What is The Matter With Us?

Have we lost our bearings in the digital forest?

We seem to have more or less two halves in our country. Both lay claim to being the only true Americans. Yet, both halves claim to celebrate our freedom of speech and expression and our economic success; both are (or were) proud of our leadership in the world; both support our military power; both celebrate our Constitution and democracy.

So far, so good. That seems like a solid foundation of values that should, in theory, bring people together. But in reality it plays out far differently. Consider:

  • One half sees immigration as dangerous and harmful. The other half see it as a great source of our innovation and economic success.
  • One half seems to believe that women should not be free to protect their own bodies. The other half believes it should be a matter of free choice for each woman to get the help she may need to have or NOT have an unwanted child.
  • One half wants a tax system that primarily allows them to accumulate an ever larger share of our national wealth. The other half believes the tax system should achieve a better balance between the poorer half and richer half.

This list can go on and on – to no helpful purpose.

The big question is what are the barriers of understanding and/or misunderstanding which seem to prevent better communication and understanding between these two halves? What, if anything, might help bridge those barriers? Here are a few thoughts:

GREED: Is surely one, and, more troubling, one about which it is doubtful that much can be done. It is at the root of our capitalist system [and human nature] which a large majority still appreciates. If one’s greed is dominant, it is unlikely that empathy gets much attention.

CIVICS EDUCATION: A lot can and should be done in this realm, but it is not. Far too few Americans really understand our constitutional and legal systems, our political processes, and the history that has shaped both.

PREJUDICE: Is deep rooted and often rises from some local or religious doctrine or beliefs. This can be addressed in many ways, all far better than we’re achieving today, primarily by bringing disparate individuals together.

EXPERIENCE and LACK OF IT: When a person’s horizons are limited – geographically or intellectually – they tend to see, believe and understand only what is within those horizons.

JEALOUSY and AMBITION: People are prone to compare themselves with people they see and hear about on TV and the silver screen. From that, they either envy those other persons, which irritates them, or they are envious and want to be like them. When this is not easily done through their own market place efforts, people may turn to political expression as an outlet for this desire.

These two worlds today coexist more and more uneasily. They are becoming more compacted, independent spheres whirling around in space entirely free of the other’s gravitational pull.

Perhaps there is something in the Universe that pushes people, as well as planets, stars and galaxies further apart over time? Is it possible there’s a kind of “dark energy” operating on humanity the way it operates in the cosmos? The more we learn about the Universe the clearer it becomes that, over time, the forces that influence the motions of galaxies will fade as the distance between them expands. Eventually, our nighttime sky will be devoid of stars entirely. Is that also the fate of our human, earth-bound clusters?

If we could better understand the cosmic rules for living creatures the same way we’re coming to understand the rules of the universe, we just might learn how to intervene and find ways to draw disparate spheres of people back into some sort of collective understanding.

The fact is that that despite the clear differences between groups, there is much more in common between our two halves.



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