by Richard Cameron
When we went into the imagineering phase
of identifying a domain name for this new media platform, a great deal of discussion among our writing staff was involved. The question essentially was, “What is the main issue in our society that we could address as a purpose of existence – a raison d’etre for the nascent website?”
The conversation kept coming back to things like the direction the country was headed and the widening divisions between our citizens. This led to the suggestion of names that reflected that concern and the sense we had collectively that the tectonic plates beneath the substratum of our society are active in a way that easily forecasts a rupture at the surface. The points on our National Compass are broken and our relationships are fractured and in need of restoration.
Of course, this is not quite the exclusive epiphany that we would like to think it is. Many people have the same sense that we have and the growing sense of polarization has been widely reflected on for all of the last election cycle and prior. And the current climate is by no means unprecedented. One only needs to harken back to the late 19th century and our actual civil war to see why Abraham Lincoln spoke so frequently and publicly about the hazards of division.
And in fact, Lincoln did see matters coming to a head, even as a candidate in 1858, campaigning for the office of U.S. Senator from the state of Illinois. The matter at hand – discussed at length in his speech June 16, 1858 to more than 1,000 delegates at Springfield, Illinois, during the Republican State Convention, was slavery.
In the speech, he quoted a passage from the Gospel of Mark, the third chapter and verse 25, where Jesus instructs His disciples that, “if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”. In the verse previous, Jesus also references divisions within kingdoms. “And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” So it appears that His warning is equally applicable to governments as it is to households and families.
Mr. Lincoln’s speech to his Republican colleagues on June 16 of 1858, was later dubbed by historians as his “House Divided” speech.
Not surprisingly, the Pew Research Institute, in a study they published in April of last year, found that most political differences were rooted in partisan politics and those who identified as Democrats and Republicans are pulling farther apart from one another. They describe the shifts as follows:
Two decades ago, a much smaller majority of Republicans (64%) were to the right of the median Democrat, while 70% of Democrats were to the left of the median Republican. Today, an overwhelming share of Republicans (93%) is more conservative than the median Democrat, while a nearly identical share of Democrats (94%) is more liberal than the median Republican.
A University of Pennsylvania study on political divisions describes the state of affairs in these terms, “political compromise currently is difficult in American democracy even though no one doubts it is necessary”.
I might take exception with their assertion that “no one doubts it (compromise) is necessary”. There are many examples to be shown that a great many on both sides of the political divide not only are not interested in any sort of dialogue, but in fact, relish the possibility that some sort of violent confrontation beyond what we have up to now witnessed, might materialize. It could be dubbed “Americageddon”.
The thinking of these individuals on the extreme Right and Left is that “if I yell loud enough with enough enraged and furious animation, my point will get across and the enemy (opposing fellow citizen) will wave a white flag of surrender. If he doesn’t …”
The former chief assistant United States Attorney (Los Angeles District), Steve Zipperstein, writing in UCLA’s international journal notes that:
The cold civil war has been brewing slowly but steadily for years. Our country has grown increasingly and bitterly torn over every important policy issue we face, including climate change, health care, abortion, gun control, immigration, taxation and foreign policy. Relations among Democrats and Republicans in Congress have deteriorated to the point they barely speak to each other, preferring rancor and vitriol rather than working together.
Mr. Zipperstein goes on to describe an alternative. “We urgently need a return to civility in our political discourse. This is far harder to achieve in the age of blogging and tweeting, but it is vital. Politicians, journalists and pundits need to set the example. Everyone needs to ratchet down their emotions, their rhetoric, and their desire to delegitimize and destroy opponents.”
This is the role we seek to adopt here at National Compass. Because, do we need more anger and hatred – or do we need people to step forth and begin the awkward process of conciliation? What might happen if we don’t? History is instructive in that regard.
As the words of the popular folk spiritual tell us, “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with Me”. Blessed are the peacemakers. Join us in this mission, would you? May you and we be blessed.