The one thing that most Americans agree on is that we are extremely divided as a nation. Accusations of racism, Naziism. communism, jingoism, elitism, and bigotry dominate our political discourse. Words are tempered for fear offending or being accused of offending the wrong group.
Theories abound to explain how we reached a point where political disagreements can break up families and marriages: social media’s influence, a lack of common purpose normally found during a crisis, or the downfall of religion in society. There is another theory, though, that has yet to be hashed out. We are divided because we have no idea how to talk about difficult issues anymore. A practice commonly taught, to not talk about religion and politics in the polite company of others, is the root cause of our great divide.
Debate and discussion are vital to the maintenance of a free society like ours. After all, if the people cannot discuss and debate the most divisive and important issues of the day, how can their representatives reach any understanding in Washington D.C.? We should be able to discuss the most heated topics—with the people we love and care for the most, especially—even if we disagree.
Our nation was born out of intense debate and disagreement. We as Americans generally imagine the leaders of the American Revolution to have been eminently reasonable, single-minded, and deferential men. However, there wasn’t anything even close to a consensus regarding the decision to declare independence. In reality, the disagreement over rebellion and separation was quite vehement. After years of bitter disagreement, compromise, and eventually consensus building, the Continental Congress agreed upon separation with a unanimous vote.
Fierce debate is in large part responsible for Abraham Lincoln’s successful 1860 Presidential run. The Lincoln-Douglas debates, which were a series of seven debates between Lincoln and Senator Stephen Douglas during the 1858 Illinois Senate race, centered on slavery, the most contentious issue in American history. They spoke directly about this contentious issue and people flocked to hear the debate. Historians conclude that a large source of the popularity that led to Lincoln’s win came from these debates. It was an intentional discussion not an avoidance of the more divisive problems facing the nation that lead to Lincoln’s election and the eventual abolition of slavery.
We must make a sober assessment of our current situation. We are nowhere near divided as we were in the 1860s, the 1960s or even in 1776. Nobody is caning anyone in the US Senate, nobody is bombing the Pentagon because they oppose a foreign war, and we are certainly not even close to a second American Civil War. The divisions in our country are large, but not insurmountable. We have to talk to each other again, listen to each other again, and most importantly, respect each other again. Passionate debate is a sign that a free society is functioning, a lack of discussion indicates a society in decline.
Social media, a decline in religion, and a lack of one cohesive social fabric all play a part in our country’s current division. However, if we want our nation to heal from the divisions we have sown in recent years, we need to talk about politics and religion again. We must embrace the philosophy of the Founding Fathers, specifically that of Thomas Jefferson who stated, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend”.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.