In his address at the University of Arizona, President Obama called for more civility in our political discourse. The President claimed there is more that unites us then divides us as a nation. At first glance, the tendency is to agree with the president. We want to believe we have more in common with our neighbor and share the same core values. We know instinctively a house divided against itself cannot stand. Our enemies understand this as well. Bin Laden knew his attacks on September 11th wouldn't accomplish any military victory and he knew the physical damage would be repaired. He hoped to terrorize and disrupt us and have us turn against each other. He hoped we would cease to trust each other and erode the ties which bind us. To that end, he won a great victory with the help of a regressive movement bent on seizing the moment for their political gain. The real enemy, the real threat, is not any external force. It is coming from within and the President may have been right at one time, but is he still correct today?
American are not united with it comes to foreign policy. We don't know what we want or the role we should play in the world and we have been manipulated, using our fear, into contradictory positions. President Bush and Vice President Cheney used September 11th to pursue an agenda Americans would never have supported without this new "Pearl Harbor". Bush cynically used the fear the attacks generated to start two wars, give Israel a free hand with the Palestinians, and attempt to spread American hegemony in the Middle East through the use of force. At the same time, they ignored the deteriorating political situation in Mexico while using illegal immigration as another wedge issue. Americans are seriously divided about Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and over our policy towards Mexico and immigration. President Obama has not eased these divisions as he expands the war in Afghanistan, maintains the military presence in Iraq and ignores the immigration issue and the failed nature of the Mexican state.
America is more divided than ever when the issue of the Constitution and civil liberties is raised. Shortly after September 11th, the Congress passed the Patriot Act, (a title which former President Bush now says he regrets), which eviscerated the 4th amendment and expanded the power of the government to spy and watch its citizens. In the ensuing years, we now know that the government national security apparatus abused and violated national security letters, conducted illegal domestic spying, subpoenaed library records and used telecommunication companies to data mine our email, phone conversations and internet activity. A prison was established in Cuba precisely so American law couldn't be applied. Secret prisons were built abroad and kidnapping and torture became standard practices for the CIA with White House approval. White House counsel John Yoo, now sucking off the government teat teaching "law" school at Berkeley, wrote an opinion which claimed the President as Commander in Chief can ignore or violate "any" federal law with impunity. Are we a united nation over these issues? Whose fault is that?
On domestic issues the divide grows rather than narrows. In 2004, Karl Rove devised a strategy of gays, guns and God to re-elect President Bush. The regressive mantra was designed to divide and conquer. The homosexual agenda, a desire to be able to marry and have full civil rights, would destroy the family and, according to former regressive senator Rick Santorum, lead to the legalization of incest and bestiality. Fundamentalist evangelicals and the Roman Catholic Church fanned the fires of prejudice and bigotry using God as an excuse to hate and discriminate. Even as Yoo and his gang were expanding government power at the expense of the entire Bill of Rights, Rove and regressives seized on guns as the symbol to prove America is under attack. They encouraged more lenient concealed weapons laws, the championed guns in churches and on college campuses and in bars and called on Americans to wear their guns to political rallies.
Perhaps the biggest domestic divide was created over the question of health care. The irony here is most Americans were united on this issue. We shouldn’t be denied care for pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies shouldn't be able to cancel coverage when it gets too expensive. People should not lose their homes and savings due to catastrophic illness. Children should be able to stay on their parent’s policies longer, and the cost of health care had to be reigned in. The unity did not last in the face of a summer assault conducted by regressive forces. The campaign to create town yells rather than town halls...the lie about death panels... the fear caused by claims Americans would lose their doctor and millions of illegal immigrants would get government sponsored health care while "real" Americans would be left holding the bag, turned health care into a nasty, divisive, violent subject. The New York Times reports Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s' district had a long history of tension over immigration and health care issues. After she voted for President Obama’s health care reform, Gifford’s' Tucson office was attacked and a glass door shattered by a kick or a gun. She and her aids were so concerned for their safety; they started informing police about their schedule and public appearances. Her opponent in the last election appeared on a web site holding an assault weapon and Gifford herself let it be known to anyone she owned a gun. The office, and the Congresswoman, were constantly receiving threats and they increased as the campaign against the health care bill and the anti immigration bill in Arizona were pressed. Both of these issues were the centerpiece of the regressive campaign to retake Congress by the Republicans, Tea Partyists and aspiring presidential candidates. Add to this volatile mix the rantings of Hanbaugh, Beck, Weiner, Fox, et.al. and the result is entirely predictable.
So, the question remains, are we a nation more united over commonly held beliefs than we are divided by individual issues? What do we as Americans hold in common? I ask you now, dear readers, to take on the question. In your opinion, what do most Americans agree about? Where are we united? Where are we divided? Is there truly common ground we can all support, or is this nation irretrievably broken and fractured? Is the President correct when he claims there is more agreement then disagreement politically in our nation? Please add your comments to this question. Please make a sincere effort to chronicle all which unites us and divides us and your view of the result. I am caught because I'm not sure any more the President is correct and I see political forces deliberately exploiting the divisions to finish what bin Laden started. Do you?