Articles

Divisions within America

Why do they hate this country? Of all the countries in the history of the world one might think that the United States of America would be the most loved, respected, and even exalted compared to all others. This is not just a sentimental and biased reflection from an American national but can be amply supported by a host of data, indicators, and the overall historic record.

Nor does the assertion ignore or gloss over the multiplication of mistakes, errors of policy and judgment, plus social experience that has plagued the American past.

The first, and probably most critical, task is to uncover the fundamental meaning of the word “hate” and to appreciate if it belongs in the cultural milieu. The key expressions of the strict dictionary meaning is “intense and passionate dislike,” which defines “love” as the same without the preface “dis” at the end. They both can be easily demonstrated in the public arena, but neither definition explains reasons why.

Foregoing the sociological “whys” of the love-hate scenario, one would have to be both blind and deaf to contradict that both sentiments now dominate popular discourse, no matter where or when each emotion surfaces. Emotion, as well, must also be recognized as the dominate persuasion in this discourse, as opposed to “intellectual,” “reflective,” or “dispassionate.”

Defined as the “… instinctive state of mind deriving from circumstances, mood or relationships,” emotion prevails when and wherever such discussions arise, either at a sporting event, TV or newspaper op-ed, campus talk, or dinner chatter. Evident of this phenomenon was a recent Virginia school board meeting that ended with fistfights between both sides of an educational issue (Critical Race Theory). The national disruptions from the symbolic death of George Floyd last year only highlights this national mania. Also symbolic is the literature itself, such as the feminist tract Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger (Soraya Chemaly). At one point in 2020, The New York Times top ten bestsellers (nonfiction) were all, repeat all, on the issue of American “racism.”

To ask “why” all of this requires a psychiatrist’s couch (and I don’t have one). But the cause of today’s issues can be traced to the beginning of the Republic, as our first president once (1796) wrote in his Farewell Address on the subject “spirit of party”:

“This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its roots in the strongest passions of the human mind.  … It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasional riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption…”

Sound familiar?

If there is anything “systemic” in this country (as opposed to “racism”), it would be this.

Yet all of this belies the otherwise beneficial history of the USA, despite the many faults one can find in its “sociology.” As representative of the “human condition,” the American “people” reflect the self-same shortcomings that geopolitical realities have visited upon the remainder of humanity, to include poverty, slavery, dictatorship, social division, depression, crime, sectional jealously, gang rivalries, geographical distinctions, etc. etc.

The distinct American contribution to this “human condition” has been the political: “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness” and all that followed this declaration through civil war, depression, inequity and, now, cultural distinctions based on emotion and ideology.

Can the country overcome the current cultural outpourings and survive? History says yes:

  • The American contribution in warfare may well be the greatest in all history: victory in the two greatest wars of all time by a nation embedded with isolationism, divided at home, and with an anti-military cultural past;
  • Near half-century of “Cold War” against world Communism, ending with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, without a “shot being fired” amidst tens of thousands of nuclear weapons;
  • The introduction of a “democratic” mission in the political world and the establishment of a “world order” based on that principle and still evident seventy years afterward;
  • Survival of a civil war that took nearly 3% of the population but restored a unity that has held together since;
  • Survival of an economic depression that saw 25% unemployed and the closure of 9,000 banks in a decade, resulting afterward in the greatest prosperity regime of all history;
  • Arrival of an unprecedented historical “superpower” status (1991) by acclamation despite a deep history of isolation from world politics and deep social divisions at home;
  • Domestic concentration on a single group (Black) since the end of World War II with about 12% of the population, which at times can occupy almost 100% media and government concentration (with an array of programs, plans, and policies), a concentration either unprecedented in all history or profoundly rare;
  • The U.S. has been a “nation of immigrants” (President Kennedy’s phrase) for emigration to its shores from every corner of the world. This has identified most Americans as “hyphenated” with the country of origin named first. Thus, America is unique in historic record, a record the source of both discord and pride from the very beginnings to this very moment.

To answer the (above) question on the future remains a speculation. The weight of “evidence” (above) suggests a positive response, but the “human condition” (above) is a “jury still out.”

Conclusion: I once had a deep cut on my arm. When asked if it was serious, I replied, “it depends on how much I scratch.”