Our Age of Divisiveness

by
Jerry Payne

January 7, 2017

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Well, here it is 2017 and I see no let-up thus far on the political divisiveness that’s gripped our country. Even after the impending inauguration of the new president, I don’t imagine there will be any let-up. If anything, it might only get worse.

What makes this interesting to me (in a train wreck sort of way), is that the more politically divisive people around me become, the more apolitical I become. I’ve noticed within myself an inverse relationship between my interest in politics and the level of enmity in the political discourse that surrounds me. And it’s not just because I can’t abide all the hostility (although that’s a big part of it). Mostly, it’s because, for some reason, I find myself naturally gravitating more towards gray areas whenever I am badgered with political positions that are presented to me in stark black and white.

This presentation, it seems to me, is what has so clearly marked this past year. You either love Trump or hate him. You either love Hillary Clinton or you hate her. His positions are either totally right or totally wrong. If you’re a Republican, you’re a racist white fascist. If you’re a Democrat, you’re a whiny liberal communist. That’s all either side seems to see in the other.

Meanwhile, I suspect I’m not the only one who believes both sides have reasonable, rational, intelligent arguments to be made about very important things. But we live in an age where one feels compelled to hitch one’s wagon to only one side, rejecting the other side’s viewpoints entirely and, indeed, denigrating them beyond recognition.

This leaves me on the outside looking in. There doesn’t seem to be a place for a guy like me in today’s political world. And so I find myself reluctant to participate. But is this such a bad thing?  We’re always told it’s important as a citizen to be engaged in our political process, but what if you find the political process completely unappealing? And what if none of the available political powers represent your viewpoints and you know you can do nothing to change this?

Humphrey Bogart’s character seemed to understand this midway through Casablanca. “You’ll excuse me, gentlemen,” he said, leaving a table of two German officers and one French policeman. “Your business is politics, mine is running a saloon.”

Maybe it’s enough to understand your own business. Mine is ghostwriting and I’ll write your book no matter what your politics. My only real concern, as I think about it, is what might happen when the level of enmity reaches the point of combustion. In The Crucible of Global War: And the Sequence That is Leading Back to It, a book the writing of which I am proud to have played a part in, Christopher Petitt sees today’s political conflict as part of a larger, disturbing trend. After all, the tension we’re seeing now is not in any way limited to the U.S. Political divisiveness is everywhere. Where might it lead?

And so I suppose it might be wise to keep a close eye, even if I’m not inclined to participate. You never know. Things are bad, but they might get worse. Casablanca was set in a time just prior to America’s entry into World War II. Bogey’s character might have started out apolitically, but he didn’t end up that way. Give me something decent to fight for, and I’ll join your cause. Just don’t expect me to jump in while you’re still bickering amongst yourselves. As a country, we can do better than this. Can’t we?

 

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