Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The State of the Union is Divided

The State of the Union speech last night could’ve been very short. We are deeply, deeply divided. And it’s fair to ask whether the level of division at this point doesn’t trump (no pun or allusion intended, honest) our military strength and GDP, if such are really the measures of national strength.

It’s tempting to focus on political rhetoric and the actions of specific politicians and public personalities but this is to look in the wrong place. A far better place to start is President Obama’s statement “that government is the word we give to those things we do together.”

Add the word “compelled” and the statement is essentially correct (it leaves out that the burdens quite frequently are not shared). But it cuts in a way the President and his followers don’t acknowledge. America is a vast nation comprised of a highly diverse people. It has been argued that fragmentation is one of, maybe THE, defining characteristic of the modern world. And yet onward we go finding new and more encompassing activities and it is fair to say beliefs that we must all do together.

We are who and what we are, in and through society. The notion of the solitary individual, even extended to the family, is a dubious abstraction. But like porcupines forced to huddle too close together, continually pricked by the quills of our fellow citizens, it shouldn’t surprise that tempers have gotten rather short.

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