A Divided Nation

Well finally the election is behind us.  After much wrangling, fighting, differences of opinion. political ads and general animosity towards one another,  we have come to the end of the debate, only to find ourselves not much different as a country.  Obama won, the republicans maintained the house, and the democrats maintained control of the senate. No matter how hard we try we seem at current times to be hopelessly locked in an ideological debate on the economy and a biblical debate on society.   We seem hopelessly engaged in an argument between Democrats and Republicans.  Between conservatives and liberals. The United States Congress consistently in polls show that most Americans view Congress unfavorably.  The decibel levels seem to increase on both sides, ever getting louder, ever getting angrier.   Based on the results I expect these voices, these emotions only to get louder in the coming 4 years.  If the last election gives us any glimpse of the future it may be that we are starting to change direction on a whole host of issues, driven by demographic shifts in the United States.  Shifts that have been apparent for years but are now coming into focus as votes get counted.

Our 40th President, Ronald Reagan was the catalyst of a lot of the current debate, or if you want to be historically correct you can go back to Arizona Senator and Republican Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, the father of the modern conservative movement.  The basis really being as Reagan put it, “Government can’t help you solve the problem, government it is the problem”.    At the time by many people the role of government and the taxation of individuals and corporations had grown too large and was not enabling a robust economy but restricting a growing economy.  And so the wealth was distributed to the wealthy, in Reagan’s vision of trickle down economics.  The idea if those at the top invest their hard-earned dollars we all benefit as it creates jobs for those at the bottom (perhaps a bit simple but you get the idea).  Along the way the voices became louder until it seemed like everyone was screaming at each other and no one was listening to what the other had to say.  Some argued we needed to go further with tax reductions.  Others arguing that the low-income was being reduced to serve those at the top.

Part (or maybe a lot) can be contributed to the age we live in.  The age of information.  Our media has taken sides.  Is there a left-wing media bias? Yes.  Is there a right-wing media bias? Yes.  I get tired of anyone who tells me there is a media bias, simply because there is news out in the world to mesh with any political bent.  If there is an audience that can be targeted and profited from in this great bastion of capitalism it will be found.  Everyone claims to be the truth.  Glenn Beck, apparently the truth.  Rush Limbaugh, the truth.  Rachel Maddow..the truth.  Left or right. it does not matter.  The truth can be bent to meet your views.  I will give the media credit for election night, be it FOX, CNBC, MSNBC, or CNN they all just focused on the numbers.  Numbers are nice because they are real.  My preference from our media is they just state the facts and let us, the listeners (and I emphasize listeners) can make our own decisions.  But media is no different from any other business, it needs to generate revenues and revenues are tied to ratings.  If some one screaming and yelling into a microphone can generate an audience and thus dollars then there will be a corporation to back them. The short is I do not hold out much hope if any for a return to journalism.

The internet has not been very helpful at all in this regard as people seem top gravitate to websites that are in line with their own views.  You can find right-wing and left-wing web sites.  The problem I have is I can see it leads to a very narrow view of the world, as people are fed a constant diet of rhetoric that serves more as self validation rather than educating and informing individuals.  The web is the wild west of opinion, it’s the beauty of freedom of speech on a global scale, but with that comes a level of self-responsibility.  But the  power of the keyboard can and is mightier than the sword.  The audience is fed a steady diet of views that border on hatred.  It is not the first time in history, but if you look back into history of the individuals and governments that have been associated with these type of tactics you would not want to be associated with any of them, if you are concerned for humanity.

When we look at the issues that divide our country they seem to cover a wide spectrum of the fiscal and the social.  Between those wanting less government and those wanting more.  Those wanting more social freedoms and those wanting a more biblical approach to how society functions.  In our first decade of the new century these divisive issues have been challenged by some major events – the attacks on America on 9/11 and the financial crisis that rocked the global economy in 2008 and both continues to ail us to this day.  The first brought us together and then as we started to wage wars it started to tear at our fabric as a nation.  On the one end of the spectrum there are those that seem to always favor a tough military approach versus those on the other end if the spectrum who never favor a military approach.  On fiscal policy there are those who say let capitalism (Darwinism) work and let companies and jobs go under.  That the system will fix itself.  Others ask the government to intervene.  To stop the bleeding protect the economy.  Each have valid arguments.

As we move forward, this past election offers a glimpse into the future.  We saw several states pass laws legalizing the stupid drug, marijuana (people who smoke a lot of pot are not the sharpest tools in the shed).  The promise being more revenues to state governments   This comes at a time when many state governments are being forced to cut budgets as state revenues have decreased with the economic downturn.  In my home state of Washington it was interesting in that there were ads both left and right supporting the passage of this initiative.  More revenues while freeing up the court systems.   In Washington they also passed marriage equality, one of those issues that has garnered increased velocity over the past fifteen to twenty years, as what was once in the closet has been placed out in the open.  The young do not seem to listen to everything that their elders tell them and that can only be positive for the country moving forward.

We are a divided nation, but as I look back at the past election I remain positive about the country.  Not because of the results but the dialog that it has spurred.  The recognition that this is truly a country that is a melting pot.  Not just of catholic and protestants.  Not of Mormon and of Baptist.  But a country of Koreans and African-Americans.  Of Chinese and Latinos.  Of Islam and Christians.  We are diverse and becoming more diverse with each year.  Our country socially and economically will change, as it always has.  It is not to be feared but to be embraced.  In the end this so-called divided nation will stay united.  It was what are fore-fathers had in mind when they created this grand experiment based in the far out Greek philosophy called democracy, or as the Greek story-teller Aesop said, “United we stand, divided we fall”.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann Portland, OR  November 27, 2012

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