Thoughts On American Polarization

We are polarized.
Our culture is playing a high-stakes game of tug-of-war with the Overton Window and the view through that window in America has been growing progressively more right-leaning and red over the years. The talking heads fanning flames of fear will tell you that America is being consumed from within by “communists” and “socialists” whenever there’s even a tiny concession made concerning basic human rights or the recognition that homosexuals, transgender people, women, or any sort of minority group haven’t been receiving a fair shake. The reality is that we’re nowhere near moving left in this country. Even the Democrats tend to disregard the most left-leaning members of their party.
In large part, this is due to Democrats not being progressive enough in their policies and largely being unwilling to play the same rhetorical shell game with facts and truth that the other side has become expert at playing. There’s an unwillingness to think big or take big risks within the bulk of the Democratic Party whereas the Republicans have no problem with lining up behind a man who represented the worst extremes of right-wing politics in America because they assumed that it would get them just a little bit closer to their ideal positions of power and authority. The most progressive members of the Democratic Party, on the other hand, have to fight tooth-and-nail to receive even marginal representation when it comes to matters of policy. There’s a bit of simpering cowardice and a lack of boldness within the bulk of the Democratic establishment, and it’s been that way for decades.
So yes, we are indeed polarized in several key aspects. That’s a hard truth of American politics. It does present a challenge.
The worst part about it all is that we’re not quite as polarized as it superficially might seem.
There are a lot of points where individuals on the left and those on the right are in total agreement. The focus is never on those things in our political discourse, especially through media of all kinds (whether we’re talking about mainstream media–and that does include Fox and OAN, though I see a lot of people trying to pretend otherwise–or social media). This division is cultivated by keeping people on the left appearing as crazy socialists to those on the right and the folks on the right appearing to be mentally deficient bigots in the eyes of the people on the left. These descriptors are certainly true of some individuals, but they aren’t representative of the bulk of either group.
This is going to devolve into a rambling diatribe, I’m sure. I know myself well enough to see that on the near horizon. I apologize for that being the case. I can only hope you’re able to keep up with me along the way.
I do lean Socialist in my political views. It can easily be inferred that I’m pretty far left of the Democratic Party (as a whole). I don’t dispute this at all. This is not to say that I think the Federal Government should become a nanny state or that I feel like D.C. should be the focal point of a new religion.
I’m not a nationalist, after all.
I believe the role of the US government is to serve the best interests of the American people. That’s it. That’s the sole purpose of it. Politicians are our servants, meant to act in our best interests. This is not what is happening.
What we see today, from the vast majority of our political figures, is a government acting in the interest of those who fund their reelection campaigns and provide them with hand-outs. They’ll toss some superficially pleasing and inoffensive concessions our way once in a while, as long as it doesn’t cost them too much by way of campaign funding…but that’s about all we get for the price of admission we pay by voting and participating in the democratic process.
This is not the way it’s supposed to be working.
We all know it’s wrong…right and left, center and fringe.
The only people who don’t seem to know it’s wrong are the ones directly benefitting from the oligarchy we’ve allowed to grow within our nation like an unchecked tumor.
This is not being written for the people who subscribed to the QAnon conspiracy. There’s no getting through to you if you believe Donald Trump was the literal savior of America (or the world). You’re too far gone for me to have any hope of reaching you. This is not for the militant leftists who somehow believe that we’re going to overthrow the American neo-fascist government and usher in a utopia of communal living and worker-owned industry overnight. Though people in those aforementioned groups still recognize that things are wrong with the political arena in America, they’re choosing to cling to fantasies and wish-fulfillment rather than reality. That’s a whole different conversation for a different day.
It’s also a conversation I don’t care to have.
Most of us aren’t bigots. Or should I say that all of us are bigots, just not quite the way the term gets tossed around?
I know that’s difficult for some people on the left and the right to acknowledge…but it’s true.
No, most people aren’t homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist, or religiously intolerant beyond a tiny extent.
That tiny bit of bigotry…well…we all have it. We’re all ignorant, some more than others. We’re all biased in different ways, larger and smaller. We’ll never find any sort of resolution as a society if we can’t come to terms with the fact that we are all wildly imperfect.
The only thing we can do is come together. The more we meet new people and interact with others who aren’t like us, the greater the chance that we can overcome those cultural biases deep within our psychologies. I’m no less guilty of this than anyone reading these words.
For most of us, our biases are minimal…though no less problematic. These things can be overcome. I honestly do have this much faith in my fellow human beings. I’ll admit that I could be overly optimistic here, but I believe most of us are better than a lot of us think we are.
This is not to say that systemic racism is not a real thing.
It is.
This is not to say that there is a profound undercurrent of homophobia and transphobia within large segments of the population.
There absolutely is.
This is not to say that sexism in America (and a whole lot of the world) is not a real cause for concern.
It most assuredly is.
There are, without question, awful people out there who believe terrible things about other people based on either their ignorance or contempt.
If we take the time to try and explain things to others without frustration and impatience, maybe we can come to better terms with one another. We might even be able to get through to some of the people who otherwise seem irredeemable.
We need to come together, sooner rather than later. If we can’t figure out how to do this, we’re going to continue being ground beneath the treads of those who benefit the most from us being at one another’s throats. Until we stand together, we’ll continue to find ourselves crushed, consumed, and disposed of.
We all see money being squandered on ridiculous corporate bail-outs while the middle class disappears below a rising poverty line. It’s fair to say that almost no one, regardless of party affiliation, sees something like that and agrees that it’s something good or right. We’ve been seeing it in D.C. a great deal since the pandemic started in early 2020. There was no hesitation when it came to bailing out Wall Street and corporations where the CEOs and board members had been seeing massive rises in profit while the employees receive barely subsistence wages. Money that was earmarked for small businesses, to keep them afloat during these troubling times ended up being approved as loans for companies that needed no assistance. People who were without work had unemployment benefits stripped away before anything had been done to improve their odds of returning to work. Politicians in Congress nickeled and dimed the actual voting population, trying to figure out just how little they could offer while still appearing to care just a little bit. And then, only a few short months later, they were doing the same thing all over again. They happily approved money for the people and corporate entities who fund their campaigns but decried payments (beyond a pittance) sent directly to people as socialism. We saw the same thing back in the recession more than a decade ago as well. We tossed money at banks and corporate entities while we allowed people to be swallowed up by debt and poverty.
We see these things happening while infrastructure around the country fails. Bridges and roads are maintained poorly, utility networks are neglected so that the providers can obtain record profits, some of those profits sure to be funneled into the coffers of the politicians who turned a blind eye or actively aided in deregulation under the guise of honoring the free market. Most of us see through these infantile rationalizations, but they succeed in these selfish grifts by counting on the polarization of our political climate to guarantee their base will still support them.
We squander countless billions of dollars on corporate welfare, regime-changing conflicts, and a war on drugs that has been a transparent failure since the beginning. All the while we’re told that it’s too costly to divert mere fractions of that money to programs that would improve the overall quality of life for American citizens…programs like universal healthcare or free access to higher education and trade school. We’re told that this is “socialism” and that we can’t afford it, while the rest of the civilized world succeeds in doing these things without becoming the socialist dystopias American politicians and media talking heads insist we would become. We’re told to worry about higher taxes when most of us are already paying more for insurance premiums and deductibles than we’d ever end up paying in increased taxes. We’re told that we should selfishly refuse to spend our money on someone else’s medical costs, even though that is precisely what our insurance premiums are for. The insurance companies don’t pay those bills out of some endless surplus of funds they generate for themselves, they utilize the money you and I are paying and divert that money to the medical costs of other individuals with the same insurance provider.
We’re told that raising the minimum wage in proportion with the cost of living (rate of inflation) and the degree of productivity will raise costs (creating a cascade effect of ever-increasing inflation rates) and force businesses to close their doors…but both of those things have been happening for decades while the living wage has remained stagnant. Some of these fears could be offset if we introduced universal healthcare, as employers would not have to dedicate funds to insurance companies for their co-pay portions.
We’re told that we should find nobility in pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, often by individuals who come from families who passed wealth down generation by generation in the form of land ownership, business partnerships, or literal wealth. We’re told that America is a land of equal opportunity by these same people after generations of dominion have allowed their particular class to largely rig the game in their favor. As an individual who descended from a family who took advantage of the Homesteader Act back in the day. I’m familiar with the myth of Manifest Destiny. Those early Westward traveling settlers were handed parcels of land by a government that didn’t own the land in the first place…all for nothing more than working the land and making lives for themselves.
What is being given to us for our labor these days?
Insufficient wages, insurance that denies our claims when we need them most (while we make the higher-ups at these insurance companies sufficient money that they can buy politicians), and the sense of being beaten down beneath the feet of those who use our labor to elevate themselves?
Whether we want to admit it or not. We have these things in common. I have a decent job, as far as wages are concerned when compared to the difficulty. My insurance is pretty decent and not particularly expensive. There are plenty of us in this position.
For every one of us, there’s someone miserable where they are, and that misery is being compounded by the exploitation of the people they work for. It’s easy to claim they should just leave those jobs to find something else.
When are they supposed to find the time to look for new work while they’re still working the job they wish they could get away from?
What happens to them if they become ill while they’re between jobs?
What if the benefits aren’t as good but the pay is better?
These are concerns that could be entirely eradicated with something as simple as universal healthcare being in place. With guaranteed higher education or trade school, it provides the worker with better leverage as well.
Alright.
Fuck it.
I’ve babbled more than enough. I’ve probably lost the thread somewhere along the way…but I hope you’re able to follow along to some extent.

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