Are the USA's growing ideological divisions really reconcilable? - U2 Feedback

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Old 08-19-2008, 03:38 PM   #1
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Are the USA's growing ideological divisions really reconcilable?

I've been thinking about this a lot, and I thought it would be an interesting discussion.

We all know the USA is a nation divided. The last few presidential elections have had a lot of 'let's heal the divisions, reach across the aisle, etc' talk. But I wonder if the division in this country is greater than those talking points would indicate.

To quote someone else on another forum, "Perhaps this country is divided beyond the ability of any future president to unite it."

To paraphrase another, "It is silly anymore to continue pretending that those who live in Virginia or Tennessee or Arkansas have that much in common with those who live in Michigan or California, let alone those who live in New England." The common ground in question, of course, being in terms of politics/religion/morality.

Some have spoken of the irony in the fact that the places that inhabit most of the people that support war and oppose gay marriage are in fact the places least likely to ever be hit by a terrorist attack and the places that inhabit the lowest percentage of gay couples. People in the Bible Belt and the Heartland vote this way, and then people in big cities that ARE more likely to be hit by a terrorist attack and that DO have a large population of gay couples have to live under the policies that exist as a result of that vote.

What I am getting at is the thought that the ideological divisions in this country are perhaps not resolvable. I know it's a thought that many don't want to have. Perhaps these ideological divisions are THAT deep.

Without passing judgement, there is clearly, at least, a significant evangelical chunk of our population that - consciously or not - is desiring and pushing towards a sort of Christian state. People who want morality, good vs evil, to be cornerstones of every administration, and who want their faith and religion to be legislated, whether it be in the form of outlawing abortion completely, going to war with any country/region deemed to be 'evil', hindering science over moral issues(see: stem cell research, among other things), having civil liberties that are supposed to be guaranteed by the constitution stripped for the sake of the government supposedly having more ability to protect ourselves from said evil countries/regions, etc. To a certain extent, this country already is a Christian state, in the sense that, it is virtually impossible for one to be elected president without proclaiming his or her Christianity at the top of his or her lungs over and over and over again.

Without passing judgement, there is clearly a large chunk of our population that wishes to remain completely secular, that wants to see war as always being a last resort, that views good and evil as akin to black and white, and the real world as a grey place far too complex for the absolutes like good and evil and black and white. That doesn't want to take the stance of 'we're the greatest nation in the history of the universe period', that doesn't want to alienate the rest of the world, that embraces the idea of being part of a whole world, that absolutely abhors the idea of surrendering certain civil liberties/rights to the government just for greater supposed protection.

Without making any pretense otherwise, I openly state that I fall into the latter of the two groups I just described.

I don't know. I look at this faith summit or whatever it was this past weekend. I see this huge crowd of people who are literally going to decide who to vote for based on who they think is the most Christian, the most gun-ho on terrorism, the most moral, the most willing to limit science for morality, etc. And I don't think hateful thoughts towards them. I really don't. I just simply think, 'I don't feel like I belong to the same country as them.'

I can't be the only person who feels that way, and I'm sure there are plenty of people in that first group who feel like they don't belong to the same country as those who wish to remain 1000% secular and don't favor seeing things in terms of good and evil. The thing is, I can't really imagine a person or event or circumstance that would cause a significant change in ideology in myself or those like me, nor in those who, to put it nicely, don't see things the way I or those like me do.

So, after all this, I guess my question is, is it possible that ideological divisions in this country are beyond the point of being able to be brought to together for any significant period of time? And if so, hypothetically speaking now, would you be open to, or against, the idea of the country splitting into several smaller nations...for the sake of example say, New England, The Great Lakes Region, The Pacific Coast, and the Bible Belt/Southwest.

I don't know. It was just something some people had suggested/favored in a hypothetical sense on other forums.

I just wanted to get this general line of thinking out there, because lately I've been looking at these divisions in the USA and feeling like I can't conceive of a future reality in which these two - albeit broadly defined - groups can find any real common ground(that is, they may be cordial with each other face to face, but in private, they would still be tolerant at best of each other).

Just some things to ponder.
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Old 08-19-2008, 04:15 PM   #2
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I think it's a division that goes deeper than mere politicial affiliation or certain political ideology (something like views on taxes etc.). I think it's cultural surely but ultimately it's deeply spiritual.

And eventually the divide will be more about secularism vs state sponsored morality than anything. And the secularists have to be able to make arguments and win the small battles now without offending the large religious masses by making some Richard Dawkings/Chris Hitchens offensive, condescending argument.

But this is how the "cultural war" is being framed, because blowhards like Bill O'Reilly and such make the strawmen argument, that the "Godless liberals" want to come and eat your babies and burn the Constitution. And that shit seems to work.

I think we can compromise on just about anything but those deep cultural issues (read: abortion and catching "gay" among others).
Pretty much anything that has Biblical overtones will never be compromised. For the secular crowd (of which I am apart of) I think we need a balance, honestly. But you can't have a balance without the proper discourse.

And you can't have a proper discourse until the average person is given proper alternatives, and with this shitty corporatized two party system, it's not going to happen.

Pretty much anything wrong with our country I can blame on materialism. Which, while I'm a secular guy, seems to be something I would think faith based people could agree with. Get special interests out of DC, then the real discourse begins.
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Old 08-19-2008, 04:20 PM   #3
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The cultural wars are entirely invented. They were invented by neo-cons to further their goals of imperialism and fascism.

The real political debate should always be between statism and free markets.
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Old 08-19-2008, 04:54 PM   #4
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I don't know. I look at this faith summit or whatever it was this past weekend. I see this huge crowd of people who are literally going to decide who to vote for based on who they think is the most Christian, the most gun-ho on terrorism, the most moral, the most willing to limit science for morality, etc. And I don't think hateful thoughts towards them. I really don't. I just simply think, 'I don't feel like I belong to the same country as them.
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But this is how the "cultural war" is being framed, because blowhards like Bill O'Reilly and such make the strawmen argument, that the "Godless liberals" want to come and eat your babies and burn the Constitution. And that shit seems to work.
Our greatest enemy are unnuanced stereotypes like these. I know very few people (people of faith or secularists) that are this simplistic in their ideals.
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Old 08-19-2008, 05:09 PM   #5
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There are people that eat that simplistic strawman argument, lots of them. Check out radio ratings, Limbaugh, Beck, Savage, Hannity, O'Reilly. Check out the New York Times best seller list. That's the sad reality. And these are motivated, registered voters.
It's not just the 'right wingers' either all you need to do is check out Daily Kos or MoveOn for the flip side but this is (IMO) a thread about the cultural divide, which let's face it, to one side is almost mythological and the other might be their main motivation for voting.

That's how the propaganda is fed to them. Completely unnuanced.
Otherwise, to say that it doesn't exist, you'd have to argue that it doesn't work.
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Old 08-20-2008, 05:12 PM   #6
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Is the nation really as divided as pundits, conservative/liberal radio and talk show hosts, and commentators would have us believe? Or are those whose business it is to inflame political rhetoric simply telling us that we've lost the ability to embrace the nuances that they themselves cannot?
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Old 08-20-2008, 05:40 PM   #7
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I have often wondered whether it wasn't always this way, except 50 years ago you had a more homogeneous lifestyle across the US than you do today. Certainly those that bemoan the loss of traditional families and so on will point out that some parts of the country have deviated a lot further from the "ideal" than others. So that the cultural differences that exist (and I do believe that they exist) were disguised somewhat before but that is no longer the case.

The people in New York or Boston have a hell of a lot more in common culturally and socially with people in Toronto and Ottawa than they do with the ones in Appalachia. Anyone who doesn't believe that is really deceiving themselves.

That doesn't necessarily mean that the differences are irreconcilable.
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Old 08-20-2008, 09:11 PM   #8
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The ideological divisions are real. Being more centrist than right or left, I feel the division tremendously depending on the issue......

So yes, we are fucked until we are attacked again, at which point the USA will be united. That is why War(cold or not) with Russia will help us get back on the right (no pun) piece of music.
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Old 08-20-2008, 09:13 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Dreadsox View Post
The ideological divisions are real. Being more centrist than right or left, I feel the division tremendously depending on the issue......

So yes, we are fucked until we are attacked again, at which point the USA will be united. That is why War(cold or not) with Russia will help us get back on the right (no pun) piece of music.
And if we need a war to even have a chance to unite for any period of time, doesn't that speak volumes about the depth of these divisions?
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Old 08-20-2008, 09:22 PM   #10
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absolutely.....it is frighteningly disappointing.
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Old 08-20-2008, 10:36 PM   #11
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What on earth does it actually mean to unite or reconcile us? I think America has always had two vigorous, diverse sides arguing with each other. There are even secular conservatives (they exist!) and very religious liberals.

Maybe with new media or cheap travel we can finally fully comprehend what the other half thinks on some issues.
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Old 08-20-2008, 11:02 PM   #12
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I think the big problem is we focus on the differences. Why not focus on the common ground and then learn to compromise.

Take abortion for example. We agree abortions aren't fun, and shouldn't be taken lightly. Why can't we work on programs that try and reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies? Why are young women still having unplanned pregnancies? Why can't we focus on education?

It just blows my mind that it has to be all or nothing. You will almost never get an all or nothing result in a democracy, in a pluralistic society... it just won't happen.

Compromise isn't a dirty word.
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Old 08-20-2008, 11:23 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Dreadsox View Post
The ideological divisions are real. Being more centrist than right or left, I feel the division tremendously depending on the issue......

So yes, we are fucked until we are attacked again, at which point the USA will be united. That is why War(cold or not) with Russia will help us get back on the right (no pun) piece of music.
Though I'm a German, and hence predisposed to being pessimistic, I just cannot get that dark an outlook.

I've just been here in Montana for less than a week, but as time progresses I'll try to get more of a feel of these issues.
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Old 08-20-2008, 11:43 PM   #14
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Vincent are you enjoying being free?

Sorry, I couldn't help myself.
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Old 08-21-2008, 10:47 AM   #15
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instead of focusing on our commonalities, perhaps we could focus on our differences as a source of strength.

from my perspective, i see the source of said divisions coming from vast swaths of the population who misremember a past that never existed and wish the present were as such and focus on those who weren't present in this misremembering and blame them for any odd social ill. we are not the same. we were never the same.

but, hey, that's just me coming from my perspective up here in the Abortion Belt.
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