When I photographed a flag in Newton torn asunder it was just after the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s murder. The sight reminded of seven words from the Bible.
"A house divided, against itself, cannot stand."
Lincoln uttered those words on the effects of slavery during the summer of 1858 when he accepted the nomination as the Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois. In less than three years, the United States would torn apart by succession. Division became not just a fear but a reality. It would take four years of bloodshed and destruction to bring the country back to together and end slavery.
We are divided again, and it is not easy trying putting a finger on what’s breaking us up as a country. It’s like the line from the 1953 movie "The Wild One" where one of the motorcycle rowdies taking over the small town is asked, "What are you rebelling against?" "Well, what yah got?" one witty cyclist freebooter answered.
Claims of racism in America or denial of it have brought on the latest societal blowup, unfortunately not for the first time. It is understandable people of all races would head to the streets after seeing a black man suffocated by a Milwaukee police officer. But many people are angered by the looting and burning of buildings that has occurred in several cities, hurting many small business owners already stung by the coronavirus economic shutdown. Fortunately, most Black Lives Matter protests have been peaceful without violence or property damage, including those in Newton and Effingham last month.
Politics over the past 25 years has heated up the country in the worst way. Many Americans no longer vote for a candidate, rather they relish hating and defeating candidates they don’t agree with. This country no longer just heads to the polling place, it is more like marching in a crusade to defeat spawns of Satan.
This disease has spread all the way down from the federal and state levels to local government – no wonder many county ballots have so many spots listing "no candidate."
Poisoning politics even more in the last decade has been the explosion of the social media and its spread of lies. Not many words are needed to shoot down a candidate, community leader, worthy cause or respected institution. And it doesn’t even have to go viral on the internet to do serious damage.
Speaking about viral, the surrealistic debates over the Coronavirus Pandemic are a good example of how almost anything can have people shouting each other down.
The top health experts in this country and the world urge people to wear masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep apart at least six feet from people out in public. The arguments against these common sense practices have ranged from "It’s unconstitutional" to COVID-19 "is just a hoax."
But there is room for criticism of the lack of preparation for a major outbreak of a highly infectious disease. We cannot afford to be unprepared again.
The divisive hyperbole expands to some over-the-top environmentalism with some pushing for the rights of very tiny wildlife over people. I understand the ethics behind gay rights even though I don’t personally agree with that lifestyle, but do we really need transgender bathrooms? And will gay couples force churches to host their weddings someday? What is really frightening is I might lose a job from some companies in this country for asking those questions.
On the entertainment front, did they really have to take away Yosemite Sam’s revolvers? I can understand disarming Elmer Fudd because he never could hit anything anyway. Are they going to get rid of Daffy Duck and Porky Pig because they have speech impediments?
Maybe this country has lost the ability to compromise on any or everything. The power of debate does not rest on cheap and nasty put-downs laced with curses. It is a matter of using logic against an opposing view. On the early frontier, guns, knives and fists won arguments. We can’t go back to that or we’ll run out of caskets.
This country must overcome its many hates and fears. We should stop listening to the messengers of hate. Think of the nation and our children and grandchildren. Then work out our differences for the common good. Mending the rends in our nation’s fabric won’t be as easy as what happened with the ripped flag; a brand new one has been hoisted up the flagpole.
Bring this country together again is not a pipe dream. We will celebrate a holiday this weekend where some brave men with vision formed a new nation. If they could stand together so can we.