by Joe Courter
There is much talk about this country being so severely divided, and anyone who bothers at all to engage in what used to be the much more fun practice of talking politics with friends and family can get this feeling. Our technology has provided so many options and points of view to draw from that many people are stuck inside their information silo and constrained from finding common ground with others and prioritizing what is important. Misconceptions, bogus belief systems and questions of source credibility muddy the waters of meaningful communication.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, in her talk at the Students for Justice in Palestine fashion show at UF a couple of weekends ago, used the phrase that is the title of this column, crediting a minister in her hometown of Detroit for using it to describe our society. Divided is a term that implies a permanence, dare I say it, like a wall. As if there is an inherent barrier to solution. Disconnected is different. And we are in a society that has become disconnected from others within our shared environs. It is a world of economic segregation, and a world where irresponsible leaders will, whether from the pulpit or the podium, spew moral judgment and fear-mongering against others.
Is it too much to think that we can tear down existing walls, or prevent other walls from being built? Too much to think the harsh divides in our society can be softened and the polarized sides be bridged? Too much to think that we can be connected in at least an understanding that our differences are not permanent divisions, but constructs that can be re-shaped, re-understood, and reconciled?
“This American Life” is one of the best things on public radio, and I usually try to catch it. It had a segment, “The Sudden Departure,” on April 21 about the situation in a small town at the Texas/Mexico border. It talked about ICE raiding a plant and taking people into custody, and how the Trump-supporting townspeople were shocked to see families being separated, enough so that they began raising bail money. These townsfolk (77 percent Trump voting) had felt no connection to these immigrants until the harsh reality of deportation round-ups was there in front of them. One woman phrased it as finding she had been “not correct in her thinking … that it was not so black and white.” (Listen to “The Sudden Departure” at: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/archive?keyword=%22the%20sudden%20departure%22)
Beliefs in walls, in divides, is a way of not seeing from other perspectives. Intersectionality is a concept which has grown prominent in the last few years, and it is defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”
I would broaden it out to larger fields as well. I heard a talk on teaching about climate change, and the teacher being interviewed said climate change brings in all sorts of scientific disciplines. They are, in effect, connected.
Unfortunately, what we are seeing in this country and elsewhere (Brazil … yikes) is the triumph of the politics of division. We are, as I have said before, in uncharted waters. But I find hope where I can.
There is a great little seven-and-a-half minute video done by the Intercept with animation by Molly Crabapple, and words by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Avi Lewis, which looks at a future when a Green New deal has been put into action. (Watch the video at: https://theintercept.com/2019/04/17/green-new-deal-short-film-alexandria-ocasio-cortez/)
Can we actually stop the incredible money drain on our economy for the insane war machine? Children are asking our leaders “how come there is always money for war but not money for schools and healthcare?” And most leaders do not have an answer. The answer needs to come from all of us, we have the tools to become connected.
A generation of youth are waking up: pay attention and do what you can.