How divided are we?

We’ve known, for several decades, that America is a divided nation, separated in Red and Blue.  We also know that the tapestry of this country is very purple – an indication that Red and Blue are not relegated to specific regions of the country, but coexisting throughout middle-America. 
So while we may appear purple, appearances are also deceiving.  The more interaction I have with people on issues – political or otherwise – I’m convinced we are as divided as we’ve been in over a century.  

Take for example, the recent pepperspraying of students on the University of California Davis campus.  Over 60,000 people have taken the time to call for Chancellor Katehi’sresignation for allowing campus police, whose sole job exists for the protection of the students attending the university, to pepper spray protestors exercising constitutional rights to freedom to gather and freedom of speech.

On the flip side of this, there are an equal (if not larger) group of people that believe these student-demonstrators to be rabble rousers and actually deserved to be pepper sprayed.  I can’t quite get my mind around this, but it forces me to acknowledge that other points of view exist and that my own is probably in the minority.

This same divide is what drives the failure of this nation to do simple tasks as we are divided on ideological sides.  The recent failure of the ironically named “Super Committee” to reach an agreement on budgetary issues is a microcosm of the larger cancer eating this nation.  Six democrats and six republicans – all elected by “we the people” to govern – can’t.  Cannot do it.  Will not do it.  Despite appearances of compromise, neither party can make big strides toward the middle without believing that doing so would alienate their constituents on either side of the aisle.

Such is congress, such is America.  A nation divided.  We see common events through different prisms, interpret and process information differently so that every new data point that emerges fits neatly into our preconceived viewpoints of how things work.

We all have our biases and our points of reference.  It explains why so many Americans choose to take their news from Fox, CNN, or MSNBC.  Each “main stream media” outlet pandering to the viewership that elects to tune in.

What I do admit to being somewhat incredulous about is how so many people of my generation have essentially become this guy:

Archie Bunker was the prototypical misanthrope.  Despite Norman Lear’s intent “that Bunker be strongly disliked by audiences. Lear was shocked when Bunker quietly became a beloved figure to much of middle America. Lear thought that Bunker’s opinions on race, sex, marriage, and religion were so wrong as to represent a parody of right wing bigotry.” Bunker was representative of the Nixon White House “Silent Majority” that elected him in 1968 and returned him to office in 1972. 

Today’s “Silent Majority” is no longer silent.  Between 24X7 conservative talk radio, Fox News, Facebook, and twitter, there are multiple outlets for the New Silent Majority to express their opinions on everything – from the “idiots” on the UC Davis Campus to a Facebook proposal to slap a person for dressing a way they dislike then taking pictures of that person while they are on the ground.  The same drivers apply.

It’s not terribly funny – in researching this article – to find that Archie Bunker was 47 years old when All in the Family debuted in 1971.  I always pictured him as significantly older and now find that we are of a similar age, only 40 years removed.
“Boy, the way Glen Miller played. Songs that made the Hit Parade. Guys like us, we had it made. Those were the days! Didn’t need no welfare state. Everybody pulled his weight Gee, our old LaSalle ran great. Those were the days! And you knew where you were then! Girls were girls and men were men. Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again. People seemed to be content. Fifty dollars paid the rent. Freaks were in a circus tent. Those were the days! Take a little Sunday spin, go to watch the Dodgers win. Have yourself a dandy day that cost you under a fin. Hair was short and skirts were long. Kate Smith really sold a song. I don’t know just what went wrong! Those Were the Days!”

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One Response to How divided are we?

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is simply a sad but true description of many people today. Ignorance is bliss maybe, however I feel it breeds distrust, judgment and intolerance. What a shame. People should not strive to accept being narrow minded and senselessness of basic facts. And this was my dad's fav show. I would watch it and thought 'huh? no way…! ' I was so young but even then I knew people were better than this.

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