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Michael Matteo: The divided states of America

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

“We have met the enemy and he is us” is a quote from an old comic strip, but there is nothing comical about what is happening in America today. It is no secret that American culture is a polarized culture that isn’t just divided by red and blue colored states; it is a country divided by ideology, politics and visions of what America is and what it should be in the future. According to some, it is a country of victims and victimizers, capitalists and socialists, and anarchists and patriots. How many people have canceled friendships due to social media posts and even family members are not safe from being purged from family gatherings for expressing their political views. Should a person in a free society ever fear being estranged or outcast because of their right to voice an opinion?

In a poll by Echelon Insights 82% of Democrats said that the nation’s greatest problem was Trump voters and 79% stated that white nationalism was a major concern for them. 81% of republicans who were surveyed felt that illegal immigration was their greatest concern, and 79% of them believe lack of support for law enforcement is also a significant issue.  

The great divide between people did not happen overnight and it is not new to America. During the American Revolution, many colonists remained loyal to Great Britain, and no time was more polarizing than during the civil war, which led to the deaths of over 620,000 soldiers (2% of the population), and countless civilians. More recently, the 1950s and ’60s had opposing groups forming over the battle for civil rights and ending the war in Vietnam. In each of these instances, there were real issues that confronted Americans. The quest for independence, the freedom of slaves, ending segregation and ending a war that we should never have entered seems so much more significant than the battle over the use of non-gendered pronouns and teaching students that they are either victims or victimizers because of their skin color. Yet, is this these issues and so many others that have Americans at each other’s throats.

According to a study done by the University of Virginia Center for Politics, a majority of democrats see republicans as fascists and a majority of republicans see democrats as socialists (communists). Numerous differences between Biden and Trump voters included the following: 84% of Biden voters surveyed believe that college should be free, compared to only 43% of Trump voters. 92% of Biden voters believe that households that earn more than $400,000 should be taxed, while only 55% of Trump voters believed this policy should be adopted.  

The poll also showed great contempt between the Biden and Trump voters; 80% of Biden voters felt that elected officials in the Republican Party were a danger to American democracy. 84% of Trump voters felt democratic officeholders were a danger to American democracy. 41% of Biden voters surveyed favored secession of blue states and 52% of Trump voters favored secession of red states as a possible solution to the polarization that has afflicted the country.

Secession would be an extreme solution, however, these issues and the disdain, and in some cases, hatred of one group for another does not bode well for the future of America. No country is a Garden of Eden or Utopia, however, to echo Abraham Lincoln’s paraphrase of the biblical quote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln pointed out that America could not endure being a nation that was half slave and half free. Can we, as a nation, endure being half red and half blue? How long can America survive if the average American has contempt for his next-door neighbor because of the campaign sign on his neighbor’s lawn or bumper sticker on his car?

It would seem that the issues of today, though serious to some, pale in comparison to the issues of slavery, war and civil rights. Yet, to many, these issues are like an open wound that keeps growing and the small sore has become so infected that it threatens the entire body.  

What is the solution to keep the country from breaking apart? The solution is actually quite simple because the number of average reasonable Americans far outnumbers those extremists on both sides who support outrageous and divisive positions. Republicans, how many white supremacists do you know and call friends? Democrats, how members of ANTIFA do you call friends?

It is time for all reasonable Americans to come together and compromise on issues and cancel those fringe freaks who take satisfaction in dysfunction and celebrate anarchy.  It is time for the silent majority to act like a majority and demand that journalists report stories responsibly without imposing their political agendas.  It is time for the silent majority for members who lean left and right to find common denominator issues and insist on them. (How many Americans really believe that bathroom rights are a major issue that should keep Americans divided?) It is time to stop allowing politicians to manipulate you through their divisive speeches that demand people take sides and to get behind things like term limits for Congress, which the majority of Americans favor and politicians fear.  It is time to tell the race baiters and political prostitutes that we will not buy their rhetoric or books, which they have used to manipulate others and make personal fortunes for themselves. It is time to tell colleges and universities that we will not send our children to their indoctrination camps that suppress ideas, enforce speech codes and teach students to hate the flag or the values that have made America a superpower and world leader, and that they need to teach useful skills that will allow America to remain competitive in the future. It is time to send a clear message to corporate America that we will no longer buy their products if they continue to support political agendas that will inevitably destroy the same country that allows them to peddle their products. 

If Americans fail to come together as we did after 911, to win WWII and at other crucial times when the country was suffering, we should replace the bald eagle as the national bird and replace it with an amoeba that is in the process of splitting into two separate creatures.

Freedom has been a cornerstone for America and the foundation for a republic that has made America a great country. The freedoms that we celebrate and share were created by a union of states that faced foreign and domestic issues as a cohesive nation. If we allow ourselves to be divided by a minority of extremists who exacerbate differences and who want us to hate one another, we will fulfill the prophecy of a cartoon character and will, indeed, be our own worst enemy.

Michael Matteo
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