Monday, October 27, 2008

Deeply Divided

This is a subject that I'd like to explore later, when I actually have a moment to breathe.

We constantly hear the lament (usually in an election year) that the American people are "deeply divided" on social issues. We also hear in the same breath how we, the American people, just want someone to come along and "unite" us. Only then will the clouds part, the birds sing, and America regain her rightful place as the unchallenged leader on the world stage, economically, militarily, and morally.

My question is, why is being divided a bad thing, per se?

This is an indication that something is:
1) important enough to be both energizing and polarizing
2) a sign that something is deeply, radically wrong in our culture
3) the outcome depends on just who cares more

Being divided is a kind of societal pain, and pain is the body's natural mechanism to tell us that SOMETHING IS WRONG. Rather than seek a way to ignore or anesthetize the pain, the important thing is doing something to address the root cause. Pain is not bad by itself, it is a signpost to the real malady.

Mrs. Nod pointed out to me a long time ago, that having the debate is half the point. (Isn't public spirited debate a quintessential American value?) In India, for example, abortion is no longer a topic of public debate, it is simply accepted as a normal means of (post)contraception, as bland as having a tooth filling. A former co-worker of Mrs. Nod (originally from India) was simply puzzled by our preoccupation with the subject.

So, let's be divided for now: talk and debate. When the root cause of our society's pain has been addressed, the division that causes us so much angst will magically disappear.

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