My musings on different political topics relevant to America today.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

America: Divided We Fall

The more I think about it the more I realize the reason our politics are so divisive is that America is simply a very divided place.  Its not homogenous and uniform like many other modern democracies like Germany and Japan.  Its a comglomerate of all different sorts of people racially, geographically, religiously, etc. etc.  Combine this with a two party system and its a recipe for the type of politics we currently see.  There is a great divide between the disparate groups that see themselves as conservative versus those other disparate groups that see themselves as liberal.  Those that align with one group or the other, despite the fluidity of these terms as descriptive labels, unfortunately see each other as the enemy.

These two sides are rooted in specific cultural and political temperaments.  I use the word temperament intentionally, because neither is really a political ideology.  This is key to understand.
Conservatism is essentially respect of tradition.  Its respect for the things our ancestors handed down to us.  Conservatives wish to preserve what was best from the past.  Juxtapose this to liberals, who wish to destroy and replace the things they believe were worse about the past.  In other words, conservatism and liberalism are temperaments more than specific positions on issues. 

 These definitions show that in reality, both parties have conservative and liberal elements.  While of course, both parties tend toward one or the other overall.  The crucial distinction to make politically is whether these conservatives and liberals, are authoritarian or libertarian.  In other words, do they believe the state should be used to enforce their agenda.

Our two parties are both mostly authoritarian now.  They wish to force their vision of the world on the other side.  Authoritarian liberals believe everyone must agree with them otherwise they are haters, and as haters do not deserve the right of free speech, and should be punished.   Authoritarian conservatives, with Donald Trump at the helm, believe that anyone that threatens what they see as American culture, should be forbidden from entering the country, or even deported.  Both believe the state should be used as a cudgel against their cultural enemy. 

Then there is the libertarian side.  This side believes in tolerating the other side.  They may vehemently disagree with the other side and their vision of America, but they refrain from using the state as a tool to suppress the side with which they disagree.  Now the reality is that both parties incorporate authoritarian and libertarian elements, however I find it a disturbing trend that the two parties are becoming more authoritarian instead of less.  Anything is justifed since afterall, the other side is not just wrong, they are the enemy.  As a result, anything done against the enemy is justified, no matter how abhorrent it is.

Donald Trump and everything he does practically is an example of this.  However one still sees plenty of this on the left.  Violently shutting down Donald Trump's rallies is considered acceptable since he is evil.  The Baltimore riots were justified by many on the left as an inevitable consequence of police brutality.  Meanwhile the ranchers occupying a federal building with guns is seen as evil.  Both had a grievance against the state, yet the left only saw the riots as justified.  Meanwhile of course the right sees the ranchers as justified.  I don't think either was justified frankly.  I don't think using violence as a political tool is justified.  I know there is a line somewhere in which it may be acceptable, however I don't believe we are anywhere near that. 

While I disagree with the left on alot of issues, I would never suggest they are the enemy.  The left are people, human beings.  Those on the right are human beings as well.  I think the great issue of our time, is this crazy divide between left and right.  We live in a world in which almost anything is justified because the other side is just that horrible.  We live in a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, in which the two bickering families cannot never let go of their resentment of the other.  Both have legitimate grievances, and as a result they continue to fight, inflicting senseless suffering on eachother because of past wounds.  If we don't learn to forgive and love our "enemies", as cheesy as that sounds, things will only get worse. 

There is a cynical side of me that wonders if this conflict is just inevitable from a historical standpoint.  Its very rare that two opposing sides forgive and learn to live with each other.  South Africa with Nelson Mandela is perhaps one of the few rare examples in modern history of this happening.  However those rare examples give me hope that we can turn this around.  I choose to believe we can, and I refuse to hate those that disagree with me.  I can only hope others will do the same.

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