The American Divide

 

picture1“There are seasons in every country when noise and impudence pass current for worth; and in popular commotions especially, the clamors of interested and factious men are often mistaken for patriotism.”

This turn of phrase from Alexander Hamilton, the founding father who graces both the $10 Federal Reserve Note and the Broadway stage at present, is rendered particularly noteworthy given the recent interaction between the cast of the musical Hamilton and Vice-President Elect Mike Pence. Aside from the rich irony of fake history lecturing real history, it is important to remember that as a nation and a society we are at a critical point of immense historical significance.

Leaving the semantics of the event aside, there is clearly a great divide in the hearts and minds of the American people. While the professionally-agitated demonstrations that began immediately after Donald Trump’s election have not led to a general escalation of tensions, the split in our society still remains and the potential for fractious action is perhaps more potent now than ever before. Strong emotions are still percolating, and our culture’s default postmodern worldview of relativism is coming to the forefront. We have been taught that right and wrong and true and false are simply whatever we each deem them to be. This has led to a generational indoctrination that has produced in the populous a profound sense of righteous indignation for anything that is deemed offensive. Our own emotional reactions have become the barometer by which important policy decisions are evaluated.

Safe spaces, calls to ban the Electoral College, censorship, harassment, and the cycle of grief and loss aside, there is an interesting phenomenon developing as the next step in the use of language and ideology to marginalize viewpoints and evidence that cuts against the globalist narrative. Trial balloons have recently been floated that appear to point towards a desire to transition from the nomenclature of ‘conspiracy theorist’ to that of ‘fake news’. Perhaps too many so-called conspiracies have been proven to be accurate for the term to retain its usefulness. Now the attempt will be made to cut off the dissemination or monetization of sources who have found their way onto an arbitrary list of information providers who are generally anti-establishment. The intent is to control the narrative. It will not work. It may, however, exacerbate the plague of confirmation bias that is affecting our nation.

The term ‘fact checking’ likely has Orwell spinning with jealously because he didn’t include it as a division of the Ministry of Truth. Because of the myriad sources of information available to us, we tend to gravitate instinctively towards content that validates our viewpoints. Generally speaking we would prefer not to be challenged – or even triggered – by information that conflicts with our previously established opinions. At this juncture, the ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’ squad has some significant dry powder available in the form of the fear and hatred that the American people feel towards each other. Any substantive conversation is quick to end when people ask each other about their sources of information and then simply declare the other’s sources to be fake or fraudulent. This is claim against claim, a preposterously juvenile form of argument, logic, and reasoning that can be deployed only in a society that has been devoid of instruction in critical thinking.

While none of this is entirely surprising, the real question concerns the intractability of the divide. In such rancorous political and cultural times as these, it would be unreasonable to expect everyone to simply go back to business as usual after the election of a man who millions of people seem to believe is literally Hitler reincarnate. The underbelly of America is particularly soft and vulnerable in this moment, but the people in general have been so conditioned to their lifestyles that actual grassroots action against the Trump administration is hard to imagine. However, specific and calculated actions undertaken by a small number of well-trained and ruthless individuals could instigate a series of events that leads to more significant conflict. Whether this divide spills over into the violent unraveling of America as we have known it through Balkanization or Civil War remains to be seen, but there are certainly pockets of America who do not have or want any part in what America has traditionally meant for Americans.

Now more than ever we must remain vigilant against potential flash points that could lead to greater conflict in our society. Without going into every detail, it is evident that the economic and financial state of affairs is one of if not the most important areas of vulnerability to such a catalyzing event. While the window dressing of stock prices continues to flash euphoric, our economy is absolutely crippled by debt. Consumers are simply tapped out. Those manipulating the visible data points that are trumpeted as measuring economic success either understand that the unsustainable cannot be sustained indefinitely or are actually insane enough to believe their own propaganda. In any case, when the supports that have been built to prop up the dying financial system are credibly threatened with removal or actually removed, we will have a dangerous and combustible situation on our hands that has the potential to transform our ideological divide into a gravely violent conflict.

Our debt cannot be repaid honestly without destroying our currency. Pensions and other programs will not be able to deliver on their promised payouts. This is not a matter of conspiracy or fake news: it’s simple math. The current paradigm is on its last legs, and the consumer is flashing warning signs. We are living in a perilous place at a perilous time. If simple boos and jeers from people of opposing political ideas in a Broadway theater and sharper than usual chatter with family at Thanksgiving is the worst that arises from this period, then we should be profoundly grateful. Nonetheless, we cannot ignore the potential outcomes and must prepare for them accordingly.

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