I used to believe that the things that we had in common would, ultimately, prove to be stronger than the things that pull us apart. Throughout my lifetime, I've viewed myself as an optimistic progressive. My worldview was driven by the fact that regardless of our political differences, those of us who have been lucky enough to spend our lives in the United States could put those political differences aside and see ourselves as Americans first, and everything else a distant second.
Now, as I move toward my dotage, I begin to question that view. We seem to be drifting further and further apart. There appears to be differences that we not only don't want to bridge, but that we seem to be totally unable to bridge. Every day, we become a more and more fractured country, split down it's seams by issue after issue. We appear to have allowed ourselves to be Balkanized.
Are we a Christian nation or are we a pluralistic nation? Does our history support the separation of church and state or just the inability of the state from declaring a religious preference? Not only do we still argue that simple first amendment statement, but we constantly argue every aspect of our lives that may even peripherally touch the issue. Look at the divisions in our country over whether our coinage represents infringement of religion or the pledge of allegiance violates the rights of atheists. How many times a year do we see lawsuits over the display of religious icons on public lands or the opening of public meetings with prayers that invoke a specific representation of a deity? We can't even agree to keep religion out of the public school environment. The schism between the religious and the non-religious is becoming wider, not narrower. Religion is becoming a point of separation, not unification.
Then we turn around and state that because we have elected a president who is black, we have solved the racial divide that has plagued this country through its first two and a half centuries. We have become post-racial. Lovely words, but not an iota of truth in them. Our post-racial society still tries to brand the president as the "other". Whether it is by looking at the absurdist birther issue or the accusations that the president is not like the rest of us, people aren't disagreeing on policy, they are disagreeing on race. And then we get situations like the Trayvon Martin case. The outrage over this case should be universal. But somehow, it is not. There are those who made the victim the victimizer and the perpetrator the victim. They blamed the young man's death on his wearing a hoodie or on being suspended from school at some past date. There only has to be one question asked to demonstrate that we're not as enlightened as we try to get others to believe. Do you think that if Trayvon Martin were white and George Zimmerman were black, that Zimmerman would have walked out of the Sanford, Florida police station that night? He would have been arrested and would probably still be in jail. We're taking sides on a murder.
But we're dividing ourselves on even more basic issues. This is 2012, yet all of a sudden we're fighting gender wars that are being disguised as religious rights arguments or moral arguments. Wives, mothers, daughters, aunts, nieces, and all females in general are fighting over issues like contraception rights, personhood amendments that may include invasive ultrasounds of the mother, general abortion restrictions, access to Planned Parenthood, etc. are issues that we've litigated, voted on, and brought through the courts by the 1970s. But we are divided once again on these issues. Now the "gender wars" are becoming a fight between conservatives and progressives. We are being torn apart.
And these aren't the only issues that are ripping this country apart at the seams. LBGT rights have become a conservative versus progressive issue. The repeal of DADT and the Defense of Marriage Act have ripped at the fabric of a single America. We've even become two nations on the issue of voting rights. The conservatives in this country are arguing that severely limiting voting rights by requiring picture IDs is necessary in order to fight voter fraud, although there is no evidence of voter fraud. Progressives, on the other hand, are arguing that the primary responsibility of government should be to strive toward 100% voter registration. Progressives look at voter registration while conservatives are looking at voter supression.
I can describe issue after issue that we not only have differences over, but I believe are dividing this country unduly. Why is this happening? I place the blame firmly on the Supreme Court of the United States. The judicial branch of our government is supposed to look at law and review those laws based on the constitution. It is interesting that conservatives have wanted the courts to be strict constitutionalists when they rule on law. It is a pity that the Supreme Court no longer does that. Justices are supposed to be non-partisan. They are supposed to judge each case based on its merits, not its politics. All we have to do is look at two cases to realize that the court has abetted the partisan divide in this country. Bush v. Gore in 2000 and Citizen's United in 2009 are perfect examples of the courts ruling on partisan grounds rather than legal grounds. When the country views the courts in this Balkanized state, it is easy to see why a nation that has elected a divided government, can allow the differences between philosophies to further divide us.
Our nation has become a "we win, you lose" society. Our politics are being played like gladiators in a Roman arena. One is going to win and the other is going to die or at least be maimed in the battle. We root for our side, we boo the other side. Unfortunately, when the battle subsides and we're asked to give our decision, we are acting too much like the Roman barbarians. Those on the winning side are standing, cheering and signaling thumbs down for the losers. Not exactly a unifying action.