The United States of America.
Doesn't feel so "United" right now, does it? If you've watched the news, logged into social media, or just visited the internet in the past 2 years, then you're probably more than aware of the ideological divide in America these days.
So what happened?
I think one of the first and foremost issues at hand, is that Americans have forgotten what exactly an American looks like. In today's world of hand-picked news, feedback loops, and "safe spaces", it's become effortless to only see and hear those people that you agree with. Suddenly your preferred image and audience is easy to see and anything else that challenges your views can be simply blocked, removed, or unfollowed. It becomes easy to believe that a "real American" is someone who looks, talks, and thinks a lot like you do.
We forget that this nation is made up of 50 independent states, smaller de facto nations, that vary in personality and culture tremendously! America has never been a great country because everyone in every state was essentially the same person, we have been a great country because of our diversity, our unique ideas, views and skill-sets.
As a man raised in the mountains of West Virginia who now lives in a beach neighborhood of Los Angeles, I've gotten to witness firsthand the clash of two dynamically opposed cultures.
The city man has difficulty understanding why the country man hates welfare programs, without knowing country man earned his home working overtime in plants/mines for years to afford his 20 acre ranch all on his own. If money is tight, he's been taught how to survive. He knows how to farm, how to hunt & fish, how to can and store food. He has a right to be proud of his accomplishments.
Yet, the country man has difficulty understanding why the big city man collects food stamps. Even though he earns more than country man, hes putting in overtime too, and still living paycheck to paycheck after paying $2000 a month for a rental apartment he'll never own. It has an extra bedroom for his 2 kids to share. Even still, he knows they're in a terrible school district but it's the best he can do for now and this lifestyle is all he's ever known.
Beyond this basic generality, we have even more local and regional quirks that make us unique. I have been fortunate in recent years to travel much of America and I have to tell you, I was shocked to learn how much more diverse America was than I had grew up believing.
- The Wyoming mountain man is not synonymous with the West Virginia mountain man.
- The New Mexican rancher would never feel at home on the plains of Nebraska.
- The desert-raised Californian who has never seen the East Coast would feel foreign in Upstate New York.
- The extremely progressive & liberal Oregonian would simply fall apart in a conservative, religious Southern state such as Alabama.
- The blunt honesty of a Philadelphia woman would accidentally find many an offended ear in the politically correct and sensitive Seattle.
The disparity among the American populace is stunning. What a hodge-podge of ideas and beliefs! In these recent times however, many main-stream media outlets, politicians, Facebook warriors, and even other nations have focused on these contrasts and used them to divide and manipulate us.
"Hey West Virginia! These Liberals think renewable energy is better than YOUR coal!"
"Hey Portlanders! These Confederate flag waving Texans want guns in YOUR schools!"
"Hey North Dakota! These pot-smoking hippies in Colorado are letting Mexicans into YOUR country!"
"Hey Republicans! Sore losers in California want to secede from America!"
The topic of these talking points and whatever belief you hold is besides the point. The matter at hand is... something here probably triggered you. They cater to a basic human instinct, a desire to be outraged. We eat this stuff up, thrive on it, and powerful people have begun to notice. We are being positioned against each other. Steady but surely, we are becoming "The Divided States of America."
The implications of this are terrifying for our country, but for me, the ones that scare me the most exist outside of our borders.
Americas enemies across the world now see a new era rising. A massive opportunity to chisel away the United States' dominance. As our ugly public war trudges on in front of the global audience, the word "American" is turning sour in the mouths of those that utter it, our reputation deteriorating at a rate faster than in any point in history.
There are many nations that want to see this continue, they want to see us divide and become less powerful and respected. As we busy ourselves fighting a divisive war internally, they are swooping in on every American pull-back and failure.
Perhaps the most dangerous force in the world, Russia's Army of Trolls churns out propaganda daily, creating and sensationalizing juicy headlines to hungry audiences while Putin longingly licks his lips, praying that just maybe the U.S.A is as easy to disassemble as Eastern Ukraine has been.
China, while appearing less menacing, quietly enters the room every time America pulls out of another trading pact or economic agreement.
If we want to preserve whats left of Americas reputation and global leadership, we are going to have to start with ourselves first, because frankly — you look like shit, America. Yes, you're looking rough around the edges, but, like anyone who's woken up the morning of the 5th of July knows, with a little rest from all the toxic sludge you've ingested, and some TLC, you can be looking fresh in no time.
If we lose the most important part of our beloved nations name, the "United", then we lose "America" too. We lose the identity that has inspired humans the world around, the identity that gained us the respect of a planet and allowed us to become the leader of the free world, an identity founded by the people, for the people! We need to come together, we need to respect each others opinions, and where differences are found, embrace them rather than destroy them!
Of course we wont all agree on every topic, and that is why as democratic citizens we are given an extraordinary tool to express our convictions: voting. Voting is the most American thing we can do. It is why we have been so successful at running this massive nation as long as we have. We are a nation of many, many types of people living in differing environments and cultures. This is what has always made this "great American experiment in democracy" so, well... great. When we cant agree, we put it to a vote.
Even so, this honored privilege is coming under attack from foreign influences. In today's world, it is very easy to affect a persons mind from anywhere, and it's likely you've already been exposed without ever knowing it... so how do you recognize who or what is being influenced from malicious foreign sources?
I'll give you a secret that you can always trust:
We must do everything in our power to protect the vote. We must instill the honor and integrity the vote deserves. We must use our votes to remove the politicians that divide us and replace them with candidates who value country over party. And if your candidate doesn't win... well... respect the vote.
Let's save all the hate talk, let's no longer separate our friends or family by their political views, or their convictions. Save it for the vote. Remember that your personal brand of American is not the same as anothers. When you find a contrasting opinion, lift that person up rather than shut them down. Invite them to dinner! How much more powerful of an impact can you make on a person by respecting their beliefs and befriending them, even when that person knows you vehemently disagree? Or you could do exactly what our enemies want — bash them in the comments and tell him/her how unintelligent you feel that they are.
I'm by no means innocent of this, and I am certainly not a saint worth following in these respects, but I promise you this friends, from here on out... I'm going to try my damnedest.
Will you try with me too, for 'Murica?