Americans are Polarized
Not new information, but stressful and depressing
From the PEW research center:
“Americans have rarely been as polarized as they are today.
The studies we’ve conducted at the Pew Research Center over the past few years illustrate the increasingly stark disagreement between Democrats and Republicans on the economy, racial justice, climate change, law enforcement, international engagement, and many other issues. The 2020 presidential election further highlighted these deep-seated divides. Supporters of Biden and Donald Trump believe the differences between them are about more than just politics and policies. A month before the election, roughly 8 in 10 registered voters in both camps said their differences with the other side were about core American values. Roughly 9 in 10—again in both camps—worried that a victory by the other would lead to “lasting harm” to the United States.”
During my childhood, the focus was on American unity.
Politics and religion have always been a source of disagreement among Americans. However, those disagreements never caused the divisions we are experiencing.
I was a child in an elementary school. After Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected, my classmates got into a heated debate over the election just before our teacher entered the classroom. I will always remember how she addressed the class about the election results issue. She taught us the importance of uniting behind the new president after an election.
I also remember the public service announcements on television about brotherhood. These announcements showed a photo of a black and white child standing beside one another. The message was obvious. We are all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity.
One feature of the public schools during the 1950s was the bible reading to the assembly every Monday morning. The readings alternated between the Old and New Testament Bibles from one week to the next.
American unity has vanished and been replaced by divisiveness. An example is being labeled a liberal and leftist when I disagreed with a former friend. This person is no longer a friend. In reality, my political beliefs are moderate and in the center.
One way to define that divisiveness is by using the term tribalism.
Tribalism is a term that describes the behavior and attitudes associated with strong loyalty to one’s social group. It is based on common ancestry, culture, language, or religion. Tribalism can be seen in various ways. Outsiders’ social, economic, or political exclusion is an example of tribalism.
Identity politics emphasizes the differences between groups, often leading to exclusivity and hostility towards those outside the group. Hostility towards other groups and a preference for one’s group over others is another example of tribalism. It can affect social cohesion, depending on how it is expressed and managed.
Pro-gun advocates are not an example of tribalism in and of themselves. There may be instances where some pro-gun advocates exhibit tribalistic tendencies, and it is not a defining characteristic of the movement.
What causes people of goodwill to disagree on politics and religion?
Values and worldviews are often linked to a person’s political and religious beliefs. These beliefs reflect an individual’s identity. Politics and religion are personal and charged subjects that people often feel passionate about.
Challenging someone’s beliefs can lead to defensiveness and a feeling of being threatened, which can, in turn, create conflict and separation.
The focus must be on important matters of justice and fairness. Looking for shared values, even by individuals who differ in religious and political beliefs, might connect us. People can center on what they can agree upon without betraying ideals. Only then can the gulf be bridged between beliefs about orthodox religious teachings and those grounded in the scientific study of human nature.
We must come together even when we disagree.