From Here & Back Again
By Jim Coufal
(Cazenovia, NY – March 2012) We’ve long heard about “red states and blue states,” and many probably remember when the democrats could count on carrying southern states in a vote. Even so, we felt a unity of country despite our differences, at least when at war with a common enemy.
But currently, we have a problem with “enemies,” especially common enemies that we all rallied to oppose. First, there is no obvious enemy to rally the country against. Terrorism is too diffuse, as opposed to Nazism, communism, etc., although for a time after Sept. 11, 2001, we were ready to strike with shock and awe.
Our “enemies” are too often now our fellow citizens.
Second, there is no “loyal” opposition, just politicians and parties that seek office, power and aggrandizement, where demagogues lying propaganda spreads like wildfire and where much of the south cannot let go of the Civil War and slavery.
I wonder whether we have any feeling of unity of country, or are we reaching the point of having at least two disparate and quarreling countries?
There are a variety of demographics that point in this direction. Studies show that the blue states pay more in taxes than they get back, while red states get more in taxes than they pay. The blue states have not seen this as much of a problem because, as liberals, they tend to favor progressive taxation.
But they are growing restless as the red states call the liberals communists, socialists, sexual deviates and more and as they try to impose fundamentalist religion as policy and law, while hypocritically having higher divorce rates, more use of pornography and other things they rail against with hypocrisy.
Another divide has been brought home forcefully by the “occupy movement,” that of the poor and unemployed and the wealthy, the 99 percent and the 1 percent. This may not be as geographically neat as the blue/red state divide, but there are places where it is clearly exacerbated by localities outsourcing jobs and bringing in immigrants to take jobs.
Large-scale immigration, much of it illegal, creates more division. Clearly, it has occurred in the past, but then America was seen as a mixing bowl rather than a tossed salad. For all the talk of tolerance, we often aren’t.
The differences between environmentalists and materialists (capitalists) also continue to create warring factions. The notion of being at war in such debates creates enemies – materialist calling environmentalists the enemy, for example. Enemies don’t recognize fellow citizens with differences of opinions as owning the same right to hold and to speak of them.
When those who oppose the fact of global climate change in the face of strong international scientific consensus that it is happening, and that humans play a significant role in its happening, assert there is a “conspiracy” using “false science,” the result is a delay in taking steps to ameliorate the problem.
Further, the lack of civility creates yet more tension. Some who oppose hydraulic fracturing use the same tactics with the same results. Those who favor hydraulic fracturing do the same.
It is a “sound-bite” culture.
It may seem that I am just fishing for examples here, and that we have always had such differences, so what is different now? One thing is the correlation between higher religious beliefs and lower IQ scores found by many studies, as well as correlations between income and education, and others, all underscoring differences.
This is in a time of increasing anti-intellectualism. The Bush administration’s disdain and misuse of hard science is well-known. The “dumbing down of America” will be the subject of a future column, but one example here will need to suffice. Prior to the famous “Dover Trial,” where creationists pushed to have creationism taught as part of public school science cases, a local Dover reverend in support of this said, “We’ve been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture.”
Bad enough that he didn’t recognize that he had painted himself and his supporters as the less intelligent and educated segment of our culture, but after the trial was badly lost, he went on to say, “It seems to me that it’s the educated segment of society that reads the books and get the new ideas … that’s the basis of our culture wars that we have going on now.”
Notice the reference to “wars.” And since when is having “new ideas” a bad thing?
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum chastised President Barack Obama for saying that all Americans should go to college, including trade schools. Our founding fathers, especially James Madison and Thomas Jefferson warned that for democracy to work, we needed an educated and involved citizenry, including a citizenry that would cry out over the downright foolishness of the statements of the reverend and Santorum.
The key is a growing lack of tolerance along with a growing lack of civility in a time of a love of war imagery. We plod along creating differences so that fellow citizens become enemies, and so that those with ideas are looked down upon, and expect things to get better.
Jim Coufal of Cazenovia is a part-time philosopher and full-time observer of global trends. He can be reached at email@example.com.