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No Fine Line At Border

June 30, 2018

It has been more than a week since the unnerving images from the border made their way into the national media and swamped our social media feeds. A week of one side releasing a relentless stream of righteous indignation condemning the inhumane Trump administration “zero tolerance” border policies and a vigorous defense of these same policies from his steadfast supporters. Men and women who two years ago would have seen humanity in the cries of children and felt empathy for the abject fear of a mother or father distraught at the prospect of not knowing where their children have been taken, now echo an ugliness that I would not have thought possible. I also would not have thought it was possible to elect a president who mocked the physically disabled or who spoke of brown people as an infestation, much in the manner one normally reserves for insects or a plague. Words matter. One thing abundantly clear is that you are either thoroughly disgusted to your core by what is happening, or you are fine with it. This is not a fine line. This is a line defined by very basic values of right and wrong and basic values of right and wrong are what define a community, a culture, a nation. What happens when a nation no longer shares the most basic of values? What happens to a nation who no longer can agree with a neighbor, a co-worker, a fellow congregant, a family member of these most basic of values of right and wrong? What happens when the social contract essential in a democratic society, that we can agree to disagree about an issue or a policy without it turning into hatred and loathing, dissolves? As much as the left wants to blame Trump, this malignancy has been growing steadily for 30 years. Both sides are to blame for this divide. In 2016, the two major political parties nominated the two most loathed individuals to ever run for the office of president. This was not some accident; this is the path we have been on since the “Berlin Wall” came tumbling down and the Cold War ended. A reasonably united America turned on itself, literally fighting for the soul of the nation attempting to impose one set of values on the other and fighting this culture war with a vigor not witnessed since the American Civil War. It would behoove many Americans to turn off their TVs and smartphones and crack open a history book and read the words describing the 30 years before the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter. The carnage found on battlefields from Shiloh to Appomattox can be found in the angry language spoken by average Americans about their fellow citizens for two generations before the fighting began. President Donald Trump is not the cause, but the culmination of this bitter feud. Add into the mix advocacy journalism, 24/7 sensationalized news coverage from a highly skilled propaganda-like media complex and what you have is a broken political system and a nation that no longer disagrees with family and neighbors, but now sees them as supporting the “other” side. We very well may be at a point that this malignant growth no longer can be excised with the prospects of a new administration. The basic values of right and wrong that define and divide us may have become so hard-wired that there is no going back. That these United States of America are no longer united and if we are no longer united, then what happens next? This is what worries me. This is what makes me wonder what will happen to my children and their children in the decades ahead. A country this divided does not suddenly heal itself or come together as one nation with the prospect of a new foreign challenge. I’m afraid that the next national crisis that comes may not bring us together, but in fact drive us even farther apart until there is nothing left that binds us together as one great people. If this ugly slide to disunion continues, what comes next is anyone’s guess, but in the end, we will only have ourselves to blame.