Divided we fall

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TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA   
May, 2015 

The popular image that Americans like to have of themselves is of one nation, undivided, standing together with friends and against foes, that there is no problem that the American people cannot overcome, symbolized most vividly in the image of the melting pot – that no matter where you come from, no matter what your race or ethnic background, it will all disappear one day and you will become an American.

Horse hockey.

 I tend to think of myself as an optimist. I try to look for the best in people, in situations, and in life in general. But I’m growing increasingly pessimistic about the future of the United States of America. Increasingly I see America is not one but two countries: one is rich, white, older, male, conservative, hyper-religious, racist, bigoted and misogynist. The other America is populated with people of colour, the poor, the young, individuals who do not fit into the status quo notion of sexual or gender stereotypes, women (especially poor women of colour), and those who I referred to as progressive “white refugees,” who have fled conservative white America and what it stands for. 

The size of the first group above is shrinking and in some cases dramatically so, while the second group is growing both in numbers and in political clout. This terrifies the first group, and they have decided to defend their beliefs (and the privileges that go along with them) at any cost. The result is an increasing gap in almost every category you can measure.

According to a recently released survey, America now has the fourth largest gap between rich and poor in the world. Only Turkey, Chile and Mexico fare worse. When you consider the incredible wealth of the world’s only superpower, this is a staggering statistic. It illustrates how wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals who spend much of their time only trying to make sure that the system is rigged to concentrate even more economic power in their hands. 

You can see this divide in the comments of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, when he told a small group of wealthy supporters that 47% of people in the country are basically freeloaders totally dependent upon the government for everything.

You increasingly see this gap occurring around issues about race. How many more Fergusons or Baltimores or New Yorks or Clevelands are we going to need before we face the truth that there is an ugly streak of institutionalized racism that run through police departments across this nation? But those in the first group don’t want to face this issue. Their thoughts on the subject can best be summed up in a recent statement by Politico conservative writer Rich Lowry who said that “Not all black lives are worth saving.”

Politically, you see this gap widening almost day by day over issues like gay marriage, immigration, womens’s reproductive health, climate change, contraception, programs that support the poor, health-care, gun legislation, treatment of minorities like Muslims, and the list goes on and on. While there have always been differences on these and many other important issues between these two groups, in the last decade has become a veritable chasm of Grand Canyon proportions. 

And I’m afraid that the very medium on which you are reading this column is part of the reason. The Internet, for all the many positive things it does, has basically allowed Americans to read only those views that basically support the biases or prejudices that they hold. When added to the influence of cable TV news channels that only present liberal or conservative viewpoints, and in the case of a channel like Fox “News,” views that are often distorted lies and manipulated information masquerading as “the truth,” people can go months without ever actually stumbling across an opposing point of view.

Never has there been a time when we have more access to information and so little exposure to facts.

I wish I could offer you some kind of a solution, some kind of a 30,000 foot-view that basically said it’s all okay, it’ll all work out okay. But I really can’t. Both sides are entrenched for the long run, with little hope of a truce on the horizon. I certainly can’t pretend that I see both groups equally – I absolutely find myself in the latter group, constantly bemoaning the actions of the former. But as much as I find some of their actions despicable I would be more than willing to compromise to something that both sides could agree to.

Maybe right now I just can’t see the forest for the trees, but there are so many trees, so many issues that demand our attention, but will probably never be dealt with. 

Because how can you solve a problem when you can’t even agree on what the problem actually is? And that is America’s problem.

 

References:

 

These Countries Have The Widest Gap Between The Rich And The Poor, Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/29/countries-rich-poor-gap_n_7471214.html

 

Copyright Tom Regan 2015 

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.

 

 

 

 

 

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