One would have had to have been living completely detached from political, moral, and yes even normal daily discourse to have failed to notice our nation is fractured beyond clear and obvious repair. On social and economic lines we are fully divided.
On the American dream, hard work, responsibility, fair access to social mobility, and other factors related to economic life, a recent poll shows that most of us feel the pressure of our divided culture.
Interestingly, we don’t appear to be divided on the basic question of who to blame.
Across every demographic the view (and, perhaps, the lead to the solution) seems to be the same. Says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, the organization which conducted the poll, “People just feel that those in Washington are not looking out for them,” he said. “They really feel a disconnect.”
Perhaps the problem is not with our leaders in Washington but in something much closer to home.
Its time for introspection.
We ask (or demand) our leaders do certain things, yet those things are clearly not working. Rather than changing course we blame first those who make decisions for us and then, in a close second, we blame those on the other side of the great cultural and political divide. We accuse our political antagonists of all manner of nefarious motivations.
Our economy is failing us because of things we’ve asked for. Our culture is divided because we choose to blame everyone while refusing to question our own political, moral, and economic assumptions. Meanwhile we continue to challenge the assumptions and beliefs of others – often to the point of violence.
Alexis de Toqueville is attributed as saying “in a democracy people get the kind of government they deserve”. Though we are a Constitutional Republic and not a direct democracy, his premise still holds true. We’ve gotten the government (and thus the policies and economy) we insisted on. As a result of the blame game we’ve also gotten the divided culture which results.
Its time for introspection. Its time to challenge ourselves on fundamentals.
Why do we choose to believe the things we do?
Is what we believe true? Does what I know on a particular political position hold up in reality as a fact? What do those folks in that other party or group believe? Are my assumptions about their positions correct? Does what I think they believe (and why I think they believe it) hold up in reality as true?
These questions may appear to be more esoteric than practical, but in today’s fractured culture it is our beliefs, not the facts on the ground, which have divided us. What if we’re wrong?
We can survive any manner of economic calamity. We can endure a financial crisis. We’ve done so before. We can fix bad, misguided, or even immoral economic policies. We can even take a fresh, hard, and tough look at our political system and make changes if need be. We cannot, however, fix a fractured culture by writing laws or by blaming those with whom we disagree. A divided, fractured, broken culture is mere steps away from being a culture on fire. Mark 3:25, quoted by President Lincoln during our nation’s worst period of divided culture, says
“if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”
We must, if we wish for our house to stand, apprehend and correct our failed assumptions and biases. In the next post we’ll take a look at these assumptions and biases and we’ll do some introspection.