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Bridging the Divide in America

Culture is the hallmark of a society, and until we can agree on how to reform our culture, unifying the country will be impossible.

Countless times this past election cycle, Americans were told that they were living in a politically divided country.  This political divide has grown over the years for multiple reasons.  No single person can be blamed for the political divide currently facing America.  Donald Trump and his rhetoric is not the only thing to blame for this country’s division.  The country is also not divided because Hillary Clinton called the electorate deplorable, or because Mitt Romney singled out 47% of the electorate; nor was it Obama’s presidency.  The division is rooted much deeper, and has begun to affect people in aspects of their life previously insulated from the world of politics.

There are three major issues in the United States that have created the divide: the media, money, and culture.

Generally speaking, conservatives blame the divisiveness on the media, while progressives blame it on wealth inequality and other money-related issues.  In my series of articles “Is it Too Late?” you will begin to realize that it is not just the media or money, but something that goes even deeper – culture.  It is like one famous political pundit said, “Politics is downstream from culture.”  If we want to have a unified country, our culture must come first.

The mainstream media clearly plays a major role in the apparent political divide. Critics argue that Fox News and The Wall Street Journal lean right, while CNN, MSNBC, and publications like The New York Times or the Washington Post lean left.  Mainstream media outlets unleashing political propaganda with their news only adds to the polarization that plagues our nation today.

The media problem began in the early 1990s when General Electric and various other major corporations invested in news outlets, which marked the beginning of these outlets becoming political platforms with ulterior motives. Before the mergers, news was more of a nonpartisan public service than a group of agencies with partisan agendas. One does not have to look far to see examples of mergers overstretching their reach through their media outlets.  For example, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all account for very small portions of their parent company’s revenue, making profitability less important than emanating a political agenda.  It is critical that dignity be restored to a once noble institution.

Now that alternative forms of media, such as social media, have outgrown mainstream outlets, one would naturally assume that this would create a freer thinking society. However, the opposite has happened, as social media has divided our society even further. YouTube channels and Twitter accounts often have a greater influence on individuals than news channels or publications, and these alternative outlets are even more partisan than their mainstream counterparts.  This is because they have no one to be held accountable to except for their fans, which leads to another problem: algorithm media.

Social media serves the purpose of fulfillment and happiness, which leads to the highly problematic algorithm social media outlets use so that posts you view are more limited to those that are on your side of the political spectrum, because this happiness emanating from your phone or tablet can easily be ruined by a political disagreement. Political disagreements appear on nearly every social media platform and divide friends, coworkers, family, and acquaintances over political issues. Some of these disagreements cause people to unfriend, unfollow or block even their closest friends or family members.  It is a sad day when 13% of our population loses a friend because of political differences.

State governments have actively contributed to the divide in another way.  They often created hyper-partisan regions by gerrymandering election districts, which leads to people being more likely to move to areas where their peers share common political beliefs.

Another contributing factor to divisiveness is extreme rhetoric from politicians.  The recent shooting at the GOP Congressional baseball practice in Arlington, Virginia is a prime example of political rhetoric being stretched to the extreme. Republican congressional leadership and rank and file Republicans were targeted by a man fueled with hostility due to differing political views.  This man was told, “If Republicans pass this legislation millions of Americans will die.”  So by attempting an assassination on Republican Congressmen, he thought he was doing a service to his country.  Clearly, he was very mislead.

The Right is far from innocent as well.  Back while the debate over the Affordable Care Act was taking place, Sarah Palin declared: My parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their level of productivity in society, whether they are worthy of health care.”  Framing political opponents as murderers is not helpful to the cause of bringing people together.

Every day, we see both sides of the aisle practice dangerous rhetoric.  In 2012 Mitt Romney, objectively one of the most upright candidates to ever run for office, was framed by the media and political opponents as being racist, sexist, bigoted, and homophobic with little to no evidence.  So now, when these labels are placed on a politician who is a little more deserving, they hold less weight.  The media has devalued these words so much that they mean nothing now.

Culture is the hallmark of a society, and having a variety of competing cultures within a country can destroy a country’s culture entirely.  College campuses have deemed multiculturalism a panacea for world peace.  However, I say that this is dangerous.  No society in human history has revered multiculturalism and still come out on top. Yugoslavia tried assimilating different cultures and ended up in a deadly civil war.  Northern Ireland split from the rest of Ireland on a matter as simple as Protestantism versus Catholicism.  Civil wars continue to persist today throughout various parts of Africa, largely because of arbitrary lines set by Europeans that did not take into account different cultures within the regions.  If our country truly wants to be able to come back together, we must abandon the notion of multiculturalism.  

Until the United States unites behind one cohesive culture, all other reforms will be meaningless.  We must be able to agree on a desire for nonpartisan media, we must speak out against extreme political rhetoric from our politicians rather than rewarding it, and we must be able to live in community with each other, regardless of political differences, because we should be able to agree on what it means to be an American.  There is no other way to bridge the divide in the United States of America.

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