Monday, September 18, 2006

The divided house

Can the Left and the Right in this country find a way to live in a civilized manner? This is a complicated question because contrary to the impression of some folks, this doesn't involve the subquestion "can a conservative be friends with a liberal/Democrat." It might surprise some readers to know that I do indeed have Democrat and liberal friends, and that I communicate with them regularly. I do not think politics should determine who your friends are, and the fact that you can sit down to a meal/beer/Coke/ballgame with someone from the other side helps keep the country from a short-term eruption, as well as enriches the social lives of the involved participants.

However, having said that, I can also say that it is one thing to know some folks on the other side and be able to sit with them in peace in a spirit of friendship. It is quite another to be able to live civilly within the same body politick. As we have seen in the blogosphere, both sides make accusations against the other that each side believes is based in reality. Both sides believe the other is wrong, and believe they have good reasons for believing this. Can we say anything general about both sides? I think we can say a few things that cut to the root of the problem.

For people in Red State, Red Meat America: Love America, and do not see America as a bad guy, the way some people do. These same people overwhelmingly believe in the existence of God. Walk through any small town in the Heartland of this country and you will often find the name of God (spoken in a positive sense) spilling freely off of the lips of neighbor after neighbor. No matter what a person's opinion might be on the issue of abortion, it is not widely seen as a "choice" but as a human tragedy. Since a whole lot of us own guns, the notion of gun control is out of the question. It is also a common belief that the idea of the traditional family (mother, father, children) is worth preserving. Marriage is a Holy Estate to be entered into between one man and one woman. Rights come from the God we believe exists and endowed them to us. It is the job of the State to defend those rights.

For people in Blue State, Lean Meat, Fat Free America: Love America, but see the U.S. as a bad influence on the world and believe that the U.S. owes the rest of the world to do and be as more "progressive" nations are. God may exist, He may not, but He deserves no public mention. Mention of His Name may offend those who do not believe or may lead to some religious conflict so it is best to leave the Name of God unsaid. Guns cause crime and make city streets dangerous and should therefore be banned. Rights are a popular construct that comes from the existence of the State. Marriage is whatever the State defines it as being, and can be between a man and a woman, two men, two women, or perhaps multiple men and women.

No matter where you come down on these issues or to which side you belong, there is little doubt that at this point in the debate that there is no middle ground. Yes, both sides love America, and I will be the last person to question the patriotism of anyone opposed to the Iraq War, since I was against it myself. However, the political divide in this country is less about the War and more about culture itself-it is a culture war. Both sides know this, and both sides know that the first side to blink will be the side that will ultimately control the country. Both sides believe the other side is not only in the wrong, but is a danger to the country itself. So here we stand. The divide does not exist because either side wants there to be one, but it has been coming for a long time. The chasm between these very competing worldviews is too great to avoid confrontation, and sometimes that pits friends against one another.


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