Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Those Who Seek To Divide Us...

I have long believed that deep in her heart, America is not as divided as the media, career politicians, and other power seekers would like us to think. I believe that deep down, most Americans want a better life for their families, want to be left alone to pursue their dreams, and wish to simply live life as they see fit. I know that is all I want – to be left alone, to be allowed to keep the fruits of my labor, and to live life as I see fit according to my beliefs.

Naturally, while I do believe these are the things we all want in life here in America, I do recognize that we currently have differences in opinion about how we can obtain these dreams. I would argue, however, that the dividers like the media, politicians, and other power seekers, for their own benefit and to the detriment of the rest of us, have created these differences in opinion by continuing to divide us into pre-defined groups. The side effect of which, has been the distraction of far too many Americans from attaining their dreams, and instead, an unnecessary, continued concentration on the overly inflated differences between us.

Those who seek to divide us for their own prosperity and continued existence, seek to divide us according to things like gender, race, career choice, and net worth, when instead they should be using their voices to unite us as a nation. They should be using their voices to bridge the real gap between us – those who see America as the land of opportunity where anything can be achieved regardless of those very things the dividers use to divide us, and those who have been so pummeled with the divisive message that they have come to believe it, and wrongly, now live their very lives by it instead of fighting against it.

Here is an example of how these dividers quietly accomplish this goal, which also leads to the revelation that this divisiveness is what has put us into the two camps that, in turn, the dividers point to and say is the reason we are divided, instead of admitting that, in fact, they are the source of our divisiveness.

Each year, Time magazine selects a person of the year that they claim, for better or worse, has been the most influential person in the world. This time around, they naturally have chosen Donald Trump. In the video in which Time Editor-in-Chief, Nancy Gibbs, explains why they chose Trump, she states: 

“One of the things that was remarkable in going to see him to interview him is to be in that penthouse, which is the most ostentatious imaginable marble and mirrors and gold, and see him in the suit and the diamond cufflinks. There’s a kind of dissidence that we pressed him about of how is it that the billionaire is the tribune of the working man? He said he thought that it had to do with that he wasn’t a phony – that there have certainly been wealthy politicians before who in some cases would bend over backwards to make themselves appear like the common man, or do anything that they could, eating the corn dog at the Iowa state fair, and wearing a flannel shirt in New Hampshire. I think he had a very strong instinct that his wealth and the flamboyant display of his wealth was not a liability, that it was actually an asset.”

This statement got me thinking about one of the most staunch and apparent differences in what the Time magazine cover calls “The Divided States of America”, as well as the root cause of this difference. I agree that we are a nation divided – a nation divided in principles and a nation divided in hopes and aspirations. And while I agree there are racists and homophobes and all sorts of others –ists –isms and –phobes living out there on the fringe ends of the political spectrum in this country, I also believe that a large majority of Americans are actually none of these things that the dividers use to steer us to their desired end through fear.

I do, however, believe there is a very real chasm between two sides in this country, and it is one that we must address – one that is clearly pointed out in Nancy Gibbs’ statements about how a billionaire could possibly serve as the tribune of the hard working people of America, and we can explain this phenomenon in two words: aspiration and perspective.

Ask a conservative who they blame for their plight in America today and they will say the government. Ask that same conservative what the key is to prosperity and they will tell you business. Ask a liberal who they blame for their plight in America today, and they will say business. Ask that same liberal what the key is to prosperity and they will tell you government. Granted, reality is not as clearly defined as this example, but you can easily see the relevance of this take on the American political spectrum today.

If you do not believe that you can achieve anything in this country because there is an entire group of people – business people – holding you back, then you see a successful businessman like Trump as an embodiment of the evil that is conspiring against you. If you believe that you can achieve anything in this country because those business people build companies and provide jobs, then you see a successful businessman like Trump and the embodiment of hope and aspiration.

If you believe that the entire corporate structure in America has been stacked against you, then you look to the government for salvation. If you believe that the entire government superstructure in America has been created to steal the fruits of your labor, then you look to business for salvation.

And this is why you can pluck one working man off of the street – one who has bought into the liberal idea that the cards in America are stacked against him and that there is this mythical group of –ists, -isms, and –phobes constantly working against him – and have that working man tell you that Trump is history’s greatest monster, yet can pluck another working man off the street – one who has bought into the conservative idea that America is the land of opportunity and anything can be achieved if he plays by the rules and works hard, and that there is no mythical group of –ists, -isms, and –phobes, only a bloated government that needs his hard-earned money to survive and perpetuate itself – and have that working man tell you that Trump is an aspirational figure that represents that working man’s own potential for success in America today.

I hate to continue to narrow the differences caused by the divisiveness perpetuated by the media, politicians, and power seekers down to such a clearly defined line, but let me give you one more example. You take a young person in their early 20s who has just started their career and you show them a picture of what embodies success to them, and then ask if they too can achieve that success, and you will get one of two responses.

I believe the person who was raised on the idea that they were born in the greatest country in the world that provides people with the greatest opportunity to make something of their lives will tell you that they most definitely aspire to the success in the picture, and that their aspirations of success are achievable.

I also believe the person who was raised on the idea that they were born in an oppressive country that is filled with –ists, –isms, and -phobes that are constantly working against them will tell you that the type of success in the picture can only make someone miserable, that success of that type can only be achieved on the backs of others, and that not only is the scene in the picture not attainable for them, but in fact, is the last thing that they would want for their life, even though the image actually and truly embodies that person’s very definition of success.

And this is where the dividers have left us. They have successfully used their voice to classify us into every category under the sun and divide us into all these tiny little groups, which have led us to unite these groups into two camps – the so-called haves, and the so-called have-nots – even though each one of us has the same opportunities in life here in America. Yes, not entirely exactly the same, but still, the best opportunity of anyone else in any other time on this planet. Then, we all fight amongst each other while the dividers perpetuate their message of division, further solidifying their own existence in this world by point to us and blaming us for the divisions they have created.

I propose that the time has come for those of us that the dividers have divided to no longer allow them to divide us. We should hold journalists to what they call themselves – being journalists. We should also hold the elected representatives of the people to what they call themselves as well. And lastly, we, the divided, should come together to remove the division that is being imposed on us by no longer allowing the dividers to classify, categorize, and split us apart.

Photo by Ingo Joseph via Pexels

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