Ideologies, divisions bring us closer to national divorce

The Fargo school board recently voted to cease the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of meetings. The explanations from the board’s leaders focused on distinctions around capitalization and how the uppercase “G” can be marginalizing to some. Apparently, something more “unifying” was preferred.

Country duo Big & Rich even got involved when they performed at Essential Health Plaza in West Fargo shortly after the story took off, where they led the crowd in reciting the Pledge, capping the moment off shouting, “take that, commie school board!”

This local story caught a viral wave and went national, becoming a part of the collage of discord and division dominating the country. These fissures and cracks in our “more perfect union” have been forming for some time, but have only grown in recent years at an alarming rate.

As they say, “something’s got to give,” but with each passing day and incendiary headline the further we are separated from the unity and values things like the Pledge, the Anthem, the Flag and other national symbols were supposed to engender. Ironically, for some, like the Fargo school board, these symbols themselves are part of the problem.

It takes more than squabbles over ritual expressions of patriotism to degrade the connective tissue of a nation. The real divisions have formed over the results of elections, and because states red, blue, and purple are all bracing against the fault lines and realities of our federalized republic and the constitution that fortifies it.

The Dobbs ruling from the Supreme Court threw gas on the fire, causing an eruption of outrage from blue states and emboldening the red to follow through on long-awaited abortion restrictions. The schism seems to exist between different states despite being granted the right to legislate the issue of abortion themselves; they cannot abide that other states are able to make their own decisions.

This is all exacerbated by a rising tide of distrust and anger toward Federal institutions and neighbors alike, causing an explosion in the purchase of firearms ever since the elections of former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Mass shootings and the push to address them has only further polarized the people into two groups trying to either get rid of or to cling to the 2nd Amendment by any means necessary. The rise in authoritarian tendencies within federal and state government hasn’t helped the situation either by legitimizing those who would exercise their implicit right to resist what they consider tyranny.

I remember reading a study commissioned by the Obama administration back in 2014 or so — theory crafting how a modern conflict between the Federal Government and a rebelling insurgency on American soil would shake out.

The determination at the time was that the reality of the U.S. Government using force against its own citizens would be so universally decried that the war would be considered lost the moment that a shot was fired. It also proposed an untenable reality where a majority of the Armed Forces would either side with “the people” while half of the half that would remain “loyal” would be double agents working against the government.

What that study seemed to overlook was how vehemently we the people would grow to dislike each other, and the rancor that the last six years would bring. Or, one could argue that the study did reveal the only path to victory for the Federal Government in such a conflict is by redirecting the enmity of the rebelling away from the government and toward other citizens.

The first Civil War was divided along a geographic and ideological boundary. This hypothesized second will more likely constitute 50 mini civil wars in every state, and it would be better for the Federal Government if people were focused on fighting each other, rather than them. By all accounts, this method is working.

From Hillary Clinton sliming half the country as a “basket of deplorables,” to Trump’s lightning rod style of kayfabe politics, gone are the days of tolerating even the most marginal differences of politics and opinion. Celebrities and common people have had their speech and associations policed and used to rationalize calls for them to lose employment and opportunity for not aligning correctly with the prevailing points of view of those with institutional power.

Starting with the conflicts between the left-wing Black Bloc operators and the tiki torch toting supremacist groups in Charlottesville, that ugly incident between a Native American activist and the Covington Catholic students, building to a crescendo with the George Floyd riots and the events of Jan. 6, the people are being driven against each other, with disastrous consequences.

Polling around the nation has discovered a lingering fear that many pundits and prognosticators are correct in their assessment that we are on the precipice of a second civil war. Some postulate that this conflict will be bloodless, and involve an uncomfortable if civil transition, a “national divorce” where state governments will coalesce into two different nations around ideological and political lines.

Such a peaceful resolution feels like a pipe dream some days. We stand here on the brink, blood in our eyes and rage in our hearts, stricken with the fear that those we were raised to call our countrymen have planned the worst for us, and will delight in delivering themselves satisfaction.

Shortly after World War I had ended, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote a poem titled “The Second Coming,” and its apocalyptic tone has yet again grown prescient and relevant to our experiences today.

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

As the fate of our nation is forged in the days to come in the fires of midterm elections and FBI raids, let us pray that conviction should return to the best of us and not belong solely to those filled with the “passionate intensity” to take any action necessary to restore their version of order to the world.


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