While discussing the state of our community with some neighbors, the recent NFL fiasco came up. The conduct of the players during the national anthem has sparked a strong reaction from just about everyone, up to and including the president.
The ever-stimulating David Brooks weighed in with his column, using the incident to support his assessment that Trump is causing an extreme fragmentation of cultures, which are flying away from each other so fast and so far as to be on different planets. With all due respect to Brooks, I doubt Trump is the primary cause of this fragmentation. It is more likely a natural consequence of social media.
However, it is difficult to argue with the fact that America, and perhaps the world, have become more socially fragmented. Brooks notes that one planet saw the NFL issue as a fight against racism, and a righteous cause. Another planet saw the issue as a fight for American identity, and a righteous cause. Each planet is convinced of its own righteousness, and they are too far away from each other to find much common ground.
It occurred to me that the first planet’s issue, racism, is the icon of a socially progressive agenda, which highlights the current priority of the Democratic Party, while the second planet’s issue, American identity, is central to a nationalist agenda, which highlights the current priority of the Republican Party. Note that both parties, with planetary issues adrift at cosmic distances in their self-righteousness, are fragmenting. So where does that leave America? Brooks says wait 20 years and gravity will draw them all together in a different way, as yet unknown.
Does this console anyone? Sometimes it seems both parties are in a competition to see who can bankrupt the nation and rob us of our constitutional rights the quickest. One party would spend and restrict behaviors in the name of social progress, and the other would do the same for national security. Is national socialism the common ground? (Look up the German word for national socialism, if interested.) The nation seems to be left with little in common, but a lot of empty space. What happened to the conservatism that anchored and guided America’s constitutional founders? True political and economic conservatism is now a very small planet indeed, perhaps more like the dwarf planet Pluto.
Every planet’s cause is righteous, be it planet gender, planet orientation, planet race, planet religion, planet ecology, planet defense, planet health care, and so on and on. Each is caring less and less about the others, and even less about the future of the real planet Earth. When all the special interest planets do finally converge, in 20 years or 200, we may hope they do not do so as they always have throughout human history, through war and oppression, and that we may somehow preserve the unique and precious gift given to us all by the United States of America’s founders.
Abbie Hoffman and Gerry Rubin are part of a very colorful and proximate history for the boomers among us. The rest of civilized history may be more remote, but still relevant. That history is much longer and darker than the short period since the ’60s counterculture revolution.
That history teaches that 99 percent of violent change is for the worse. Is it wise to keep poking holes in a ship because the last one didn’t make it sink? It makes no sense to repeatedly accept the massive risks associated with the fragmentation of America when we have been given the tools to avoid it.
In a nuclear, information, globalization, overpopulation era, look no further than the Constitution. We need relevant, connected and real political parties. A two-party system with one liberal and one truly conservative party would unite the planets. The former is self-incentivized. The latter will take some work. It’s up to all Americans to act responsibly, no matter what planet we’re from.
— Drew Smith lives in Bend.