THE POLARIZED EXPRESS

When I look at the news out of ‘Murica, I sometimes think that their civil war (1861 – 1865) never ended: it’s just that the fighting continues using politics as weapons and the streets and law-courts as the battlefields.  There are an endless number of skirmishes on a few familiar topics: my rights vs. community needs, the right to bear arms vs. the right to bare arms, Pro Choice vs. Pro Life, rainbows vs. whites and immigrants vs. build me a wall.   Even if there is a substantial consensus throughout the population on any of these matters, a minority of agitators can influence enough legislators to ensure that nothing is ever resolved. 

Take, for example, gun control.  Polls suggest that a large majority recognize that no one outside the military really needs a rifle that spits out enough bullets to kill a classroom full of students before anyone can mumble ‘SECOND AMENDMENT’.   And yet, we’ve recently seen a teenager bringing such a weapon to a riot, killing people with it and being excused on the grounds he was ‘defending’ himself.  Detractors of the verdict note that he chose to go armed into the streets during the riot and it was evident that no one was attacking his home (too safe to stay home?) His supporters cheer the verdict, looking forward to future riots where all the participants come armed to the teeth in order to ‘defend’ themselves. With crazies from either side actively infiltrating protests to foster violence, the verdict might all too easily make peaceful protests impossible.

It’s a triumph of a political system devoted to fostering divisiveness.  Whether you support the ‘Publican party or the Demo-rugrats, there’s a firm belief that only one point of view can lead the country to bliss.  In a ‘winner take all’ system, coming out ahead in every election is all that matters.   Spreading lies, misinformation and demonizing the other side are just part of the tools you use to win.  Perhaps it’s not too hard to understand why ‘Murica’s voting population is completely polarized. 

The problem with a polarized populace, swept up in a vortex of misinformation, is that the system rewards the best liars.  Too many people come to believe that rigid ideology and party loyalty is more important than building a consensus around what the country actually needs.

Take, for example, race relations.  Moving to equality means fighting a long history of white entitlement, the extent of which is not often recognized by those who are the entitled.  Watching a representative of ‘law and order’ killing a black man by kneeling on his neck will have a different impact on black people than it will on the entitled. The entitled may be horrified but, to black people, it seems to take an awful lot of work to get the justice system to work as it should.

And yet, every once in a while, there’s a glimmer of hope. Yesterday’s courtroom verdict in Georgia is a healthy sign that a deeply divided ‘Murica is capable of making ‘Black lives matter’ more than just a cynic’s idea of keeping enough of them around to use as target practice.

TL;DR

Political parties are the problem with politics.

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