achieve that goal.
Alas, I do not see such underpinning commonality today. Because what has been forming for many years is not just a political rift, but a psychological one. And this makes the divisions much more pronounced and, perhaps, insurmountable as in order to make common cause with another, it is essential to believe in the same reality. But we do not. Turn on CNN and then Fox, read The New York Times and then The New York Post and you will feel like you are on two different planets. All is political. News is filtered through this lens. And since the vast majority of the media aligns with one narrative, balance is gone.
Donald Trump, for all his faults, brazenly exposed this imbalance; “fake news” is now in the journalistic lexicon. And he was right to do so. The greatest lie perpetrated by the legacy media and the Democrat Party (but I repeat myself) has been that the epicenter of the division and “hate” in this country has been Donald Trump himself. He is like Satan in the center of Dante’s hell who blasts out his cold winds of hatred, bigotry, and division into the world. For the left-leaning masses this narrative is an easily digestible morsel that allows them to do what seems to be their forte these days: distill the most complex, deep, historically grounded and multi-faceted issues of politics and culture down to a simple bumper sticker or obnoxiously self-righteous lawn sign. But what is happening to America cannot be encapsulated in bromides like “Hate Has No Place Here” or “Black Lives Matter”.
The divisions are deeper than many wish to admit. Social media has done its bit for sure by both coarsening the dialogue and hardening the barriers. The documentary The Social Dilemma reveals how the algorithms of platforms like Facebook and Twitter are designed to feed us what we like to see and hear to get more interaction, and thus will a Trump supporter find him/herself interacting more with MAGA people and a Biden supporter more with BLM. It is an insidious feedback loop that corrals us into separate camps, fences us off from other ideas, and then reinforces our own viewpoints with like-minded content. (I have over 400 Facebook friends and yet I seem to only interact with the same 25 or so, most of whom just echo my own thoughts. This is how learning becomes indoctrination).
And yet, the various medias are just amplifiers and accelerators, not the root causes, of the core division that has been gelling in this nation literally for generations. They could not be so effective without a pre-existing schism to exploit. The simple fact is that today there is a good chunk of this country’s inhabitants who do not believe in America as an idea. They topple the statues of our Founders. They talk of effectively tearing up the Constitution by purging it of the very checks and balances that make it work. They embrace the very Marxist ideology that several generations proved to be a failed idea, and one the USA opposed for half a century. How do you engage with people who do not even understand, let alone believe in, their own country? So how did such a shift in attitude from “God Bless America” to “God Damn America” take place? How could it?
The real culprit is the generations of leftist indoctrination in our public schools and universities. Take the founding and history of America itself. In my lifetime, for example, Columbus has gone from hero to villain. Every Founding Father who was not a hard-core abolitionist is now remembered not as a far-sighted, brilliant, if flawed, man who laid the foundations for the greatest nation in the history of mankind, but rather a slave owner, or one who certainly was okay with the institution, and, most damning of all, a white heterosexual male. Our story is now relayed as one continuous dirge of conquest, betrayal, infestation and genocide on the part of the European white man against, well, everyone else. School children are led to believe that the indigenous people the European interlopers encountered were docile fawns in Arcady, living in utopian harmony with nature. As the native records of mass human sacrifice, tribal war, enslavement, and torture tell us, the scenes of primitive horror actually taking place in the New World pre-white man weren’t quite so rosy.
And so we have been cleaved into two competing realities. Somewhere along the way the term “THE truth” became “YOUR truth.” That’s not the way it works. As many soon-to-be-disillusioned unity seekers will find out in due time.
No better example of competing realities exists than in any discussion over who is to blame for the divisions we now face. I tried to have a conversation with someone who was a hardcore anti-Trumpite who cannot fathom why every American isn’t eager to “unite” around Joe Biden. As if in his world all that was needed was Joe the Jedi Master to toss the Bad Orange Emperor down the reactor shaft and balance would be restored to the galaxy. To mix movie metaphors, it’s as if the Men in Black held the laser to his eyes and erased any memory of not just the past four years but far longer than that. He has no recollection of the vitriol heaped upon Reagan (the media’s go-to line was he was an “affable fool”) or George W. Bush, who for eight years was a “war criminal” and “Hitler” if memory serves. He has no recollection of uniter Joe Biden speaking before a Black audience in 2012 and warning them that the GOP was “gonna put y’all back in chains!”
And of course, it is as if, in his mind, the past four years never happened. He cannot conceive why tens of millions of Americans are answering a sincere call for unity with “Talk to the hand.” It’s as if his side did not throw a mass temper tantrum for four years, denying that the duly elected president was even that. #Notmypresident and #Resist never happened. The pink pussy hats never marched on D.C. Nancy Pelosi didn’t call the President the “imposter in chief”, a traitor even, or tear up his State of the Union Address on live TV. He has no recollection of left-wing zealots burning our cities, looting our businesses, harassing our police, or proffering false narratives to sow racial strife for political gain. In his truth diners weren’t accosted by screaming mobs. Campus thugs didn’t shout down conservative speakers, dox and drive out professors who didn’t toe the left wing line. Far left activists didn’t bully Christian businesses. The good names of decent and respected jurists weren’t intentionally destroyed. All while the Democrat Party looked on in silent approval, even as they preached “silence is violence.”
Nor in his mind did a rabid Democrat establishment try for four years to overturn the 2016 election by hurling anything they could at the president’s wall hoping something would stick. It’s as if the term Nazi wasn’t bandied about so frequently as to lose its “Nazi-ness”. As if radicals like Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashid Tlaib (D-MI), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) haven’t been calling for Trump supporters to be held accountable for their crimes in language any student of Soviet history would recognize. It’s as if the Democrat Party did not exploit a tragic and destructive pandemic that has killed tens of thousands and put millions out of work with shattered dreams and uncertain futures for political advantage; nor did they cynically use the crisis as a faux pretext for revamping the entire electoral process in their favor.
As Michelle Obama aptly demonstrated in a recent tweet that is about as divisive as it gets, there was certainly half of the country on the side of “lies, hate, division and chaos” this election cycle. What amazes me is that my leftist friend cannot see where it comes from. I pointed out to him that they were boarding up windows not in fear of Trump supporters but Biden supporters. What does that say about which side seeks disunity and chaos?
No matter. I may as well have been talking to a blind water snake. He is not just politically committed to one narrative, but psychologically and emotionally invested. “Facts are stubborn things,” said John Adams. But he never confronted the denial power of Trump Derangement before. For the left, a group that has rejected God in favor of the self, politics is not just a way of viewing the world and affecting outcomes we all want, but rather it is their new religion. Have you tried to have a rational, fact-based discussion with a religious fanatic lately? (See blind water snake reference above). So there will be no “unity”. Because unity first and foremost requires a common reality. Good luck with that.
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